Today's stage rolls 121 miles (195 km) from Visalia to Bakersfield, crossing pan-flat fields and orchards before venturing up the western slopes of the mighty Sierra Nevada. The stage peaks out at over 3,345 feet before descending back down into the dusty old oil town of Bakersfield. While this stage resembles stage 4 in total climbing, length and dustiness, the finish of this one is no flat sprinter's playground. Instead, the route planners tossed in a finishing circuit complete with a hairpin turn and a nasty little 10% climb near the end, which should make for some interesting hear rates and wattage numbers on the tourtracker. What will happen is anyone's guess. And since I was a little hard on poor Modesto yesterday, I'm going to take it easy on Bakersfield today, because, it turns out that Bakersfield is actually a pretty interesting place... Seriously...
Bakersfield is famous for it's country music, specifically the "Bakersfield Sound", sort of the punk-rock equivalent for country during the late 1950's and early 1960's, featuring a rawer, rockabilly, honky-tonk style with steel guitars and a back beat, and piano, popularized by legends such as Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. Bakersfield is also the home of Korn, the pro face-piercing alt-metal band (not the crop), and to a sizeable and vibrant Basque community (for some unfathomable reason). Those crazy Basques even host an annual Basque festival complete with genuine pro ASPE pelota players flown in all the way from Euskadi... that thud you just heard was Albertina fainting. Ted, call her mom... So expect to see some basque flags and txapela's. Hey, maybe Horner will wear his to the press conference? Nah, prolly not.
I will be on the scene again at the finish tomorrow bringing you all the news worth cutting and pasting, so if you have any real questions that do not include rider grooming, post them below. Same offer as before. I'm even meeting up with an old buddy of mine for dinner. We're going out for Basque food after the race, which I assume will make me climb like a scalded monkey, or perhaps crap like one. Either way, I'm excited!
Williams Wheels video of the climbs
Official profile and map and video