2010 Tour of California – Pondering Stage 6 Routing

Today the 2010 Tour of California bicycle race route was announced <http://www.velonews.com/article/99506>.  The big news this year is that they moved the race from February to May, with the better weather allowing for this mountain stage that caught my eye:

Stage 6: Pasadena to Big Bear.
The queen stage will include 13,000-14,000 feet of climbing up to one of the ski resorts in Big Bear. Race organizers are waiting on clearance from the state because parts of the route include areas affected by the Station Fire. If the Forest Service gives clearance, the race would do 2.5 hours through the burn zone. From the start in Pasadena, riders will climb up to Crystal Lake, summiting there at 8,000 feet, then descending into Wrightwood and climbing back up to Big Bear Lake.

The intended route from Pasadena to Wrightwood is clear enough – head east along the foothill suburbia, then north on Highway 39 into the San Gabriel Mountains to Highway 2 east, cresting Dawson Saddle at about 8000 feet, and then down to Wrightwood at 6000 feet.  But it will be interesting to find out how the race will get from Wrightwood in the San Gabriel Mountains to Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains – in particular, crossing I-15 in between the mountain ranges.  What follows is my unconfirmed speculation based only on the paragraph quoted above and my local knowledge of the area roads – I am not connected with the tour or any of the local governments.

One possibility would be to drop down to San Bernardino and then climb to Big Bear up the “front way” via Highway 330, or alternately Highway 38 from Redlands. The big obstacle is that there’s no paved alternate route to a mile stretch of I-15 just south of Highway 138.  That mile of freeway shoulder is legal to bikes for that reason, but it seems highly unlikely they would route a race there.  In addition, the only paved alternate to the I-15/I-215 interchange is a single circuitous route through Devore.  The only thing that doesn’t completely rule out the option of a climb up 330 or 38 is the need for a backup plan in case the tour can’t secure permission to go through the San Gabriel Mountains.

That leaves two other ways to get up to Big Bear Lake.  One option is 138/18 along the mountain ridges through Crestline, Lake Arrowhead, and Running Springs.  But that doesn’t conjure up images of a mountain finish like a drop down to the desert and a climb from the “back way”, east of Apple Valley up Highway 18!  My bets are on the latter – although it puts the route on the less populated desert side of the mountains, it leaves all the popular access roads to Big Bear Lake open for spectators to see the finish.  One route that comes to mind is crossing I-15 via 138, then 10 miles to the east to the relatively new Summit Valley Road, which roughly parallels I-15 northbound to Hesperia, and then a series of other roads would get the tour over to Highway 18.

The remaining question of interest to me is how the tour will go through the small town of Wrightwood.  The most uninteresting routing for spectators would be in and out on Highway 2, since the tour would just fly by in the blink of an eye due to the downhill. But my guess is that the tour would take the other route to the east – Lone Pine Canyon Road (the area where the Sheep Fire came within a 1/4 mile of the town!), which dumps onto 138 within a mile west of I-15.  While this routing would have more of an impact on residents, the short climb out of town to get to Lone Pine Canyon would slow the race down a bit and make for more interesting viewing opportunities in Wrightwood.

We’ll see what happens – I can’t wait to find out more!