By now you may be aware that the City of Claremont has been selected to host the start of a stage of the 2011 Amgen Tour of California. Many of you will know what a bike race of this calibre is all about, what it is like, what takes place, what to expect, but others do not. So, what exactly can you, as a resident of Claremont or other neighboring town, expect? When the official announcement was made, the news was welcomed with widespread enthusiasm by the local cycling community. The Tour of California is one of the most significant races contested in the United States, and the premier stage race on these shores. As such the race garners much attention, not just here at home, but around the world as well. Many of the top domestic racers will compete in the weeklong race, and if past editions are any indication, the race will be well attended by big-name Euro-pros as well. Expect to see people, a lot of people - racers and their team support staff, race officials and their support staff, local, national and international press, tourists and racing fans from all over. The quickest and easiest way to get around town for a couple days in May will be by bike and by foot. Don't look at this negatively though, look on it as an opportunity, one of discovery and learning. I guarantee, if you allow it, the experience will be fun.
The race will actually spend relatively little time within Claremont, as the route will take the racers into the mountains for most of the day, finishing with a final tortuous climb to the ski lifts on Mount Baldy. It will likely be the most decisive day of racing in TOC history. As the peloton races along the streets of Claremont, the racers will know full well what awaits them in the mountains, and will likely be in no hurry to get there. Expect a more relaxed pace along our tree-lined streets, which should give spectators plenty of opportunity to experience the pageantry of a professional stage race. That is unless a rider, or group of riders, fearing what awaits them at the higher elevations decides to attack early, build a lead, and claim a moment in the sun.
The atmosphere prior to the firing of the starting pistol will be festive to say the least. No other sport allows spectators to mingle and interact in such close proximity to the athletes as does cycling. Expect to see the racers warming up, giving interviews, signing autographs, or just standing around talking in the start area. As the minutes from the start tick down to mere seconds, the atmosphere will change to electric in anticipation. Signs, banners, flags will line the beginning of the route. If you are able, and can set up a table and chairs along the way, you can sip your morning cup o’ joe, and enjoy some breakfast fare, toasting the peloton as it rolls by at a stately early speed. Just don’t be fooled into thinking, “that’s it?” The speed will pick up soon, enough so that long time racers like myself would find ourselves, as we say “shot out the back.” Of course you need not stay within the city to watch the proceedings. If you prefer, head up to the mountains for a different roadside view of the action. The steep muscle tearing, lung bursting climbs and razor's edge descents are where the winner will emerge from the seething mass of the peloton. Keep in mind that roads and streets of the actual route as well as others around the start area will be closed for varying lengths of time. The best way to get around will be by bike or foot.
The Tour of California, by coming to Claremont, will offer up the opportunity for residents to learn about, and even participate, in this sport that so many of us have a passion for. Immerse yourself in the new experience and pursue it with gusto. Follow the race over the days preceding its arrival in our city, learn the lingo of bike racing, or become a race volunteer (the Amgen TOC website will have sign-up information). If you are feeling especially enthusiastic and are well prepared from a fitness and experience standpoint, sign up for L'etape du California, a pre-race (the weekend before) ride for the public that will follow the same route as the race - that's 100 miles and 10,000 feet of elevation gain. On race day visit the Lifestyle Festival in the start area, ride your bike to the course and watch the race rush by, try to spot the various race leader jersey's (gold, red, blue, green, and white) as they ride by, collect autographs, take photographs. It does not happen so close to home very often, so make the most of it.
Watch for additional information, events, opportunities in the coming months as the date of the race approaches. Check the Amgen TOC website, City of Claremont sources, and my blog.
Most current event schedule 19 May, here.
Most current event schedule 19 May, here.
Some easy links to earlier TOC posts here: