The Insider goes inside the race caravan

May 14, 2014
Category: General  Host Cities  Stage 4 

I’ve always wanted to drive down the California coast, but never could I have imagined doing it as part of the Amgen Tour of California race caravan. Each day of America’s Greatest Race brings new, unexpected adventures and today I found myself driving Stage 4 from Monterey to Cambria as the Lantern Rouge of the caravan tucked behind the Trek Factory Racing and Team Sky RVs.

Actually there was a race marshal’s vehicle behind me and I was pleased to witness that one of their duties is to retrieve bottles discarded by the peloton.

The race caravan incredibly stretches nearly 2kms in length comprised of motorcycles, cars, SUVs, RV and at least three ambulances. There were police, television cameras, team cars, neutral support, buses, medical staff, marshals, commissars, race directors, operations, officials and referees. With a chain so long, I didn’t see much of the bike race. Occasionally the barrage of switchbacks brought the entire peloton into view and it was exciting to see them in full flight, but I had no idea there was a break up the road that managed to stick to win the day. In fact, since I didn’t have race radio, I was in complete radio silence because you cannot pickup radio stations or cell service during the drive along the coast.
The course was like a nonstop rollercoaster with constant ups, downs and precarious twists and turns. In fact, there was almost no straight or flat road until we got down to 25km to go. The riders had to be vigilant because of the constant meandering roads, many at dizzying heights without guardrails.

As for the temperatures, I saw them vacillate as low as 72 and as high as 96 degrees Fahrenheit. Fans were out in droves in foot, in cars, on motorcycles and on bikes. You could tell that most were not cycling fans, but came out because of the spectacle and excitement the race generates. Amgen Tour of California week is the one time of year you can get a recap and hear the results of a major international bike race all over the local media (newspapers, television and radio stations) along the tour route.

The scenery…well…it was nearly a spiritual experience seeing the majestic beauty of places I’ve always wanted to see in almost two-and-a half decades as a resident of the Golden State. Monterey, Big Sur, San Simeon, Hearst Castle…literally breathtakingly gorgeous. Around each sinewy turn came a view more spectacular and magnificent than the last. It was extraordinary – the same word I used yesterday to describe the view from the summit of Mt. Diablo, which enables the viewer to see more of the earth from one vantage point than you can see from any other vantage point in the entire world except from the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Beauty so stunning that it was overwhelming. Precipitous mountains, the magnificent Pacific Ocean, endless beaches, dense forests, verdant fields-a-plenty, spectacular bridges, etc. Heck, Sir Bradley Wiggins told the media during the post-race press conference that “Some riders saw whales. There were whales on course today. And dolphin.”

It was a dream drive that I will never forget and one that I highly recommend. Visit California and experience it yourself.