Stage 8: Rancho Bernardo to Escondido
We decided to go to the highest point of the Tour of California, Palomar Mountain with above categorization climbs that peaks at 5123 feet, because we had never seen riders climb a mountain in person. We read that the roads would be closed at 9:00 am so we headed south at 5 am.
We were smart enough to bring heavy coats in case there would be snow at 5,123 ft, and there was, plenty of it!
We thought the roads would be lined with spectators, but it wasn't. We found a place to park easily just beyond the main street of the town.
The view was beautiful and you could see the switchbacks down below.
People were claiming their spots and this is where the Team Gamin supporters were.
Don and Loren at the KOM (King of the Mountain) line.
Funny, we thought it would be marked with a bigger banner instead of two little signs and the thin spray painted line.
A Live Strong van came by giving out yellow chalk and posters of Lance. With the no paint rule, people were covering the road with chalk. There was chalk every where!
Loren added to the writing on the ground paying tribute to her college Marian College in Indianapolis
See Don behind Loren in the camo jacket? We planted ourselves in the spot about 1:00 pm hoping to have a great view of riders as they approached the KOM line.
About 2:00 pm race officials arrived and the road started to get packed with people.
Everyone showed their support with flags, team jerseys, and costumes, or lack of costumes.
Even the CHP officer got chalked
A Levi Leipheimer supporter came running by.
A CHP officer began controlling the crowd and having people stay behind the white lines at the side of the road.
The crowd began getting thicker.
Support vehicles began arriving
The first riders in a breakaway arrived. Enthusiastic fans ran along side them to cheer them on! It turned out we had a great view! You can see the lone CHP officer couldn't control the swelling crowd. At times I worried for the riders that someone would get in there way.
A few minutes later the first chase group arrived including Lance and Levi.
There's Lance on the right!
And there goes Lance wearing the #2
More riders come and go.
We not only had the best view of the rides, but also the enthusiastic fans.
I called this guy "green hot pants" for the rest of the day.
Our friend Willie thought ahead and brought newspaper to hand out to the riders to shield them from the bitter cold as they descended down the mountain.
There's Tyler Hamilton on the very left.
Finally the last stragglers made it to the top, including Mark Cavendish (see him in the green Herbalife Sprint jersey).
We were in no hurry to sit in traffic to get off the mountain so we found a restaurant, actually a beer garden, where we were able to watch the rest of the tour. By the time we were ready to leave our car was just about the only one parked on the side of the road.
It was a fun filled day, but exhausting!