Back to PAST TOURS Home

Amgen 2009

2009 Amgen Tour of California

Many Knickerbikers recently enjoyed Stage 8 (Rancho Bernardo to Escondido) of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California…

Lois Horowitz: Henny and I met in Mira Mesa at 10 a.m. and plotted how to get to Rancho Bernardo in order to get back by two as Henny had a commitment. So, we hopped in our cars and drove I-15 to the Poway exit. We parked at the mall at the corner of Poway and Sabre Springs Roads to cut out the bike path hill and freeway crossover that might delay us in both directions. We rode up to Rancho Bernardo to the start of the race, getting there about 40 minutes before the start, walked around with our bikes to look for Lance and to see if any of those chunky people wearing helmets were people of our acquaintance (didn't see a single person we knew including Lance), checked out the crowds and official vehicles hovering around the start of the race, walked in the streets along with everyone else, enjoyed the atmosphere and excitement, then, when we had about 20 minutes to countdown, we found ourselves a nice spot on the grassy median on Rancho Bernardo Road, and waited. At noon, we started to see official vehicles round the corner and come toward us. The first motorcycle sputtered in front of us. Was this a sign of things to come? He finally got his engine in gear and off he went along with other colorfully dressed motorcycle riders. They were followed by all sorts of other vehicles laden with cameras, bicycles and extra wheels. Then the bicycle riders came towards us, we stood and cheered modestly, the racers whushed by and it was over in about ten seconds. We marveled at the weeks of preparation that went into this ten second thrill, rode for another hour in the lovely neighborhoods of Rancho Bernardo and Poway, ate lunch at the Subway at the mall on the corner of Pomerado and Twin Peaks Roads and went home. It was a lovely day.

Paul Mitchell: Some of us rode to the bottom of the South grade of Mt. Palomar from Harrah's Casino and then saw the sprint go by. We drove to the finish line to see the racers come in along with the huge crowd. I spotted Robert L. He had ridden to the finish from Pacific Beach and said he was planning on riding back.

Gayle Ziaskas: I went with my husband partway up Highland Valley Road, and we watched the guys on the first difficult climb. I forgot how steep that road was. The racers made it look easy!! Mike got a shot of Levi and the lead break with McCartney.
It was fun.

Shirley Flatt: Long time Valley Center resident Gene Flatt knew the perfect spot for viewing the final King of the Mountains climb: a point halfway up Cole Grade from which we could see the beginning of the climb, and its steepest portion, below us. Gene drove to this viewing point at 7:45 am although the racers weren't due through until 3 pm. Because he was wearing his uniform as a senior volunteer with the Valley Center sheriffs, we got lots of respect from our fellow spectators.

Joining Gene at the Cole Grade hangout were Shirley Flatt, Fern Kissel, Sylvia Nielson and her cousin Kelly, Forrest and Gail Roberts, and Barb Dorris. The 7 cyclists parked at the Flatt's house 6 miles from the viewing spot, and biked over, carrying lunch fixings and lots of liquids :) on Kelly's trailer. Bravo to Kelly, who got more exercise than the rest of us!
Anyway, we arrived about 11 am. Forrest and Gail went over to visit the KOM official station, where Larry and Sandra Zinn were. Shirley, Sylvia, and Fern decided to intercept the peloton in upper Pauma Valley, so they biked an extra 10 mile round trip to the intersection of Valley Center Road and Highway 76. After an hour and 20 minute wait, a breakaway of 7 led by Frank Schleck appeared. Almost a minute later the peloton, led by Astana in general and Lance Armstrong in particular, arrived. They were beautiful and fast.

After returning to Cole Grade, where we encountered a few raindrops in Pauma Valley, we were entertained by Barb's lovely chalk drawings (using Livestrong chalk) supporting Levi and Lance. Slightly before 3 pm the cavalcade of CHP motorcycles and tour advance vehicles arrived, informing us that 4 riders were ahead of the peloton. We could see the 4 riders begin the climb, but by the time they reached us 1.5 miles up, the breakaway was down to 2 riders (who held it all the way to the finish). A minute or so behind the breakaway was the peloton, again led by Lance, with murder on his face as he gave 110% to the ascent. By this point, the peloton was fragmented, and it was probably 30 minutes between the first and the last riders. Fern got a great photo of George Hincapie.

After we packed up and rode back to the Flatts' house, we settled in in front of Gene's big screen TV to watch the race, including the finish and Palomar climb, enjoying chili, cornbread, salad, beer, wine, cake, and much good cheer.

Barbara Dorris: Beautiful! - except it was Gail and Barb that visited the new station on Cole Grade Road (I don't think it was Official) - to vistit the bathroom twice and where Larry and Sandra Zinn were making new friends.
Sylvia and Kelly were a big part of the chalk drawing entertainment. ...and the chili - et al - was homemade and delicious.

Actually, the specifics aren't that important - we were all honored to be there! Thanks for writing it up and especially for your hospitality!

Oh - and Forrest was an official spotter for the Amgen team...

Fern Kissel: On Sunday, February 22, 2009, I went to watch the Tour of California from Cole Grade Rd., along with Shirley & Gene Flatt, Barb Dorris, Forrest & Gail Roberts, Sylvia Neilsen and her cousin Kelly and thousands of other people. It was beyond INCREDIBLE!!!! It was an experience of a lifetime. Sheriff Gene, in his volunteer sheriff's uniform, went down very early to reserve the PERFECT spot for us to watch as the pros came up Cole Grade Rd. We were on the 1st switchback overlooking the entire Pauma Valley so we could see the racers as they were coming up Cole Grade from 76. Shirley, Sylvia & I rode down Cole Grade to the intersection of 76 & S6 to watch the guys take the VERY sharp right hand turn onto Hwy. 76 on their way up to Palomar Mtn. First, all of the CHP and Sheriff's motorcycles and cars came by.

Then the tour cars and tour marshall, several team cars, a car with an announcer telling us how many minutes it was before the peloton arrived and who was in the breakaway. Then we saw the helicopter circling and we knew the boys were on their way! Talk about excitement!!!! Because of how sharp the right turn is, the cyclists had to make the turn and come over to the left side of Hwy. 76 - right in front of us!!! They were so close I could have touched them, literally!!!! We saw the breakaway first with Schleck up front and then the entire peloton came into view as they approached the intersection, turned right and then came flying by like a colorful freight train with Anstana/Lance/Popo in front pulling the entire peloton behind them. They're faces were so intense. It was a beautiful sight seeing that number of cyclists come by. And as quick as you could process what you just saw - they were gone and head up the mountain.

Once the peloton went by, we rode back up Cole Grade and waited for the guys to start the climb. We knew they were coming because we saw the helicopter coming up from 76 and then the motorcade and car with the announcer came by. The car stopped where we were and checked out our view and told us we had the best view of the route!! We were on the downhill side of Cole Grade on a left-hand switchback so as the guys came up, they had to come within reach of us, again. AMAZING. First the 2 leaders came by and then there was Lance who was literally PULLING the peloton up that 9% grade!!!!!!! Seriously, I have never seen anything like that. People who are not cyclist may not have an appreciation of the power it takes to pull 100 cyclists up a 9% grade. You could see it in Lance's face and the other guys. The intensity in that face was absolutely amazing and if you weren't right next to him, it would not have left the same impression and you would not have seen the emotion on his face like we did - that's how close we were! Astana was the lead team and Levi was a couple bikes behind Lance in the middle of the team. And then........I saw George!!!!!!! I love George, he's so darn cute:-) We saw Jason McCartney, Schleck, Horner, etc., etc., but they came by so fast it was hard for your brain to process who you were looking at! They were right there at our fingertips!!!

We had a BLAST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Many, many thanks to Sheriff Gene and Shirley for opening their home to us, reserving the best spot on the route and feeding us after we climbed Cole Grade to go back to their house.

Robert Leone: Got out of house, looked at sky, grabbed the aluminum commute bike instead of the steel touring bike (it DID sort of look like rain was possible), rode up Rose Canyon, down Torrey Pines, right at Via de la Valley, right again at Paseo Delicias and up Del Dios Highway to Escondido. Passed one sculpted calves roadie on a Klein, got passed by a twenty-something on a Schwinn one-speed middleweight (with a Bontrager track wheelset, and he'd taken off the fenders). Stopped for coffee at Blue Mug (Mexican Alturas, also had a Lemon Bar) at about 11;30 AM in downtown Escondido, then took Grand all the way out to Bear Valley Pkwy to watch the races. At about 1 PM a breakaway of ten riders passed, with a 45 second gap over the peloton. Returned to downtown Escondido, went swag-hunting (should have parked the bike). Never did find the Team Type 1 booth. At about 3:15 rolled up to the last major turn (because the finish was so crowded). Crazy turn speeds at El Norte Pkwy and Escondido Blvd. Apres race, I snacked at Blue Mug again (Steve's Smooth French, also a white chocolate and raspberry bar), then after it was dark enough for the lights to really shine, tried to ride out of Escondido. Took like, three tries to get out of town. Traffic was all jammed up because of a bike race of all things!
Del Dios Highway is a lovely nightime ride, but Via de la Valle is a pain due to tighter turns, more trees and lousy road quality.

Still, what a great day to ride a bike!

Chris Polta: Martin, his brother Tom, our friend Wally and I saw the race in 3 areas. First, we went to the start. We stumbled onto Bob Rolle and got some great pictures of him, bald head and all! I wrote on the street with the "Lance" chalk, "Ride for Nancy". Tom's wife is a cancer survivor. That meant a lot! Then, we raced over to Escondido to the intersection of Bear Valley Parkway and Grand to catch them as they flew by. The wind they created blew our hair!! I never knew there were so many VIP cars and support vehicles!! There was time to drive home for lunch and watch the start of the TV coverage. Fun to see "our" county featured!

Then, we headed to downtown Escondido, where we got a great viewing spot on the street 2 blocks from the finish. There was NO WAY the crowds would allow us any closer. The fans were crazy loud!! The racer flew by us and around the corner.

After it was over, I snaked and squeezed my way toward the front of the awards platform, and ended up in the VIP tent, {where I shouldn't have been}, but could see the stage and all the happenings, including everyone getting sprayed with celebratory Champagne!! What a day to remember!!


Photos: Fern Kissel, Larry Zinn, others

Credit also to Forrest R