The Amgen Tour of California's undulating route on the first stage certainly produced an exciting and unpredictable finish in Escondido today. With a small breakaway out front and a chess match waiting game of who's gonna take the reins and control the race in the peloton behind, it wasn't until the final climb that we really lit the fireworks and the day's scorching heat began to take its toll.
Like many others, I struggled a bit in the heat today. Nearly everybody was encrusted in salt in the finale of the race. You feel fine and then when the time comes to make a big effort you feel like there is a governor on, much like racing at altitude. As we bottomed-out the descent off Mt Palomar, we passed a certain level of altitude where all of a sudden the temperature must have increased by 15-degrees. It was like riding in a convection oven. The heat was certainly a big factor in today's race and will, unbelievably, be a much greater factor tomorrow as we race through the searing desert of Palm Springs.
Many in the peloton have endured a brutal European springtime with just a few days of anything close to warm temperatures and Monday's 105-degree predicted temperature is really going to be a shocker if today wasn't enough already. Today we pretty much constantly had someone going back to the car for water bottles with each rider consuming 3-4 per hour. I saw some fans in the finale holding out bottled water with a big sign saying: "COLD WATER" as if it was a lemonade stand. I'd definitely take a frosty lemonade hand-up as we start tomorrow's final climb! Might have to wait till the finish though unfortunately.
In tomorrow's stage proper hydration and staying cool will be absolutely critical. On the final climb there is nowhere to hide and any mistakes in hydration will be immediately evident. In the heat, after 200km or racing, there will definitely be some damage done!