There are several items worth adding. First and foremost is that Lance Armstrong has apparently made his decision whether to ride the AToC or the Giro which had conflicting dates. The good news is that Lance has said that he will be on the start line in Nevada City when the AToC begins on Sunday May 16th.
Lance's participation in the AToC is a huge boost to the race which has been extremely popular, but has yet to show a profit for AEG, the event's owner. Having Lance on board will give the AToC it's best chance at success. Rumor has it that if the race doesn't show a profit this year, AEG may decide to either sell the race or disband it.
Another interesting observation is that there will be a lot of climbing and, finally, a mountain-top finish. The queen stage of the race is stage 6 from Pasadena to Big Bear Lake which is rumored to contain over 13,000 feet of climbing. Unfortunately, the Station Fire, which ravaged a portion of the San Gabriel mountains may prevent the stage from climbing up to the Angeles Crest Highway.
However, if that hurdle is cleared, look for the very challenging stage to begin with a massive, 5000+ foot climb from Azusa on Highway 39 to the Angeles Crest Highway. This ascent, known locally as 'Cloudburst', is very similar in length and percent grade with the big, legendary climbs of the Tour de France like the Col du Tourmalet or Col du Glandon.
Once the race reaches the Angeles Crest Highway, there is a about 1500'-2000' of up-and-down ridge riding on the way to Wrightwood. If the race descends from Wrightwood all the way down to San Bernadino, the final ascent to Big Bear Lake is 5000+ feet. Though the grade of this climb is a bit shallower than 'Cloudburst' look for major fireworks on the long grind uphill to the finish.
With a 30-mile, flat time trial the next day in Los Angeles and a tough circuit race featuring the 2-mile, 10% Rock Store climb the final three days in the 2010 AToC will be nothing short of spectacular. Three-time AToC champion Levi Leipheimer is clearly one of the favorites, but with the switch to a May time frame he might find a few more competitors with potential race-winning form. On paper it looks to be a very exciting race.
In the 100 year history of the Giro d'Italia only one American has ever stood on the top step of the podium. In 1988, Andy Hampsten became the first, and only, US rider to win the pink jersey or 'maglia rosa.' Not only did Hampsten create cycling history as the first American winner, but he took the leader's jersey in a snowstorm on the Gavia Pass on a stage that has become legendary.
That stage on the Gavia Pass is known as 'the day strong men cried' because the brutal conditions forced many of the best professional riders in the world to crack and seek shelter from the storm in their team cars. That wouldn't seem to be a bad thing, but the race was still in progress. Snow fell heavily on the ascent of the 8500' pass, but it was the raging blizzard on the descent that separated the men from the boys.
Andy Hampsten didn't win the stage that day. He finished seven seconds behind Erik Bruekink. But, he won two other stages and held off Breukink on the final day's time trial stage held in pouring rain. It was that kind of grand tour and Hampsten's was a well-deserved win.
Now, you can own a slice of history by purchasing a newly designed poster featuring a photo of Andy climbing the Gavia Pass in the snow. Next time you are on the fence about going out for a ride in less-than-ideal conditions you can look at Andy's face and hair caked with snow and realize that the weather outside isn't too bad. Check out www.cinghiale.com for details on ordering.
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