Saturday, February 21, 2009

Stage 7 Predictions

Tomorrow's route could well be called "short and brutal". I know the route fairly well as I used to bike up to Mt Wilson from Pasadena, the descent route for Stage 7. After the tragic crash of Aeromexico flight 498 in 1986, I, and many other pilots found it safer to fly through the San Gabriel mountains than risk the over-burdened corridor between the Rose Bowl and Van Nuys created when the LAX ATC was closed to small aircraft. The route I used to fly was the climbing route for tomorrow's stage. The idea being that if things got quiet under my toes I could land the plane on the road.

The descent down Angeles Crest Highway will be a very fast one. I used to climb up to Mt Wilson, a nice 4,000 ft climb, just to get my thrills flying through those curves coming down. I'm sure the road will be closed tomorrow, but Angeles Crest is the playground of Ducs and Kaws and other exotic crotch rocket farm animals. About 10:00 AM the ambulances would start showing up to recover those whose luck and skill ran out before fate was done with their day. They didn't really like sharing the road with a "glider" as it turns out! :D Speaking of gliders, Mt Wilson is also a favorite place for hang-gliders to launch from, and on a good day one can glide all the way to the beach - it's a mile high. Fun times.......

All of this is by way of saying that the climbers, and especially, good descenders, should be the stars tomorrow, and I look for Mancebo and Levi to feature prominently in the day's drama. The big question is how much the riders have left in their legs at this stage. Levi showed today that he is the strongest rider in the race, bar none. There's no place to hide in a time trial - but it doesn't give much consideration of how much weight that strength comes with. Climbing does. Landis hasn't really been a factor, and one has to assume whatever factor he'd be will be saved for his home turf on Sunday.

I'll be watching with special interest, given my familiarity with the terrain, but it should be the best stage yet, or at least as interesting as stage 4, and as scenic. I expect Mt Baldy will have a snow cap and the San Gabriels should be dark green with vegetation this time of year. I look forward to a great race on an epic day. Let the games begin!

No comments: