01 May 2013

California Here I come

Right back were I started from

It is May and that means the Tour of California begins one week after the Giro d'Italia. Ain't May great. If you can't make it to Italy for a spectacular team time trial in the 2013 Giro d'Italia, why not head to California? I'll be there, joined by my brother Mike, and trusty photographer and friend Willie. We plan to have some fun in California, my home state.

Sometimes I do things right

One trick I have learned as a fan, is to make accommodation reservations early for popular host cities. Way back in November, when the route of the 2013 Tour of California was announced, I saw an incredible "Cycling Holiday" opportunity when the organizers paired a Stage Finish in the town of Santa Barbara, with a Stage Start in Santa Barbara the very next day. This combo suits the cycling tourist perfectly, and I scurried to make a modest reservation at the Marina Beach Motel.

Today I pulled up that hotel reservation I made in Santa Barbara to discover the Finish of Stage 4 is 1.3 miles away and the real Start of Stage 5 is 1 block away. One block!! YES. A bit of time spent cross-referencing some of the leading reservation sites for reviews, knowing a bit about Santa Barbara, plus pure luck, has me perfectly situated to attend two stages of the Tour of California in convenient style.

Will you be traveling to see the Tour of California in Santa Barbara?

Read the official Amgen Tour of California City Spotlight page: Santa Barbara - host city to Stages 4 and 5.
Location of Santa Barbara in California. Photo from www.countyofsb.org
CYCLING: ATOC Tour Organizers have collected five recommended cycling routes (with maps) in the area, check them out at: Cycle Santa Barbara Routes (below). Or try the Sideways Film Location Ride II (52.3 miles). Or more ideas of rides from BikeMap.net.
  1. Hope Ranch Loop
  2. Montecito Loop
  3. Mountain Drive Loop
  4. Carpinteria Loop
  5. Gibralter / East Camino Cielo
WINERIES: Santa Barbara is also wine country, if you have the interest, read more: Santa Barbara County Wineries, or see the PDF file of the Tasting Rooms map.
They have a few wineries in Santa Barbara County - this is California!
SURFING & BEACHES: If you think of Santa Barbara as the Rincon and surfers, check out the surf and beaches of Santa Barbara. Or read more descriptions, information and photos at TravelGrom's Surf Spots Santa Barbara.
wannaSurf.com location of surfing beaches in Santa Barbara (click image to enlarge or see additional map)
From Evan Thomas, a local who writes a Santa Barbara surf and travel blog titled TravelGrom, comes this advice, "Point Conception divides Santa Barbara into two surfing areas, North County and South County.  North County is isolated and wind-swept.  Only hardcore surfers make trips to these waves.  There have also been several fatal shark attacks in North County. South County is more user-friendly, but less consistent.  The best time to surf Santa Barbara is in the winter, when big west swells enter the Santa Barbara channel." Thank you Evan for sharing the news.


If you have come to Santa Barbara to simply watch the race and celebrate with other fans; the city of Santa Barbara has lots of activities planned for spectators: Santa Barbara spectators

My dream trip to Santa Barbara as a fan at the Tour of California will entail:

Stage - Finish into Santa Barbara

ATOC - Map location of Stage 4 Finish in Santa Barbara

DAY 1 2013
  • Early in the morning, drive Hwy 101 into Santa Barbara.
  • Have an early lunch at La Super Rica Taqueria (622 N Milpas St, open 11am, CLOSED WEDNESDAYS), good Mexican food, selecting any small dish specials from the chalk board (cash only). Some claim that Los Agaves Restaurant is even better (larger portions) with a nice atmosphere and food, one block down from La Super Rica (at 600 N Milpas St). Or for out-of-towners, perhaps a beach setting at Boathouse at Hendry's Beach (2981 Cliff Dr.) for its location.
  • Stroll the shops along State Street. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and a treat at The Anderson (1106 State St) and walk down to the ocean, or hop on the shuttle bus, continue along the beach (left) parallel to Cabrillo Blvd to Cabrillo Park (2.3 miles).
  • Walk around the Finish area and the ATOC Lifestyle Festival village. Scout out the location of the team buses and the final podium stage.
  • Line up about 100-200 feet before the finish line along the barriers to watch a fast bunch sprint for the line (the finish is typically around 4:30pm). Or join in the fun at the $75 Finish Line Viewing Party.
  • Watch the podium presentation and then go to the team buses just for the fun of it.
  • It's time for a nice glass of California wine. Be spontaneous.
  • And then a good dinner, perhaps a visit to Tupelo Junction (1218 State Street, 5pm-close, happy hour 5-7pm), or Le Petit Valentien (1114 State St), The Wine, Cask, Downey's, Louie's, Opal, Zia Cafe, The Brewhouse. (more suggestions coming)
  • Return to my conveniently located hotel, download photos and post to my blog.
  • Sleep well, excited that this California native, now living in Colorado, is meters from ocean waves breaking on the sand. 
What a great location for a race day hotel!
location of my hotel - it pays to plan ahead

Stage - Start in Santa Barbara

ATOC - Map location of Stage 5 Start in Santa Barbara
DAY 2  2013
  • Rise and Shine
  • Breakfast at Backyard Bowls (331 Motor Way, open at 7am) in the Lower State Street area. Or you could try the old original Sambo's just a couple blocks from the start (216 W Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara), for the most traditional basic American breakfast.
  • Head to the Start area to watch the team soigneurs and mechanics set-up for the days race near the hotels where the team buses will be located.
  • Locate the start line (same as the finish location of yesterday's stage) and sign-in stage, so I can visit all and figure out how to best move around between the areas.
  • When the team buses and riders begin to appear (approx. 1.5-2 hours before the start) walk around trying to recognize my favorite riders. Watch the rider procession up and down the sign-in stage, or position myself where I can see the riders come and go from their team buses to the stage. *Tip: If you see Bob Roll, follow him, he will be interviewing the top race favorites, who will come out of their team bus for the interview, which you can overhear live.
  • Find a place behind the start line (where you will be right next to them) to watch the riders line up and wait for the stage start, listen to them sing the national anthem before rolling away on their way to Avila Beach.
  • After the stage start, try a late breakfast or lunch on the beach at the casual basic Shoreline Cafe (801 Shoreline Dr., 9am-8pm) located along the shoreline near the start. Or a later drink with a touristy view at the Endless Summer Bar-Cafe.
  • If you are departing Santa Barbara to the south, continue along Hwy 101 to the town of Carpinteria. Stop for a burger at The Spot (389 Linden Ave, 10-6:30pm) and then walk the nice State Beach nearby.
Sambos in Santa Barbara.  Photo by Karen at Pedal Dancer


Downtown-Waterfront Electric Shuttle (9am - 6pm): "The Downtown-Waterfront Shuttles provide frequent service along State Street and the Waterfront area. Shuttle buses and bus stops are marked with blue and black sailboat symbols and the shuttles travel on State Street from Sola Street to Stearns Wharf and along Cabrillo Boulevard from the Harbor to the Zoo. The shuttle fare is 50 cents one-way. State Street service includes a stop every block and runs daily every 10 minutes between 10am and 6pm."  For more information, visit: Waterfront Shuttle in Santa Barbara.
Printable map with bus stop list (398KB PDF)

Waterfront shuttle map in Santa Barbara
Downtown-Waterfront Shuttle Sign - look for the sign and get on the bus

Being a fan at the Tour of California

All this fun and that was only two of eight total stages of the 2013 Tour of California.

I will also be attending Stages 1 & 2 in the San Diego area. I will be staying near Escondido where my friend and fellow Pedal Dancer photographer Willie already has a group dinner planned for us at The Stone Brewery in Escondido. What fun that will be.

Although I will be doing Media again this year for the race (Stages 1-5), much of my day will be spent as a fan and tourist in California. After all being a cycling tourist is what truly attracts me to the Tour of California and chasing races. Well that and the food in California, or is it the beaches, the fast bikes, the fun fans, the weather, seeing friends and family.

I have a promise out to Joylynn, whom I met outside of Pau last year in France (she too was chasing the Tour de France), to take "more pictures of legs" at this year's Tour of California, maybe like this post from last year Time Trial legs. I am set on fulfilling that promise.

There will be lots of good riders at this year's Amgen Tour of California - look for tomorrow's post about which riders will be riding the Giro and which riders we can expect to see in California.

Santa Barbara Photos
Santa Barbara harbor area
Santa Barbara - the beach area where the Amgen Tour of California will start and finish in 2013
Lifeguard station.  Photo by Karen at Pedal Dancer
Boats along the shore in Santa Barbara. Photo by Karen at Pedal Dancer
La Super-Rica Taqueria
La Super Rica's delicious food
The Boathouse at Hendry's Beach
The Boathouse at Hendry's Beach at night. Photo by Sabrina Huang
Tupelo Junction Cafe
Fresh food at Tupelo Junction
A morning bowl of goodness at Backyard Bowls
Shoreline Cafe
The Spot burger shack in Carpinteria, California
An American tradition
Carpinteria beach

And Tom Boonen at the 2012 Tour of California - we will surely miss him in 2013!
Tom Boonen   ©Photo by Willie Reichenstein for PedalDancer.com
Options for viewing the race for Fans:

Stage 5 : Route Map  |  Route Profile  |  timetable  |  Santa Barbara spectators

Choose your experience: 
  • Start Area: Lots to see as teams and riders prepare for the days race, fun photographs and autographs. Good for families and knowledgeable fans. Fantastic during Individual Time Trials as the riders warm up, weigh & measure bikes and roll down the start ramp.
  • In any town: You can sit and enjoy a meal at a cafe and then go to the side of the road to watch the riders race by at any point along the route. Good for locals, tourists, or those wanting to avoid the crowds.
  • In the countryside: You may picnic or hike before the riders come through on the road, then watch the flash of color roar by.
  • On a mountain: Cycle out to a mountain pass to watch the riders climb - lots of atmosphere and fun with the fans. Good for cyclists or walkers.
  • Finish Area: Enjoy a meal before or after the finish. Visit the Festival of vendors and sponsors. Watch a very fast exciting sprint finish to the line. Limited rider viewing, but fun anticipation and event atmosphere. 
  • Stay over in a host city if possible, sometimes you will see staff walking around the bustling towns, mechanics working on the bikes, or the riders stopping in for an early morning coffee. 
Typical timing of a race day:
  • 8:00-9:00 - arrive, park, have a meal in a restaurant or coffee shop (arrive 2-3 hrs before the start time), or begin your ride out onto the course. 
  • 9:00-12:00 - watching fans, staff, riders at the Start area prepare for the day. Team buses arrive 1.5-2 hours before the start time. 
  • 10:30-12:00 - the race begins from the Start village. The roads in the direction of the race will not be passable while the riders are racing on them. Individual Time Trials start about 1pm.
  • 1:00-3:00 - riders hit the climbs for the day. Use your Apps to track the race.
  • 2:00-4:00 - watching fans and waiting for riders at the Finish area. The Lifestyle Festival is typically large and active at the Finish. 
  • 4:00-5:00 - riders race across the Finish line. 
  • 5-5:30ish - awards ceremony on the podium at the stage near the finish line (within 30 minutes of the finish). Bikes are cleaned and packed up near the team buses. Riders might transfer to nearby team hotels in team cars. If the team travels to another city, they will load in the big team buses. 
  • 5:30-7pm - give back to the host city and take in a meal or shop while the traffic settles. 
See you at the race!

Post race update: The hotel where I stayed had FREE beach cruiser bikes for use by their guests. I picked up a bike lock from the front desk, hopped on a bike, and rode over to the stage start from my hotel. It worked perfectly. The Belgian guys from team Omega Pharma-Quickstep were giggling as I rode up with media badge flapping, camera slung over my shoulder, and all smiles. California Crusin' at its best!

Reports from the race:
For more information please see the Pedal Dancer Guide Page: TOUR OF CALIFORNIA