And Whoosh! they did as the Break, the six leaders of Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California, turned from Riego Road onto Pleasant Grove Road into incredibly strong headwinds as the tour kicked off in Sacramento Sunday.

I used my D7100 and the 70-200mm lens. I should have used the same lens with my D800 because I was—incredibly—too close to the action; I would have liked a wider angle than the D7100 gave me. And, against my better judgment, after talking to another photographer there—a wedding photographer no less—I upped my ISO to 320 to allow a very fast shutter speed, 1/3200. I could have had ISO 100 with at least 1/1000 with no noise. It was a bright, sunny day and I didn’t need the higher ISO. But, live and learn. That’s why I do this.

It was a fun day. I was the first to arrive at the corner—a large gravel parking area at Riego Road and Pleasant Grove Rd.— more than 90 minutes before the race kicked off in downtown Sacramento and more than two hours before the racers would reach this spot. The area quickly filled up with spectators and a few serious photographers. A CHP officer advised me that once the roads were closed, I couldn’t leave. I assured him I was there for the duration. When the Amgen Tour Marshal dropped off the race official for that corner with his bright orange flag used to make sure the racers went the right way, things got interesting. He asked me if I had a broom. He declined the whisk broom I keep in the trunk. They needed to sweep the gravel off the road so it wouldn’t obstruct the riders as they turned at high speeds. The Sutter County Fire Department came to the rescue with their firetruck and push broom after being contacted by the Sheriff’s Deputy on site. Then a diesel pick up truck turned the corner prior to the road closure and unknowingly left a trail of slippery diesel fuel in the racers’ path; a deputy sheriff was dispatched after him and the Firemen, now assisted by Cal Fire, washed the diesel off the road and blew off the remaining chunks of gravel with a powerful blower.

The race official told me that I would get a great photograph of the riders as the Break formed an echelon, a way for riders to get maximum draft in a crosswind. So, I crossed Riego Road, away from the huge crowd that had formed, and waited with a couple of other like-minded photographers.

A seemingly endless stream of official race vehicles, CHP escort vehicles, and motorcycles preceded the Break. The six riders came suddenly into view in the distance, riding in the predicted echelon. They were riding less than 20 MPH as they approached, perhaps preparing for the effort they would have to make as they turned into stiff headwinds. Despite their relative slowness, however, they were gone too soon. There was a 5 minute break before the Peloton whooshed by. And then, it was over.

Three of the six leaders (Charles Planet, Eric Young, and Isaac Bolivar) riding in the diagonal Echelon:


Planet and Young, standing to pick up speed as they come off the turn into headwind:


The Peloton, the remaining 121 riders, whooshes by. It was 32 seconds from the first sighting of the Peloton in the distance crossing the railroad tracks on the levee until it disappeared from sight down Pleasant Grove Rd.