road riding in Penang | Malaysia


Kwan Low's Tour of California
story and photos by Low Kwan Seng


Stage 2, 21 February 2006: Stage 2 of the Tour of California has come to my neck of the woods. So I decided to take a day off work on a nice but cold Tuesday morning to watch the stage near the summit of the toughest climb.

The length of Stage 2 is around 95 miles (152km). This Category 1 climb comes at the very end after all the rolling climbs along the way. The name of the climb is Sierra Road, which is very popular among the local riders. The climb is around 3 miles (5km) long with relentless/constant grade (no let off) of 10-12%. Check out its profile here:

The race won't get to the climb until around 2:30pm. I took off from my house at around 11:30am, and it took me about 10 to 15 minutes to get to the bottom of the climb. By then, thousands of spectators were already congregated along the climb. Some were walking up, and some, like me, were riding up. This is the first time a major tour with all the big boys is showing up in the San Jose/SF Bay area so naturally, all the local cyclists were pretty excited about it. I think half of the members of my bike club ( took the day off to watch this.

Struggling even with my compact gearing of 34-25, I managed to climb for a little over 2 miles, and settled on a spot where I thought the action might happen, where the big boys might make an attack.

This is just like spectating a big tour in Europe. You see all kinds of painting along the road, and people brought the cow bells, horns, the works.

Spectators were struggling up the 12% grade to get to the summit (all for a good spot)

Meanwhile, here was I at my vantage point :-)

GO LEVI! (just one of the many paintings and graffiti along the road)

Anyway, here comes the real action, after 2 hours of waiting. Three guys got away before the climb: Mike Creed (Discovery), Ben Jac-Mayne (Sierra-Nevada Beer, local rider from Santa Cruz) and a Credit Agricole rider.

About 20 seconds later, the main chase group (tete grouppo?) comes along, consisting of all the big boys like Levi, George, Eki, El-falco, Simoni, Floyd, Cadel and other major contenders. When the chase group got near to where I was standing, I smelt a strong odour (mostly sweat). I think the wind blowing in my direction didn't help :-(. Anyway, here are the pictures (you can see the then Tour leader, Levi, at the left most of the photo, and George is third from left - what a big guy):

The field was shattered all over the place right at the start of climb. Chase groups after chase groups came along, around 30 seconds to 2 minutes in between. Anyway, we cheered the last guy who rode in front of the broom wagon. The last rider happened to be the current Mexico national champion. Oh well....

After the climb, the race made its way to San Jose downtown. From where I spectating, I couldn't make it to the finish line on time, so I just hit home. I got to watch the most painful part of the race, so I'm happy, and while I would've like to watch the final sprint, it's the climb that rocks! By the way, those 3 guys got chased down right before the finish and George Hincapie sprinted to take the stage win.

This is my first race article. If I missed anything or if you have any questions, just ask. I promise to bring you more reports in the future for any major tour that comes by my area.

Kwantani San Jose, Kahli-phonia (that's our governer pronunciation!)

Sidenote: there's an "angel" instead of the devil in this tour. She is dressed up in white with wings and she look beautiful. Go check out the pics in I finally saw her at the post-race Specialized party/technology showase in the evening. Took a few snapshots of her during the Gerolsteiner team presentation at the party: (you can see Bob Roll presenting team Gerosteiner/Specialized/angel).

Specialized also showcased their carbon technology. I took a few snapshots of the S-Works carbon road frame "cutoff" showing the guts of the carbon frame. Here's the headtube of S-Works Tarmac:

Here's the seattube-toptube intersection:

Here's the frame itself:

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