On the north end of Half Moon Bay, California sits the small inlet of Pillar Point Harbor, the seaside start/finish location for Stage 2 of the 2019 Haute Route San Francisco and the Jensie Gran Fondo. Led away from the start by legendary cyclist Jens Voigt, the Haute Route peloton set off to conquer the climbs – and more specifically the wind – on today’s stage.
After only a few flat miles riding past the surfers catching early morning waves, the peloton turned inland to wake up their legs on the short and punchy climb up Higgins Canyon. That was just an appetizer, however, for the longer ascent of Tunitas Creek Road.
A narrow and winding road, Tunitas Creek climbs through a dense forest of ancient redwood trees, which only grow along the coast of Northern California and Oregon. Reaching hundreds of feet tall, they provide shelter from the sun and wind under their dense canopy.
“It’s pretty amazing, commented Kirk Carlson, Jr., a former pro cyclist for the Bissel and Jelly Belly teams. “You get to ride in a place that a lot of these guys have never been before, and honestly these are the best roads in Northern California.”
With 8269 feet (2520m) of elevation gain over 83 miles (133km), today’s Original course would be a substantial challenge on its own. Some riders were feeling the added challenge of riding it after yesterday’s even longer stage. “This is hard for me. I almost didn’t get out of bed this morning, and that first climb today was really tough. I’m doing the Original course. I thought about doing the Compact course, but I came all the way from Phoenix and when I got here I decided to go for it.”
On top of all the climbing, the wind was a major factor during Stage 2. Both Original and Compact courses finished with a northerly run along the shore of the Pacific Ocean. Today the typically light onshore breeze ratcheted up to a steady 20-30mph cross-headwind from the left. Teamwork, patience, and careful handling skills all came into play as riders gathered into large groups to share the work and reach the finish.
With both classic road stages behind them, riders relaxed beside Pillar Point Harbor with fresh seafood from Sam’s Chowderhouse and live music from Big Mike and the Hartbreakers before returning to downtown San Francisco for the evening.
Tomorrow’s individual time trial features exclusive access to Angel Island, a former military base in San Francisco Bay that has been converted into a state park. The island can only be reached by ferry, and Haute Route gained early access via chartered ferry to hold the Stage 3 time trial before the island opens to the public. Riders will face their final test riding two laps of the island’s perimeter road, complete with panoramic views of San Francisco Bay.