The Queen Stage of the 2019 Amgen Tour of California brings us to the fabled slopes of Mt. Baldy. The route is a trek through the San Gabriel Mountains just north of the Los Angeles Basin. Mt. Baldy is the showstopper for the day, but it certainly is not the only obstacle. In total, the stage features several KOMs for 12,000 feet of climbing. Only just outside Los Angeles’s northern suburbs, this is a beautiful ride that will make the peloton forget about the city bustle. For any rider, this is a refreshing detour.
Without further ado, the peloton begins climbing from the start in Ontario – nearly 1,000 feet are in the books before even reaching the San Gabriel Mountains. This commencement through Ontario and into Upland is almost entirely on the beautifully shaded and historic Euclid Avenue. At San Antonio Heights, the real climbing begins in earnest. Mt. Baldy Road is an exposed, sunny trek that follows San Antonio Creek for about five miles before the race turns onto Glendora Ridge Road to offer some relief. Another turn onto Glendora Mountain Road takes the riders on a curving descent to the San Gabriel River, where an unexpected world of adventure seekers forms around the hidden Camp Williams Resort. From river rafting to hiking, these mountains are made for exploration. In fact, at the bottom of the gorge are several trailheads that offer extraordinary backcountry experiences. One such trail is the Bridge to Nowhere, a twelve-mile roundtrip expedition north to an abandoned bridge across the East Fork of the San Gabriel River. The hike itself rises some 2,100 feet in elevation before finally revealing the 1936 truss bridge that was originally intended to become a scenic drive connecting LA to higher mountain communities. Nature had its own ideas and a flood destroyed the roadway several years later leaving this peculiar remnant of a bygone era.
The peloton weaves around the San Gabriel Reservoir, which makes for a scenic backdrop as the race makes its way to the outskirts of Azusa. Back in the city, riders will enjoy a speedy four miles on fan-lined residential streets. Yet the looming mountains always impart a sense of destiny. This is a point in the stage where the leaders will be vying for position or making their move. This could be an opportune place to see the race and a piece of locale lore for also at the base of Glendora Mountain Road is Rubel Castle, one of Glendora’s many cultural treasures. The “castle” was constructed between 1968 and 1986 by local personality Michael Rubel. Over time, Rubel and his friends and family put concrete and repurposed materials like river rock, aluminum, wine bottles, tires, golf clubs, and countless other items into this continuously evolving piece of folk art. Rubel’s Castle is now owned and operated by the Glendora Historical Society and available for tours.
Beginning in Glendora, the Amgen Tour of California makes its final push, one that will take the peloton 26.5 miles up almost 6,400 feet of climbing at an average gradient of over 6%. The day’s apex, however, comes in the last 4.5 miles when the race returns to Mt. Baldy Road and climbs the last 2,300 feet to the base of Mt. Baldy Resort. Through the village of Mt. Baldy itself, through Icehouse Canyon, and up the ten switchbacks, the ascent is brutal - averaging 9.4% with a max incline of almost 16%. In fact, the last half mile alone averages 12.8% and is where many of the riders are forced to zig-zag across the road before the throng of fans who will be there to cheer them to the finish. The gaps here may be enough to win or lose the General Classification. Over the last four pro finishes at Mt. Baldy, the second-place finisher came in an average of more than sixteen seconds behind. In a race of seconds, this could make all the difference.