Tour of the Rain

Over the last 10 days, we’ve gone from a dry season, a sort of perpetual autumn, to full Northern/Central California winter. Which means: rain in the lowlands and someplace unseen, far to the east, the Sierra Nevada living up to their name. We have a storm parked offshore now, and the rain has fallen all day without much of a let up. We got out this morning to walk Scout during a break of an hour or so. But a couple of later excursions took place in a pounding-down rain, and the dog was soaked when we got back (he doesn’t seem to mind; and he seems to like the process of us toweling him down before we let him back in the house).

Over in Davis this morning, just this side of Sacramento, Stage 1 of the Tour of California hit the road. The route was 107 miles to Santa Rosa over many of the same roads I’ve ridden on brevets, or centuries or just on rides with friends. The big climb of the day was up Howell Mountain Road. I remember it as a steep 2.5- to 3-mile grind I once did with my friend Pete. The eventual stage winner made one of his big moves on that climb today.

I’ve ridden some of these roads in the rain, but today it looked like the racers got pelted from beginning to end of the stage. You see all everyone wearing rain jackets, shoe covers, tights, and what look like scuba gloves. None if keeps you dry. The longer you’re out in the rain, the more water you get in your shoes, the more sodden your shorts get, the colder you become. Of course, the elite pros in today’s peloton really raced today; it’s very, very rare for weather to interfere with the running of a race (one exception I remember: heavy snow in the mountain passes during a stage of the Tour of Italy maybe 15 years ago caused the race organizers to abbreviate a stage). They raced today, but they were miserable, just like the fraternity and sorority of just regular riding folks.

How bad was it? Here’s the Twitter Lance Armstrong sent out after finishing:

“Holy hell. That was terrible. Maybe one of the toughest days I’ve had on a bike, purely based on the conditions. I’m still freezing.”

More rain in the forecast tomorrow. And some patchy, wild roads, too, including another one I rode with Pete once: Tunitas Creek. It turns into a wild one-lane route through a redwood forest. When we road it, the road was all patches and patches on patches. I saw a report from a local cyclist today that the route had debris on it today. Which makes it kind of amazing to me that the best cyclists in the world are riding it. It’s more than a little like the Yankees showing up to play on your local diamond, complete with pebbles in the infield and potholes in the outfield. Seeing the best on your home field — well, it changes the way you see the field.

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