I spent a lot of time hanging out on top of Mt Palomar – arriving several hours before the race. I spent a good deal of that time chatting it up with the folks that were gathering along the route – some of which had camped from the day before. The atmosphere was overall friendly and festive.
However, many I spoke to compared today’s event to the 2009 February summit of Mt Palomar. Snow was on the ground and it was absolutely packed. “Maybe they just came then because of Armstrong. It was supposed to be his last race and all” one spectator commented. Several others pointed to the scheduling on Mother’s day as a possible cause for what they viewed as lackluster attendance. And of course many speculated it may be due to the negative press cycling in general has received due to the recent Lance Armstrong doping scandal.
One thing that was present was the entrepreneurial spirit. Of course the normal vendors were on scene, stencils and spray-chalk in hand at the KOM point. But private parties got in on the action too. I met a couple of kids under a tent selling an assortment of drinks for $1 a piece. Smart too, considering how warm it turned out being.
Regardless of the crowds being small (or not) those that were there were there for the party-like atmosphere. Conversations were struck up, beers were shared, stories were told. Numerous people followed the route of the pros on their bikes. And then there was this guy (pictured below.) Not only did he pedal up along the much steeper and harder South Grade Road, he did it with a bike fully loaded with camping gear. Way to go!