Over the course of one week in March, the Rapha Women’s Ambassadors left the safe haven of Santa Monica, California, and headed north on their bicycles. The reason? To ride the entire route of the 2014 Amgen Tour of California. It was not the exact route that will be followed from Sacramento by the pros in a few weeks’ time but the Ambassadors were in charge here, and if this ride quickly turned into something that was part training camp, part travel trip, it was at least all Golden State.
The ride, indeed the entire ATOC route, was a fantastic showcase for the great state of California, the sun-drenched state we dreamed of in our youths. Most of the Ambassadors arrived with a picture of California that fell somewhere between Beverly Hills 90210 and The Endless Summer – long days, beautiful sunsets. And, at the end of many of the stages, that was mostly how it was. Mostly. For California has a mind of its own and over the course of that week, the rain also had a part to play. Here is just a short synopsis of a long week in the saddle.
A great, looping 20-mile circuit, which consisted of a tough, snaking climb and its equally twisted cousin heading down the backside. Three times.
Desert wasteland for as far as the eye can see, a fact amplified by a lack of cell service (or human beings) and a pronounced increase in locomotive traffic. The climbing is deceptively hard on this stage but the descent down Mt. Wilson, and into the open arms of Pasadena, is worth it.
A Mountain High. The road to the top of this one never seems to end. The desert eventually gives way to a break in the land, which the Ambassadors climbed, as will the pros, and which ended rather abruptly in a dark and deeply cold forest.
Sunny Santa Barbara and the best coffee of the trip at the aptly named Handlebar Coffee Roasters. Now we know where to start our day when the race is in town. Then, a winding road out and another long, bright, windy day in the saddle that ended at Pismo Beach.
The perfect antidote to a day that began with cabbage-scented headwinds is a beautifully curving route along historic HWY 1. Complete with the smell of the ocean (eventually), a gentle breeze and a stop every few miles to observe the magnificent coastline.
A mist covers Mt. Hamilton and its observation towers, while on the road the false flats are unrelenting. Poor weather thwarts an ascent up Mt. Diablo but it is not our last visit on this trip (curse you, Mt. Diablo, we will be back to have our revenge).
More sunshine could surely not be possible in Sacramento, the state capitol of California. The city that serves as the start of the ATOC, here provides our finale. In one big, 120-mile loop, we are back at the Capitol building and, if memory serves as it always does near the end of such trips, the light is even brighter.
Next week sees the release of the film the Rapha Women’s Ambassadors shot on their ATOC ride, which will be followed by the many photos and stories that came out of the trip; the flat tires, tired faces, sprints to nowhere, endless climbs and donut stops, all encountered by a fantastic group of cyclists battling it out against nobody but the road. With none of the support the pro peloton will enjoy when it faces similar demands, check back to see how the Rapha Women’s Ambassadors fared when they rode the Amgen Tour of California.