Tour de California elite bicyclists race up Laurel Street hill!

Many of the world's top bicycling athletes fly up the Laurel Street hill in San Diego during the first stage of the Tour de California.
Many of the world’s top bicycling athletes fly up the Laurel Street hill in San Diego during the first stage of the Tour de California.

Here are lots of cool pics of Tour de California (officially called Amgen Tour of California) elite bicyclists racing up the steep hill on Laurel Street, just east of Interstate 5! Today was the first stage of the big international multi-day race, and the route looped around a good chunk of San Diego County. Easily the toughest part of the race near downtown was up Laurel Street, which presents a pretty steep grade for several blocks.

Lots of people gathered on the hill, and everyone was excited to see many of the world’s greatest bicycle athletes compete! Many of the participants have raced in the Tour de France and other top international competitions.

While I enjoy riding my street bike once in a while, I don’t know much about the professional sport. It was my first time watching this sort of event. And boy was it exciting! Lots of suspense–then flashing lights as the route is prepped and cleared–then boom! A flurry of colorful racers flying past! It was like a fantastic sporting parade! When the racers turned the corner and came into view, I felt my own adrenaline flowing!

Follow my photo captions and I’ll try to describe what I saw. Please excuse me if I don’t know all the proper terms…

This is the first block of the Laurel Street hill--probably the toughest, steepest part.
This is the first block of the Laurel Street hill–probably the toughest, steepest part.
About half an hour before the racers were anticipated, lots of biking enthusiasts and onlookers were already lining the sidewalks.
About half an hour before the race leaders were anticipated, lots of biking enthusiasts and onlookers were already lining the sidewalks.
Most people formed a crowd at the top of the hill. I got my photographs of the race from a point a bit lower, with a good, unobstructed view.
Most people formed a crowd at the top of the hill. I got photographs of the race from a point a bit lower, with a good, unobstructed view.
Someone wrote a big word on the street with colorful chalk. I think it reads Bizipoz. I'm not sure, though.
Someone wrote a big word on the street with chalk. I think it reads Bizipoz. I’m not sure, though.
Announcers on Laurel Street hill provided pre-race music, then humorous, light-hearted commentary.
Announcers on Laurel Street hill provided pre-race music, then humorous, lighthearted commentary.
I saw some flags being flown--I suppose certain international teams were being rooted on.
I saw a few banners being flown–I suppose certain international teams were being rooted on.
A dog came out to view the action!
A dog came out to view the action!
Lots of spectators rode their own bikes to watch this small part of the world-famous event.
Lots of spectators rode their own bikes to watch this small part of the world-famous event.
Ordinary people riding up the hill before the race were cheered and spurred forward with cowbells.
Ordinary people riding up the hill before the race were cheered and spurred forward with cowbells.
Some more bike lovers showing up a few minutes before the pro racers should pass through.
Some more bike lovers showing up a few minutes before the pro racers should pass through.
Okay, we're getting close now. The fast elite racers started in Mission Beach, about 15 minutes away.
Okay, now we’re getting close. The fast elite racers started in Mission Beach, about 15 minutes away from this spot at the very west edge of Bankers Hill.
Everyone perks up! Here comes an Amgen Tour of California official spray-painting the street for the bicyclists, soon to arrive!
Everyone perks up! Here comes an Amgen Tour of California official spray-painting the street for the bicyclists, soon to arrive!
Cameras at the ready!
Cameras at the ready!
They race is almost here! A huge line of motorcycle cops and Highway Patrol cars, along with tour official and VIP vehicles, parades past for several minutes.
The race is almost here! A huge line of motorcycle cops and Highway Patrol cars, along with tour official and VIP vehicles, parades past for several minutes.
Excitement mounts. They should come around Columbia Street any moment!
Excitement mounts. They should come around Columbia Street any moment!
A team support vehicle carries spare bikes. Where are they?
A team support vehicle carries spare bikes. Where are they?
Here they come at last! And they're moving really fast!
Here they come at last! And they’re moving really fast!
They're going so fast, my camera could manage only a few pics of this first group. There seemed to be six racers in this grouping.
They’re going so fast, my camera could manage only a few pics of this first group. There seemed to be six racers in this grouping.
Here comes the leader at this early part of Stage One. These amazing athletes make it look effortless. (Of course, it's still early in the race.)
Here comes the leader at this early part of Stage One. These amazing athletes make it look effortless. (Of course, it’s still early in the race.)
And there they go! Boom! Just like that! Perhaps they slowed a bit further up the hill.
And there they go! Boom! Just like that! Perhaps they slowed a bit further up the hill.
The main group didn't arrive for perhaps another 10 minutes. People around me were amazed by that. They seemed to be pedaling quite casually!
The main group didn’t arrive for what seemed like another 10 minutes. People around me were amazed by that. They appeared to be pedaling quite casually!
Here the huge group comes! You can just glimpse San Diego Bay and Lindbergh Field in the background. A perfect cool day for a bike race!
Here the huge group comes! You can just glimpse San Diego Bay and Lindbergh Field in the background. A perfect cool weather day for a bike race!
Everyone watching from the sidewalks applauds, makes noise and cheers.
Everyone watching from the sidewalks applauds, makes noise and cheers.
These guys seemed to be in no hurry. Some even waved at the onlookers! I suppose they were pacing themselves.
These guys seemed to be in no hurry. Some even waved at the onlookers! I suppose they were pacing themselves.
Looks of determination, and a love for their sport.
Looks of determination, and a love for their sport.
Hoping for glory, bicyclists in the Tour de California power up Laurel Street hill in San Diego.
Hoping for glory, bicyclists in the Tour de California power up Laurel Street hill in San Diego.
A party atmosphere! Everyone is cheerfully rooting on these elite world athletes.
A party atmosphere! Everyone is cheerfully rooting on these elite world athletes.
Some cyclists at the end of the main group were intermixed with team support vehicles.
Some cyclists at the end of the main group were intermixed with team support vehicles.
And here comes a whole bunch of those team support vehicles.
And here comes a whole bunch of those team support vehicles–or whatever they’re called!
Outstanding athletes conquer a tough but relatively short hill.
Outstanding athletes conquer a tough but relatively short hill.
I could hardly believe the tremendous excitement!
I could hardly believe the tremendous excitement!
And then it was over. They'd passed. Just some ambulances and law enforcement vehicles followed.
And then it was over. They’d passed. Just some ambulances and law enforcement vehicles followed.
And folks headed home. You can see more of the Laurel Street hill in this pic. The first part is definitely the steepest.
And folks headed home. You can see more of the Laurel Street hill in this pic. The first part is definitely the steepest.
World-class athletes defy gravity as they bicycle up a hill near downtown San Diego during the first stage of the Tour de California.
World-class athletes defy gravity as they bicycle up a hill near downtown San Diego during the first stage of the Tour de California.

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Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

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