My Tour of Cali Experience!

A few years ago I was just a spectator for the Amgen Tour of California as it rolled through my local training routes.  The next year I paid up to watch the Santa Cruz finish from the VIP tent after pre-riding just a small part of the climb near Bonny Doon.  That is when I first saw the Breakaway from Cancer Masters Cycling team and their guests finish their pre-ride. Last year I decided to join them.  With a small donation equal to the price of a VIP pass I was able to ride a good chunk of the course with world class cyclists and then get the VIP tent as well.  I couldn’t pass that up, so I signed up early.  The stage I pre-rode last year was from Livermore, up Mt Hamilton and to that final Sierra Rd climb.  I’ll never forget riding up the finish line shoot after that epic ride!

This year, I stepped it up and signed up to pre-ride two stages!  I was nervous about how hard it was going to be, but thrilled at the same time for the great experience!  It also helped that I knew I was in much better cycling shape this year.  With just under a month to my “A” race in Kansas 70.3, I wanted to build up my cycling fitness and confidence.

Day one, Stage two pre-ride:

After a BART ride to Daly City and then a cab to Pacifica, we were off.  The team was ready and the SAG cars loaded up with supplies.  We cruised along Highway 1 for almost 50 fun and uneventful miles, even rolling over part of the Big Kahuna Half Iron course I raced last fall.  Highway1 is stunning, a must for anyone coming to ride in NorCal.  If Santa Cruz does land that Ironman for fall 2013, it will be a very scenic bike course!

Cool shot of the pro’s as they rode later in the day! (Photo from Santa Cruz Sentinal)

We then turned up Bonny Doon for the beginning of the first KOM ending at the top of Empire Grade! This was a great climb and the people were out in masses.  Then a very technical descent before the final climb of the day leading to a long descent into Soquel for the finish!

Riders from Team Exergy navigate a steep portion of Jamison Creek Rd after climbing Bonny Doon/Empire Grade…It was a scary descent! (Photo from Santa Cruz sentinel)

Love that Strava called my ride Epic!

Two solid KOM’s after steady rollers along coast!

It was great riding with such good guys and a great experience!

Here’s my full ride file via Strava link:

Finish line picture after Epic ride!

Once we finished, we quickly changed in the team cars and headed to the Breakaway From Cancer VIP tent to mingle and eat.  This is always a great experience and it was great seeing Sagan dominate at the finish line, look at that gap!

Domination at the finish for Sagan!

When the race wrapped up we drove up to San Jose to get some rest before the next day!  I was curious to see how my legs would feel after that epic journey.  I’ve ridden many century rides, but never that hard without rest stops AND never with another hard ride the next day!

Day two – Stage two pre-ride:

On Tuesday we woke up and drove up to Livermore to start.  My legs felt ok and I fueled up for the big day ahead.  Somehow in all of the travel, I misplaced my HR strap.  That was a bit annoying, but I still had my Garmin and Cycleops G3 power meter.

This was a hard ride!

Today’s stage took us to my backyard starting only 15mi from my house.  The stage rolled through my local training routes up to and including the Mt. Diablo climb.  After that, we headed down to Walnut Creek and out to Byron near Discovery Bay.  Lastly, the stage turned back towards Livermore for the final KOM up Patterson Pass.  Then it was an easy descent into Livermore arriving at the finish on very tired legs!

Diablo and Patterson were KOM’s

What I was most excited about today was to go for a PR on the Diablo ascent up to the Junction.  It’s a 5.6mi climb from the gate with 1,400ft of climbing.  With my Breakaway crew setting tempo and the fans starting to line up the hills, we were off and I ended up taking 2:30 off my best time up there!  And that was after yesterday’s epic 100mi ride!  The only downside, was that I was only 25mi into an 85mi route to finish!

Check out the video from my Drift HD bike cam(4x speed):

It was also fun playing cat and mouse with one of the other pre-ride groups in CTS.  They had several groups throughout the route and we caught up with their lead group on the climb.  I couldn’t hang with their best guys, but we all passed them on the downhill including Chris and never saw them again 🙂

My Diablo gate to Junction PR!

The Breakaway guys were great and helped me push myself more than I ever have.  I can’t say enough about how helpful and inspiring it was to ride with KK, Malcolm, Neil, Peter, Scott and super VIP John.  It opened my eyes to how hard I can push myself, which is very exciting!  With their motivation I was able to somehow suffer up Patterson Pass with a helpful hand from the team and hammer that last “oh my gawd” hill!  Didn’t pr that last ascent, but somehow hung on by a string.

Patterson Pass KOM from

Here’s my full ride file via Strava link:

A great team and experience!

Needless to say, I hope to be able to join these guys again next year.  It was a great learning experience and I’m glad that I was able to show improvement this year.  I know there are other pre-ride groups out there, but none beat the experience with riding with this crew of Elite Masters, World Champions and past Tour de France racers.  Join me next year or even see if you can meet up with them later this week as the tour heads to Southern California!  Check out their team pages and link to other Breakaway Challenges here:

After those two huge days, I spent 2hrs in my NormaTec Boots…ahhhh!




3 responses to “My Tour of Cali Experience!

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