An Intrepid Continental Team Rides the Tour of California

Continental Riders push up and over another roller on Highway 1

Stage Two of the 2009 Tour of California is unquestionably the jewel of this year's race. From the Sausalito waterfront the peloton will cross the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, pass stately San Francisco homes, skirt the beaches, cliffs and dunes of the breathtaking Pacific Coast Highway and climb into a canopy of Coastal Redwoods on magical Tunitas Creek Road which rises to meet Skyline Blvd. the backbone of bay area cycling,

These are roads beloved by those of us who ride and are lucky enough to call this idyllic meeting of land and sea home. From this highpoint they'll hurtle down the cambered turns of 84 to rejoin the ribbon of Highway 1 that will take them to the final climb up Bonnie Doon Road and the high speed descent into the Santa Cruz finish. In a word, this stage is magnificent.

The Paceline heading for Bonnie Doon along Highway 1

At 9am Monday, just under a month before the pro peloton arrives, six intrepid riders from Rapha's Continental Squad assembled for Stage Two of their own Tour of California. Ryan Thomson, Ben Leiberson, Jeremy Dunn, Dan Langlois, Hahn Rossman and Cole Maness clipped in for the second day of their 800-mile journey to Escondido. They'd arrived in Sacramento a day earlier, swiftly dispensed with a prologue appetizer and then driven in search of good coffee and Stage One, 107 miles from Davis to Santa Rosa.

I think it was four or five weeks ago when I first spoke with Continental rider, producer and photographer, Daniel Pasley about the big idea that was bubbling up in the inventive minds of Rapha's Portland HQ. Even by Rapha standards this is a truly epic undertaking. Ride the entire route of this year's Tour in eight days... documenting the experience in words and pictures to be shared with all of us when the race itself begins. To pull it off Daniel and Cary S-H have packed an enormous van with enough food, kit, tubes, tires, film, ibuprofen, embro and noxema to sustain six riders in pursuit of a dream many of us share but don't have the legs to carry off.

Daniel Pasely captures Mr. Dunn's preparations for the start

And so Juli and I came along to photograph and support the team as they rode over familiar roads with unfamiliar speed. The day was extraordinary, with temperatures reaching into the low seventies under a cloudless sky we led riders and the support vehicle out of Sausalito onto the Bridge and into the city beyond. Our freshly waxed S4 made a rather nice pace car and an easy-to-spot target out on the road. For much of the day my head and cameras were stuck out the passenger window or the sunroof while Juli did her best to put the car in the right place for photography. I've included a small sample of the days images here. A complete gallery will follow in the days ahead.

First a big thank you to Daniel, Carey and Slate for having us along. We made ourselves useful dispensing water, bananas and snacks when needed and taking custody of extra layers when we were in a better position to support the guys as our two vehicles leap frogged South often book-ending the peloton.

Ben Leiberson blast his way up Tunitas Creek Road's newly paved surface

Tunitas provided the riding and photographic highlights early in the day. Ben Leiberson powered his way up the steepest sections out of the saddle, averaging 12-13 mph according to our speedometer. (twice the speed I climb Tunitas I should note). And I'm happy to report that much of the road has been very recently repaved (with real asphalt, not the same chip-and-seal treatment the lower section received last summer). If this doesn't attract too many motorcycles this will be lasting gift for all of us who love this special road. Jeremy and Dan took over the assault nearer the top when they decided to reel in a Webcor rider they spied a few turns up the road.

Jeremy satisfied with climb up Tunitas

To a man they all loved the climb and someone, perhaps feeling the afterglow said "that was the best climb I've ever ridden" and it could be, it is that good. They filled bottles emptied during the climb and rummaged through the van with Carey's help to find their Stowaway Jackets in preparation for several miles of high-speed descending through the trees. This was Juli's first experience following skilled riders heading downhill with a purpose... she was quite surprised how they could easily outpace a car.

All too soon the road flattened out approaching Highway 1 where the group made one last stop at the St. Gregorio Store (picking up several It's-it ice cream bars) to sustain them on the long stretch of coast ahead. The bars disappeared in less time than it takes Daniel to change a roll of film, and that's damn fast. The paceline made good progress on this section and we kept our drive-by photography to a minimum so as not to disturb their rhythm, the afternoon was getting on and the Bonnie Doon climb still lay ahead.

Bonnie Doon is a beautiful road that I've not been on before, but I definitely plan to ride it at some point this year. Near the top we said our goodbyes and called it a day, anxious to get back and check on our two sick cats, Ventoux and Roubaix. I planned to see the riders off the next morning from the start of Stage 3, which is only a few blocks from our house in San Jose. More on that tomorrow.

Amusing ourselves waiting for the paceline to arrive Image Gallery

28 Responses to An Intrepid Continental Team Rides the Tour of California

  1. Once again, words and pictures that take me there. Tell me though, are you really blessed with the lighting conditions you aptly show in the photos? It looks so… idyllic!


  2. NickM says:

    This post and was the perfect way to “warm-up” after my 1 hour walk to work in 25F temperature. Can’t wait for the warm weather to come back to New York!


  3. Scott, Nick,

    Both of your comments relate to weather and that’s definitely in my thoughts today as rain is back in the bay area. The Rapha Continental peloton is riding Stage 5 today, Visalia to Paso Robles where right now light rain is falling.

    The weather on Monday for Stage 2 was almost perfect. All that was missing were puffy white clouds for atmospheric interest in the photos. Almost no wind on the coast (wow!).

    Bad weather would definitely change the character of the stage, just as it did for last year’s Stage 4. More than seven hours in a cold, rain. I have a feeling this year’s Tour may get some because we’re overdue (and need) lots of rain.

  4. BR says:

    Wow they got lucky with the weather – that same area (Tunitas to Santa Cruz) got 1.16″ of rain last night. Great pics Michael, thanks.

  5. RMW says:

    That is so cool. Thanks for sharing!

  6. willy in pacifica says:

    Hey Velo,

    Have you thought any more about your local group ride?
    I did one of my epic rides this past weekend as well. Not sure how to e-mail it to you so I will just paste a link if that is OK.

    Willy in Pacifica

  7. No plans for the group ride yet, perhaps in the spring. I just read your account of the 250-mile route from SF to Morro Bay. Wow, I’ve never considered the idea of riding Highway 1 at night. Truly epic.

  8. willy in pacifica says:

    Riding Hwy 1 at night is fantastic.

    Once past HMB there is no reason for most cars to be out there. If you are going to get drunk no one is getting drunk in HMB then driving home to Santa Cruz or visa versa. So there is very little traffic out there and lots of stars. Plus with the wide shoulder it is one of the safest places to ride at night.

    From HMB to Santa Cruz it is only about 40-45 miles so two bottles will get you there.

    I have not riden Big Sur at night but I bet it would be even better. But you would have to time it just right based on services. There are a couple of hotels up there that might be a source of water, etc. if you called beforehand.


  9. Bravo says:

    Amazing pictures! Thanks.

  10. Velodramatic,

    Absolutely love the site and the artistry behind it. Look forward to your updates. Keep up the great work.

    Best regards,


    • Thank you Wade. I definitely need to delve into cyclingTips, lots of great content. Interesting that it appears both of us have spent time recently upgrading our site architectures. I came very close to selecting Thesis for Velodramatic. I hope it’s working out for you.

  11. Dan H says:

    Many thanks for sharing this with us. I’ve been hooked on your site since the start of the 30 days of Rapha!

    I’ve driven the length of Highway 1 on my honeymoon last year, just as big George see’s the Flandrian pave every morning I’m riding Highway 1.

    Last week my I was discussing moving to California from the UK to Wife, if ever there was anything to reassure me that I can live the lifestyle I really want it’s what’s being shown here!

    Many thanks,

  12. Pingback: Legs, Feeling No Pressure » Where I want to be riding

  13. Jeff says:

    Awesome photos. Did they already ride stage 4? I wouldn’t have minded getting some shots of the guys rolling through my town.

  14. The reason I updated my site design was because I stumbled on yours. Made me realize how much of a mess mine was! Thesis theme is good, but I originally started trying to emulate your former theme from ‘black minimalist’ but soon realized how much customization you did to it. Thanks for the inspiration!

  15. B says:

    Really good site you have going here. I will read this site more often. Thanks for the motivating pics.

    - Cozy Beehive

  16. Mark says:

    I noticed you have both the black and white lightweight jersey and wanted to know if you had any problems keeping the white one clean? Do you have a favorite between the two? Great website! Thanks.

    • Mark,
      White is always going to be a bit more difficult to keep clean. I’m fairly careful with my stuff, but there’s always going to be times when you flat or have a messy mechanical when something gets on the jersey. So far I’ve just been lucky with the white ones. A little stain remover and a soak post ride before the stain sets in would always help. After saying all that, I really prefer the black LW jersey, it’s a little more flattering if you’re not running 12% body fat.

  17. Brandon W says:

    Great photos. Could you post any of the original (non cropped/resized) photos so they could be used for wallpaper?

    You fulfilled my continental need until they post their ToC items on their site :)

  18. Brandon,

    I’m pretty swamped right now. Narrow your choices down to a couple of images and give me a screen size and I’ll create something this week.


  19. Brandon W says:

    Just my favorite one will do. I run 1440 x 900 resolution.

    Thanks a million. Looking forward to seeing more and enjoying your new gallery more.

  20. Pingback: Tour of California » Blog Archive » More Advil, Please

  21. Brandon W says:

    Thanks! I love the VeloDramatic tag you added also. Now I can long for the west coast while I fight the south east coast winds on the flat flat terrain and views of blue hairs and buicks.

  22. becca says:

    Thanks for the preview in pictures! I can’t wait for the prologue… so tempting to book a hotel on Fri night and cycle the course on Sat AM!