Stage 7 Claremont/Mt. Baldy

Saturday was the Queen Stage (the most difficult) of the race. Designed to be the deciding stage, it involved over 11,000' of climbing in 73 miles with an even tougher mountain top finish than Sierra Rd in San Jose.  This stage was the first true mountain-top finish in Tour of California history, and according to those who know it, rivaled any of the tougher European mountain stages. 

All I can say is wow! What a beautiful day, what a wonderful route, what a heck of a challenge! Our group started out in pieces today due to a couple of our drivers being misdirected. I was fortunate to start with an early group but got dropped midway up the initial climb. I rode the next  30 miles alone over the top of the Glendora Ridge KOM climb and down an exhilarating  20 mile rolling descent to and along the length of the San Gabriel Reservoir. Pavel caught up with me at a bottle exchange stop and we rode together 13 miles through Glendora and starting up Glendora Mountain Rd. After that, I climbed mostly alone (and at my own pace) the rest of the way to the finish.  

With short pitches as steep as 20%, the final 5 miles up Mt. Baldy road to the ski resort was as tough as anything I've done. I was propelled on by gathering crowds and people in costume running along side shouting encouragement, which created a truly memorable moment. What a sense of relief and accomplishment to stand under the finish line structure! I rode 73 miles and climbed 11,270' in 6:05:45 (a whopping 12.6 mph average) and felt darned good about it. All of Team CTS had a good day with everyone finishing the full route ahead of the peloton. TJ won the "courageous and committed rider of the day" by making a wrong turn, climbing Mt. Baldy on the wrong road, realizing his error, descending and then climbing Baldy again on the right road! I wondered if this was an after effect from his parking lot tumble yesterday.

The pros shaved almost 2:30 off of my time with Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner crossing the line 1-2 in 3:33 to seal the overall ToC victory for Horner.

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