Parts of the first stage of the 2019 Haute Route San Francisco were enshrouded in mist and fog, and although that meant few views of the Pacific Ocean, it created a unique experience as riders climbed through the redwood forests.
“Stage 1 was a really good representation of Northern California, from the San Francisco cliffs to the Golden Gate Bridge, and then being deep in the redwood forest,” said Jeff Mahin. “Coming from Los Angeles, we’re used to more desert conditions and barren hillsides, and here it’s lush and green. At one point you could see the fog going into the forest, and it was like the mountains were smoking.”
Before entering the mist, riders gathered in the Presidio on an overcast morning to ride across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Jay Robinson was excited to get started, saying, “I’ve been looking at doing one of these for a while. It was my 49th birthday a couple weeks ago, and I thought, what better way to celebrate than punishing myself on some climbs. I’m from Edmonton, in Canada, which is very flat, so getting 2000+ meters of climbing would take me a month!”
After crossing the bridge and riding through Sausalito, riders climbed and descended the narrow and twisting Shoreline Highway to reach Muir Beach, and then continued up the Pacific Coast on California Route 1. For David Burke, being around other riders was helpful. “I started out kind of slow, but there’s something about a timed section that gets you going. I found a good group, pushed hard, and now I’m ready for another one. Beautiful riding here. I mean you get out of the city pretty quickly, and right on to these beautiful roads with beautiful scenery. It’s amazing, and I love the rollers, it’s not just straight up or straight down.”
Haute Route San Francisco features both Original and Compact courses, and Emma Jane Montiel opted for the Compact for her very first multi-day cycling event. “My friend recommended it. He’s done quite a few. I’m new to cycling, coming from a running background, so everything is completely new to me. I’m riding the compact so I can enjoy it. And after the three days, we‘re going to stay and see the sights in San Francisco!” At the end of Stage 1, Emma was the stage winner in the Women’s Compact competition and she’ll go in to Stage 2 as the General Classification leader as well.
With three timed sections comprising the Original course competition, there was plenty of racing out on course, and plenty of time to ride more socially. “The best thing about Haute Route is that it’s chill and competitive. It’s whatever you want it to be, commented Marni Harker. “And the people Haute Route attracts are awesome. Everyone’s friendly, yet they’re all really motivated, so they push you to be your best.”
On Saturday, Haute Route San Francisco heads south of the city to Half Moon Bay, CA for the start of Stage 2. Run in conjunction with the The Jensie Gran Fondo, which is part of the Gran Fondo National Series, the two pelotons will leave Pillar Point Harbor for a route that promises more climbing, some twisting descents, and of course, the opportunity to ride with the legendary Jens Voigt.