Graham's Tour of California

Stage 7 Santa Clarita - Pasadena, 143 km/88.9 mi and Stage 8 Rancho Bernardo - Escondido, 155.8 km/96.8 mi (Below)

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CyclingRevealed is pleased to present the photographic work of Graham Jones who was on hand in California to capture Stage 7 and Stage 8 of the Tour of California.

Meanwhile in sunny and warm California the ToCal race is on. I spoke with Tyler today. He came down with the flu overnight which accounts for him being over 5 minutes behind the peloton over the top of the big climb today (Mill Creek). I also spoke with Tim Johnson who is riding a very strong race but is annoyed with Astana - "they don't race, they just control. And they are all incredibly strong". It's USPS and Discovery all over again.

I was at the top of Mill Creek (at 4,500ft). The ride up was very, very long and the descent down just as long and hairy, it was scary fast. The crowds were almost up to TdF strength. It was toasty warm and the snow was melting rapidly. I latched on to the end of the race convoy to drive back down to Pasadena and managed to see four of the final five laps. The crowds were unbelievable and some estimates put them at plus 50,000 people. All of this to see a bike race - in the USA no less.

Check out our favorite shots from Graham Jones’s albums:

Elite Men Stage 7
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The breakaway at the summit of Mill Creek

Astana Armada leads the bunch over Mill Creek

The winning break (Nocentini leading)

Astana and the bunch on the finishing circuits

Sastre suffering under the Astana pressure

The flu couldn't stop Tyler Hamilton from finishing the stage

The victory brings a nice prize... THE JERSEY

Tim Johnson interview after the stage 7

Flu or no flu the always popular Tyler Hamilton signs autographs after the stage 7

Stage 8 Rancho Bernardo - Escondido, 155.8 km/96.8 mi

When I first heard talk of the Amgen Tour of California one day evolving into a Grand Tour, I thought "nice dream, but never in the USA". Having witnessed the last two stages on the road side and having followed the whole race on TV, the idea now seems to have earned considerable credibility. In Solvang (Stage 6) police escorts were needed to help the stars through '10-deep' crowds. The final circuits around Stage 7's Rose Bowl in Pasadena saw an estimated 50,000 people lining the streets.

Today (Stage 8) the much anticipated climb up Palomar Mountain saw huge crowds worthy of the Tour de France. Apparently some people had driven out in their campers the previous evening to claim a prime viewing spot (a standing tradition at the Tour). For the final mile there was a canyon of humanity creating all sorts of enthusiastic support for the race. I have been to both the Pyrenees and the Alps for the Tour de France and today the Amgen ToCal crowds easily matched their European brethren. There is something about the high altitudes that turns the whole affair into one monster party. People dress up in the weirdest outfits, barbecues are smoking away and everyone is talking to everyone. The cares of the world seem to have disappeared in the thin air. 

Palomar Mountain is a brute of a climb and today it was covered in high grey clouds (as was all of Southern California). The snow covered upper slopes were melting in the mild spring air. As a result the riders often had to pass through running water and grit and gravel being washed off the slopes. Once the TV helicopters arrived overhead the Euro atmosphere was complete. About the only major thing missing was the famous advertising convoy that precedes each days race at the Tour.

By any measure, this race had the cream of the pro peloton riding. One of my all time favorites, Jens Voigt, appeared like an apparition behind the motor bike outriders and crashing his elbows into the pressing throng as he lead Levi Leipheimer and the lead break over the Palomar KOM. This really was bike racing at its very best. On most of the previous stages, the break has usually been followed by a relatively compact bunch under the stewardship of Astana. Not today, Palomar Mountain turned the peloton into numerous small groups of straining riders with their faces a mask of agony.

The Amgen ToCal has in four short years created all of the elements that define a world class event. They obviously have a great organization, they attract the world's best riders and most importantly of all the event draws massive public support. It will be some years yet before Grand Tour status can be discussed in earnest, but if the ToCal can carry on building this great race, then the sky is the limit.

Elite Men Stage 8
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21 hairpins, just like the Alpe d'Huez but with Spring snow on Palomar Mountain

The Floyd Landis Fan Club on top of Palomar Mountain xx

The Pope of California blessed the spectators, the climb and the racers!

A generational difference in California?


LiveStrong yellow chalk in stead of paint is the order of the day

The race nears the sumit of Palomar Mountin

The commissar’s car grabs a photo of the "Canyon of Humanity"

Jens Voigt leads Leipheimer and the break over the Palomar KOM

Rabobank's Peter Weening in a world of hurt

'Chechu' Rubiera leads (as usual) Armstrong and the mini-peloton chasing the leaders

KOM winner Jason McCartney shows the pain of an early breakaway over the Palomar KOM

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