Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Behind the scene of Stage 8 Part I

Mike Meyer of the found this...

Creating the 2009 Amgen Tour of California Race Route

(What goes on behind the curtains) Eric Smith, the ToC course director

After 12 years of producing the Chevron Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, I thought I knew just about everything there was to putting on a bicycle race. The 2006 Amgen Tour of California comes along and I quickly learn how clueless I was! Fast forward four years and now at least I know enough to be really scared when I see something about to go wrong. Over the next few paragraphs, I will attempt to give you a little insight as to how the course is created each year and provide some tips about watching the race on Stage 8 as a spectator.

The race ends on February 22nd in Escondido, but we are already working on the 2010 race. We are looking at potential host cities and possible routes. The real work each year begins in March. Requests for Proposals (RFPs) are sent to several cities: every city that has hosted a stage, those new cities that have expressed interest, and cities that we are interested in exploring. This is a big pot with a lot of ingredients stirred in to come up with the final selection: a challenging course, areas that showcase California, host cities which have been very successful in the past, new routes vs. old routes, expectations of the sponsors, weather, the potential of snow, and a dash of politics.

From that comes 9-10 different versions of the route. A quick sanity check will tell us if a particular stage is even feasible. A stage that is longer than 135 miles or requires us to use a freeway is not viable. Once everything gets whittled down to our final host cities, we head out on the road and start our preliminary course layout, noting every intersecting street and landmark. Caltrans and CHP review

the routes and provide their feedback. The course is re-logged. Next, monthly meetings begin with each city to lay out the "footprint" for the start/finish area and to determine the best way to enter or leave the city.

It is then a six month process to secure all of the various permits and permissions that are required to bring the race over the 775 mile course. Some are simple and some seem like they will never come.

Bringing the race over the Golden Gate Bridge requires seven different permits. Taking the race up Palomar Mt. is not much easier. We meet with scores of small towns along the route to explain how the race comes through. Each RR crossing means a call to someone to make sure we won't meet a scheduled train. Churches, schools, factories, post offices, road construction sites, draw bridges, and freeway ramps all need to be planned for.

A lot of work, but we are just getting started! Working closely with Caltrans, CHP, and a few traffic mgm't companies, plans are created for each stage to determine where we will place signs, what type of sign, what will it say, and when it will be placed. Detours are planned. CHP needs to determine how they will manage the traffic on each stage. Each intersection and side street and driveway needs to be examined to determine who is going to cover that spot. Training is provided to the CHP group that will be in the caravan for the entire race.

Feed Zones, Sprint Lines, and KOMs have to be selected and mapped (it's always fun to argue about what Category a climb should be). Feedback starts to trickle in from some of the pro riders and

invariably the course gets tweaked a little here and there. It is now a little more than a month from the start of the race. The course will be driven once more to address any hazards that might cause a problem. Between now and race day, there are countless internal meetings and calls. I can also look forward to meetings before town councils, school boards, county supervisors, National Park Service, and a few more at the Golden Gate Bridge.

Thousands of letters need to be mailed to people along some of the route. We also need to consider places along the route that are prone to flooding or snow (yes, we have an alternate route laid out in case there is snow on Palomar). One of the final things to do is to hit the road and train volunteers in each of the cities. It is a lot of work, but in the total scope of what goes on to make this race happen, this is just a small piece of a huge and complex puzzle.

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