Tour of California – Stage 3 to San Jose

The second edition of the Tour of California, bringing a fine crop of professional cyclists to the Golden State, has been ongoing for a couple of days now. The arrival of today’s stage was in downtown San Jose and featured the grueling Sierra road climb, its summit being about 20 miles before the finish line.

A nice occasion for me to check out the race and attempt some photos – I posted a report on my MTBGuru blog but I’m happy to repeat it here.

I parked in downtown San Jose, took the bike out of the car and had a simple plan: ride to Sierra Road, watch the race and shoot pics, then quickly ride back to downtown in order to witness the finish and shoot some more pics.

I rode to the base of Sierra, and positioned myself at one of the first real steep sections – going farther up would have made it a bit hard to make it back in time for the finish, so I settled with this spot.

Sierra roadSierra roadSierra

There was a pretty large breakaway early on in the race and here’s the group arriving at the base of Sierra. On the right you can recognize Jens Voigt and Jason McCartney, a luitenant of race leader/yellow jersey Levi Leipheimer.

McCartneyJurgen van de Walle

McCartney was charging hard on the brutal steeps of Sierra Road. Some Belgian pride in the breakaway group as well: on the right photo, in the center, is Jurgen Van De Walle, who would end up conquering the King of the Mountain jersey.

peloton

The peloton, not too far behind, was led by George Hincapie, working for team mate and leader Leipheimer (in the yellow, on Hincapie’s left).

HincapieHorner

On the left George Hincapie and on the right Chris Horner, a bit farther in the group.

There was no time to feel bad about missing the action higher up the mountain, I now needed to jump on my bike and ride back after the last riders had passed by. Dodging motorcycles, cops and pedestrians I ended up in a little group of fellow spectator/riders that zoomed through the streets of San Jose towards the finish line. We ended up on the actual course of which we rode the last 5 miles or so and I must admit riding through streets lined with cheering spectators was a blast. Moreover, as I crossed the actual finish line, I somehow ended up in some backstage area behind the finish. Probably a security hole of sorts but I wasn’t going to complain as I could get some decent shots from here.

FinishSan Jose City HallSan Jose City Hall

Rain clouds were packing together above the hills but it remained dry and sunny in the city. The finish was near the new and rather spectacular Richard Meier designed San Jose City Hall.

Turned out Levi had stirred up things significantly on the Sierra climb and had joined the breakaway – the yellow jersey would be sprinting for the stage victory against Jens Voigt and Chris Horner, the only ones remaining from the early breakaway – the peloton was following closely.

But Jens Voigt had saved some energy and just blasted away from the other two in the final straight:

SprintVoigt wins

The final sprint – Voigt even having the time to check the damage.

LeipheimerGesink

Leipheimer fought hard for the stage but won’t be too disappointed as he keeps the yellow. Horner is third, and Dutchman Robert Gesink took fourth place, just ahead of the peloton.

Podium

The podium: Voigt the stage winner, Levi the yellow jersey, Van de Walle King of the Mountain (not sure about the green and white jerseys, the results haven’t been posted yet on the official site).

Final note: some people were really serious about their photography…

lens

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