Tour of California stage 11: Ione - Greeley Hill; 202 km
After a long time trial there is no respite in California. This is one of the most potentially interesting (for fans) and most dangerous (for the overall GC contenders) stages in the tour. With no less than nine categorised ascents and many uncategorised ones, this is bound to break up the peloton.
The stage starts in Ione, where the ITT took place the previous day. The first categorised hill comes after we drop down to Molekumne River and is on a very nice new tarmac. That is soon to be changed though as the first unpaved section
begins at 39th km and lasts for 8 km. There are three hills during this section and especially the first one averaging 12.5% over 1.3 km is a killer. The road here is quite narrow as well so there is little hope the bunch will stay together even though it is early on. Moreover it remains narrow
even after it becomes paved again.
20 km of easier terrain follow before another gravel section
, this time 9 km long. This one seems a bit softer with bigger pebbles so might be an important point of the stage. If that was not enough, most of it is uphill, climbing the Mineral Peak. For the next ascent, the road becomes paved again, but it's still quite rough
in places. It is also another steep climb, 2.3 km long with 10.5% average. Rolling terrain follows, gradually descending
towards New Melones Lake
, where the first category 1 climb begins.
It is a two-stepped ascent of Telegraph Hill follewed by a long descent down towards Deer Creek with the Don Pedro Reservoir
. We cross it by the Wards Ferry Bridge
. The climb to Tip Top Peak that follows is another longer one, but may be also dangerous because of the narrow road
, although the bunch could be fairly depleted at this point already. The crest comes at 33 km to go and then we head towards Priest and down the very high quality
road of New Priest Grade
. Riders can also check out the Old Priest Grade
on the other side of the valley which they will go up next. It won't be a nice look for many though, because Old Priest Grade is a nasty ascent.
It is 3 km long and fairly consistent. However, consistenly excruciatingly steep. the average of almost 14% speaks by itself. At the top near Priest station we will see the riders spread everywhere even though it comes 20 km before the finish line. And it is up and down all the way to the finish. There is one more categorised climb to negotiate, the Greeley Hill, which is quite hard on its own. From the top of that one it is only 2 kilometers slightly downhill to go.