Tour of California, Mt Baldy Ride Report-18 May 2017
by Rob Verfurth
Riders: Oleg, Hodges, Bill & Peggy Braamse, Neil B (Rancho rider), Bernie, Todd, Len and Rob
The Tour of California was again tackling Mt Baldy. I did a quick check of the previous years ToC rides we have done based on my photo library. Descender group rides have previously gone to Mt Baldy to watch the pro race in 2011, 2012 and 2015. 2017 marks the fourth time we have climbed Baldy to watch the pros. We have also watched this race from other vantage points–Mt Palomar, Mountain High, Dawson Saddle and a start in San Diego. This was the Queen stage of the week long race and expected to be another great adventure ride for the Descenders. We met early at the North County Mall and loaded up in three cars to drive to Glendora. Traffic was heavy and with a quick stop for a bite to eat, we did not make it to the George Manooshin Park until after 8:30 am. It was a bright, sunny and cool day at the start.
We pedaled along East Sierra Madre Ave for less than a mile before we hit the start of the climb up Glendora Mountain Road. The group eventually strung out on the climb with Oleg, Bernie, Todd and Rob riding to the first stop at Glendora Ridge Road, 10 miles up the mountain. Neil rode ahead of us but looped back. We descended down GMR; Oleg, Bernie and Neil went all the way to the bottom while Todd and I turned around after a beautiful smooth, curvy descent of 3 miles. We climbed back up with Hodges and Bill joining us as they turned around from their shorter descent. Back at the corner of GRR, we started the 12 mile climb to our lunch viewing spot. GRR is an awesome climb as well, not nearly as steep as GMR. There were lots of other riders on the road, it was a beautiful day for a bike ride.
The regroup spot was close to one of the KOM signs, just up from Baldy Village. There were a few concessions providing food and drink. The crowds were thick, bikes up against the side of the road. We went down from the KOM signage about 100 yards to get a viewing spot above Mt Baldy Road. The pro race started down in Ontario at noon with a pretty direct climb up through San Antonio Heights. Eventually the breakaway group of riders could be seen climbing up the road, they made the turn onto GRR and climbed towards us. Two racers were flying to capture points at the KOM with a group of about a dozen leaders leading the race. The rest of the peloton rode by, along with all the support cars and motos. After the race headed down GRR, we all tried to get the legs going again for the brutal climb to the ski lift finish.
It is not that long of a climb, only about 4 miles from the village, but it is a very challenging road with lots of elevation gain, steep gradient and lots of switchbacks. The crowd of riders made their way toward the top. There were lots of folks parked along the sides of the road, a good deal of partying was underway. I suffered mightily on my slow slog to the top. It was sunny and nice at the top. We parked our bikes about 100 yards from the race finish and walked along to visit the many booths on the finishing stretch. The huge television screen was broadcasting the race so we got to watch the last 25 kilometers of racing up the same roads we had just climbed earlier in the day, very cool. Our viewing spot was overlooking the final three switchbacks of the race. We watched from the big screen the attacks at the start of the final 2 mile climb, it was down to four riders in the last kilometer: Andrew Talansky, Rafal Majka, George Bennett and Ian Boswell. It was still anyones race.
Talansky had a better line and position on Majka on the final turn right in front of us; he won the stage by a bike length over Majka, followed by eventual GC winner, George Bennett in third place for the stage. Great race and finish. The podium action commenced almost immediately while other riders finally made it to the finish. Riders grabbed a drink and/or jacket for the steep descent back down to the team buses in the Baldy Village. Len and I had kept our bikes on the far side of the finish ramp so we had to wait for all the riders to finish before we could get back to our bikes. Other Descenders had taken their bikes to our viewing spot so they worked their way back down when the roads opened. Bernie and Todd waited for me and Len.
The four of us cruised down the steep sections and climbed back up to the KOM spot where we had our lunch break hours before. It was a sharp rise, making the speed of their riding up it earlier even more impressive. The 22 mile ride back along GRR and GMR was awesome, it was mostly down and provided great views as we flew down the curvy roads. Bernie did the lion share of the work on point. I dropped a water bottle when I hit a hole, Bernie waited to help pull me back to the group. I hit the front for a bit on some of the last sections of descent but it was too fast for me. Todd and Bernie flew by me while I backed off the pace; some of the tight radius turns were a bit much for this wimp. My Garmin also died with about 5 miles of descending to go so I lost another incentive to push the pace; I cruised to the bottom. Bernie was waiting for us at the corner. Len was still a bit behind so Bernie waited while I pedaled back to the park. I had the car keys for my guys who were waiting.
We loaded up, had a cold drink from the cooler and said our good-byes; every car was on its own to drive back to San Diego. Our car stopped for a much needed food break at the In-Out Burger in Corona and got back to the mall about 8:15 pm, long day but well worth it. Our ride was just over 60 miles with almost 9K of climbing. The guys who went all the way down to the San Gabriel River got in 5 more miles and an other 1K of climbing. The link below has photos of the ride and racing.