2009 Infiniti FX50: Tour of California
February 23, 2009
You're looking at the business end of Stage 8 of the 2009 Tour of California. That's a bicycle race, in case you're not fully up to speed this morning.
Want to experience one of the best driving roads in California? The Stage 8 route is right up there. Literally. Go to the Tour of California website if you want to print out Stage 8 route instructions before they shut the site down until next year.
Riders pedalled uphill for 11.7 miles up to an elevation of 5,123 feet. The route's noodly bit followed S6, a side road from highway 76 that leads up to the Mount Palomar observatory. Accounts differed, but the truth of S6's average gradient settled somehwere between 6 and 7% along its 21 switchbacks. Once at the top, the riders took S7 down the back side of the mountain to rejoin highway 76.
Who's man enough to tackle such a grade on a bicycle?
Not me. I sat enjoying the seat heaters in our 2009 Infiniti FX50 and watched the sun rise with a warm cup of Joe as thousands of others like me got into position to watch the peleton pass by sometime after a leisurely tailgate lunch.
So who really is man enough to race up such a grade on a bike?
Why, none other than Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer, of course. Here Lance (#2) leads yellow jersey-wearing Levi (#1) past our position. Lance has been off the bike for the last couple of years, so he played a support role in this comeback event. Levi won the race after fighting off a couple of determined attacks on the climb up this grade and another that came further up the course, thanks in part to the efforts of Lance and the rest of his Astana team.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 7,198 miles