2009 Tour of California

The 2009 Tour of California passed through the Bay Area earlier this week, and was greeted by torrential downpours, temperatures not far from freezing point, howling winds and still fairly large crowds braving the weather. The past few years the race had generally enjoyed the stereotypical California early spring conditions, but not so this time.

On Monday we caught the riders during the climb of Tunitas Creek; most of the day it was raining hard – I had to dig up some rain gear that usually sits stashed away in some hidden corner of the house and was getting nervous about baptizing my new lens in these conditions.

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Here’s a bunch of Rock Racing riders (with Tyler Hamilton in the lead) about to crest Tunitas.

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Most of my pics on Tunitas didn’t work out that well – I learned that even four stops of image stabilization don’t help much when the skies are dark and grey, you’re standing under heavy tree canopy (without external flash) and your subjects are moving amazingly fast. Oh well, we did a bit of a hike back to the car and then raced towards Santa Cruz, hoping to catch them a second time (they would take a bit of a detour, down 84 and 1 and then climbing up Bonny Doon road towards Santa Cruz). We cruised down 17 instead.

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Mission accomplished! Here’s Levi Leipheimer in the lead, flying towards the finish – he would be beat by the guy in his slipstream, Tom Peterson, but would conquer the leader’s jersey today, a reward for the impressive attack he launched during the Bonny Doon climb.

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These guys are sprinting for third place.

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A certain seven-times Tour winner in third position…

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