It’s a funny feeling when you get the pre-race notes from the indefatigable Nate and even though the stage is a mighty 120 kilometers, you learn that it’s been shortened by 100 kilometers already.
The consequence of January’s Rainpocalypse are the hillsides now covering roadsides, and yesterday’s enormous detour. It also means that today’s final stage three of The Coast Ride stretched “merely” from Paso Robles, to my namesake, King City.
If you’ve ever been on the inGamba team training camp in Paso Robles you know how the geography consists of rolling silky green hills laced with thin ribbons of quiet roads. If you haven’t been, then make a Warren Miller-like pledge that if you don’t do it now, you’ll just be one year older when you do.
By today’s stage three the peloton has dropped from 400 to one quarter that. Deflated from consecutive defeats from team inGamba in the opening two stages of the race, each seven-plus hours and 220kms, the final day’s send-off from Paso featured just 14 valiant riders, all inGamba.
Like riders three weeks into a grand tour setting off towards the Champs Elysees, the resulting parade race left everyone in high spirits. The early morning blanket of clouds that settles on Paso virtually every night made way to crystal clear air and a peaceful stillness the relaxed peloton hasn’t seen all week.
Best yet, you know it’s a good day when you see more cows than cars — moreover, you see no more than a dozen cows the entire day. Nate’s sixth sense to seek out impeccable roads can’t be overstated. His encyclopedic knowledge of contemporary atlas is uncanny; his knowledge of roads that he’s particularly interested in is downright legendary. With pavement rarely more than 15 feet wide, where two oncoming cars wouldn’t be able to pass without one yielding, the few vehicles we saw waved excitedly as if they hadn’t seen another human in hours, let alone a cadre of smiling cyclists.
On the final straight false flat downhill, Eros casually pedaled to the front eyeing the entire group with a sly grin. The pace wound up to a consistent 50+kph with just Tony duking it out with Cardoso in a sprint that no one from the observing peloton a quarter mile behind could see who took. Pizza and beer was on our minds more than victory salutes.
Ciao, The Coast Ride. Chow.