Limited interest, I know, but an interesting article (to me!) by Eric Smith who is the course director of the Tour of California, on what it takes to develop the course plus a bit on how to best see the Mt. Palomar stage. Eric's girl-friend, Lynn Katano just emailed it to me, and said I could post it here.
I've talked to Eric at several double centuries where he has provided Very Helpful SAG support!
Also, I've ridden Palomar three times, and it was brutal just to get up to the top. Can't even imagine racing it. Guess that's one of the (many!) reasons I never was a pro . . . anyway, here's Eric's article:
Creating the 2009 Amgen Tour of California Race Route
(What goes on behind the curtains)
After 12 years of producing the Chevron Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, I thought I knew just about everything there was to putting on a bicycle race. The 2006 Amgen Tour of California comes along and I quickly learn how clueless I was! Fast forward four years and now at least I know enough to be really scared when I see something about to go wrong. Over the next few paragraphs, I will attempt to give you a little insight as to how the course is created each year and provide some tips about watching the race on Stage 8 as a spectator.
The race ends on February 22nd in Escondido, but we are already working on the 2010 race. We are looking at potential host cities and possible routes. The real work each year begins in March. Requests for Proposals (RFPs) are sent to several cities: every city that has hosted a stage, those new cities that have expressed interest, and cities that we are interested in exploring. This is a big pot with a lot of ingredients stirred in to come up with the final selection: a challenging course, areas that showcase California, host cities which have been very successful in the past, new routes vs. old routes, expectations of the sponsors, weather, the potential of snow, and a dash of politics.
From that comes 9-10 different versions of the route. A quick sanity check will tell us if a particular stage is even feasible. A stage that is longer than 135 miles or requires us to use a freeway is not viable. Once everything gets whittled down to our final host cities, we head out on the road and start our preliminary course layout, noting every intersecting street and landmark. Caltrans and CHP review the routes and provide their feedback. The course is re-logged. Next, monthly meetings begin with each city to lay out the “footprint” for the start/finish area and to determine the best way to enter or leave the city.
It is then a six month process to secure all of the various permits and permissions that are required to bring the race over the 775 mile course. Some are simple and some seem like they will never come. Bringing the race over the Golden Gate Bridge requires seven different permits.
Taking the race up Palomar Mt. is not much easier. We meet with scores of small towns along the route to explain how the race comes through. Each RR crossing means a call to someone to make sure we won’t meet a scheduled train. Churches, schools, factories, post offices, road construction sites, draw bridges, and freeway ramps all need to be planned for. A lot of work, but we are just getting started! Working closely with Caltrans, CHP, and a few traffic mgm’t companies, plans are created for each stage to determine where we will place signs, what type of sign, what will it say, and when it will be placed. Detours are planned. CHP needs to determine how they will manage the traffic on each stage. Each intersection and side street and driveway needs to be examined to determine who is going to cover that spot. Training is provided to the CHP group that will be in the caravan for the entire race.
Feed Zones, Sprint Lines, and KOMs have to be selected and mapped (it’s always fun to argue about what Category a climb should be). Feedback starts to trickle in from some of the pro riders and invariably the course gets tweaked a little here and there. It is now a little more than a month from the start of the race. The course will be driven once more to address any hazards that might cause a problem. Between now and race day, there are countless internal meetings and calls.
I can also look forward to meetings before town councils, school boards, county supervisors, National Park Service, and a few more at the Golden Gate Bridge. Thousands of letters need to be mailed to people along some of the route. We also need to consider places along the route that are prone to flooding or snow (yes, we have an alternate route laid out in case there is snow on Palomar). One of the final things to do is to hit the road and train volunteers in each of the cities. It is a lot of work, but in the total scope of what goes on to make this race happen, this is just a small piece of a huge and complex puzzle.
How to “Spectate” Stage 8
This is a challenging course for the riders and the race fans. There are four prime places to see the race:
1. Race Start in Rancho Bernardo – If you want to see the riders and get some autographs, this is the only place. The teams are pretty accessible and team parking is open for everyone to walk through. Astana and Lance are going to be pretty invisible due to their security concerns. If the only thing that is missing in your life is to talk with Lance and get his autograph, you might want to change your priorities. Each rider is required to sign-in at the start of the Stage. We have a short corridor on each end of the sign-in stage where people can get autographs – Autograph Alley. You can usually score any autograph you want, but with the “Lance Factor” this year, that area will be slammed with people. If you are at the start, you will not be able to get to Palomar to see the climb. While the race starts at noon, the road up Palomar will be shut down to cars at 9:00am, and any available parking near Palomar will be gone by early Sunday morning. Your next options would be to go to Cole Grade or to the Finish line, but it will be very difficult to do both. There are no neutral laps in Ranch Bernardo.
2. Palomar Mountain – We expect up to 10,000 people to watch the race from South Grade Rd or the KOM. South Grade will be closed to cars by 9:00am. Any available parking on South Grade will be gone by Friday. East Grade will remain open longer but you will not be allowed to exit down South Grade from the top until the complete Caravan passes. All of the camping spots have been sold out and there is only parking on the top for a few hundred cars. No Parking Areas will be strictly enforced and tow trucks will be on-site.
The best way to get to Palomar will be by bike. Plan on parking several miles out. Those areas on Hwy 76 leading to South Grade from both the east and west where there is parking will be used for our two feed zones and no spectator parking will be available. Once the race heads up Palomar, spectators will not be allowed down South Grade until the end of Caravan passes. Since the race is expected to shatter and the caravan will be stretched out, Hwy 76 will continue to remain closed to allow the entire race to come back on Hwy 76 westbound for Cole Grade. People will be held on South Grade until the entire race passes again. You should expect at least a half hour wait from the front to the end of the caravan.
If you are going to watch from a decent spot on Palomar (near the top), that will be it for you. You will not be able to catch the start, Cole Grade, or the finish. The only alternative is to watch from the very bottom of the climb (not too exciting) where they turn onto South Grade. Once the caravan passes, you would have the chance to watch from Cole Grade or the finish. Forget driving to Cole Grade from Palomar. Parking will be long gone. It is downhill and not that far from South Grade to Cole Grade so plan on riding. Also, we have not finalized the road closures for Hwy 76. Driving on Hwy 76 may not even be an option. Everyone is aware of the "ingenuity" of the true (rabid) cycling fan, especially CHP. With only one road in and one road out, I am putting my money on CHP this time.
3. Cole Grade – I think this will be the sleeper spot to watch the race. You will be able to catch the start and get to Cole Grade, but parking will likely be gone so plan on hiking a bit or take your bike. I suspect the race will be shattered by the time it reaches Cole Grade. Like South Grade, you will not be allowed to drive in either direction of Cole Grade until the end of caravan passes. If you park on Cole Grade, that will be the end of your race. By the time you get to Escondido, you can help us pack things for the trip back to Georgia.
4. Race Finish in Escondido – Who knows, you might watch history being made. Does Lance have the goods to wear the yellow jersey at the finish? It should be a great party and the Lifestyle Expo is always a great place to cruise through. Also a good time to grab some nice deals. There are no circuits in Escondido, but you can expect an incredible sprint to win the toughest stage we have ever had.
Amgen Tour of California