Tour of California 2008, Stage 3 Mt. Hamilton recon

TJ climbing the backside of Mt. HamiltonYesterday TJ and I rode Mt. Hamilton again, but instead of hanging out at the Lick Observatory for a few minutes before turning back we dropped down the backside for a little photographic reconnaissance. Given its penultimate place in the stage, it's unlikely the backside climb of Hamilton will do more than make a general selection, but it's a promising venue for some good climbing photos – I hope. At the summit we were joined by friend and fellow photographer "Mr. Ryan" who'd driven up to join us for the scouting exercise.

It was a beautiful day on the mountain – brilliant sunshine, no wind to speak of and only the odd motorcycle to contend with. It wasn't as easy as New Year's Day though, towards the summit the hill really started to bite, and I'll admit to hesitating for a second when Mr. Ryan drove by and asked if I wanted a lift. After resolutely waving him off, I refocused on TJ's back and put my head down for the last two pitches.

It was in the lee of the final slope we finally saw the remnants of the snows that had blanketed the peak for the last ten days and kept the road closed to non essential traffic. It's funny how even a small amount of snow can cool the air around it. It stands little chance of surviving the weekend.

We rode over the back and found the turns I'd marked in Google Earth as possible positions. For the next 30 minutes we worked the corner, alternatively riding it for Jim who had all his gear, and then grabbing a few frames with the G9 I'd pocketed. I'm still debating whether to shoot ground-level wide angle or try for something tight with a 400 from an elevated position..

Anyway with the testing out the way, we said our goodbyes and climbed back towards the summit in preparation for what we knew would be a tricky descent.

It may not be clear from the image above, but road crews had dumped a lot of sand on the road because of the snow. Cornering for the first couple of miles was slippery to treacherous, but that wasn't the worst of it. I'm assuming that race organizers will have the road swept in preparation for Stage 3, so all the loose stuff will be gone. What was really frightening was how bad sections of the pavement had deteriorated in just a few weeks.

Admittedly I'm a nervous descender and Pros will have the latitude of using both lanes, but if unrepaired some of the potholes and subsidences have the potential to bring a rider down. Moving rapidly in and out of shadow renders many of these hazards invisible till you're right on top of them. One particularly bad pothole 6"-8" deep dead center of the line almost took us out and we weren't doing anything like race speed. I don't think that hole was there four weeks ago.

I've sent an email to race organizers... I don't want to see anyone get hurt.
Interesting piece on the natural environment of Mt. Hamilton and vicinity.


One Response to Tour of California 2008, Stage 3 Mt. Hamilton recon

  1. Steven Woo says:

    I saw you guys and said the car sag for two was unfair! :)