6 years ago by Sam Wiebe

Stage 1 | South Lake Tahoe | Amgen Women’s Tour

Bike racing in California is always spectacular, but a Lake Tahoe course sets a new standard in the beauty department. The opening stage of the women's race encompassed one entire trip around the lake, which might not sound like much to us used to "lakes". But Lake Tahoe is more than just a lake. It is a truly imposing body of water, containing 36.15 cubic miles (!) of fresh water. "A trip around the lake" means over 50 miles of undulating, high altitude roads.

The team's strategy for the day went mostly according to plan. Kirsti Lay and Kelly Catlin were protected, and kept fresh for the final climb to the finish in South Lake Tahoe. Both riders, along with Emma White, charged to the line near the sharp end of the race, with Kirsti clearing the 200 meter banners sitting in the top five. The altitude had taken a significant energy toll, and she faded back for a still impressive 11th place finish. Catlin, literally three days removed from finals at the University of Minnesota, finished 21st, and White came across on her wheel in 22nd.

Outside of the bicycle, kit and shoes, sunscreen might be the most important piece of a cyclist's robust inventory. Emma White, and the rest of Rally Cycling, never skimp on the substance, even with killer tans in place from all their time outside. Ever tried pedaling with sunburnt legs? It's not fun.  
Team Soigneur Delphine helps Erica Allar get situated in the team RV. Getting ready for a bike race is always a process. Heart rate monitors. Sunscreen. CLIF product for the pockets. Race radio units, cables, and earpieces.
As part of their Breakaway from Cancer and Heart Disease initiatives, Amgen adds a nice touch to its race numbers each year, allowing a rider to inscribe the name of a loved one affected by illness. R.I.P. Jim. You are missed.
Allar carefully chooses from the vast array of CLIF products that provide the backbone of the team's nutrition on the bike. These containers are full, and will be empty by the end of the week. It takes a lot of calories to make it through a stage race intact.
Zach Bell relays vital course information to the riders, and lays out of the plan of attack for the day. For this race, the big tactical idea was to support and deliver Kirsti Lay and Kelly Catlin to the final climb as safely as possible.
Team mechanic Zane Freebairn makes some final minute adjustments to a headset using his Park Tool 3-Way Hex Wrench. 
A glimpse of Kirsti Lay's vibrant hand-painted Diamondback Equipe. The team designed and painted 8 bikes, with the help of some very cool kids, to be ridden and auctioned live  during the race. See the whole collection and bid on one of these unique art objects.
The women sample the final few kilometers of the race as they ride from the team parking area to the start line. The final stretch is a steep kicker that was used to great effect by the team in last year's men's race, leading to a podium finish for Adam De Vos.
The women toe the start line and savor a final moment of peace before four days of relentless bike racing.
Altitude is no joke. It can turn an average rider into a whimpering house of pain, and for a pro, it adds an insidious layer of difficulty. Katherine Maine, a decidedly sea-level rider, gritted her teeth and battled to make it over the highest altitude climbs intact to the finish and ready to fight another day.
Cycling's eccentric fanbase is one of the most unique and colorful aspects of the sport. The broadest possible variety of humans can be found lining roads on California courses.  
Katherine Maine refuels at the team's Acura RDX, grabbing vital hydration to haul back to her teammates in the peloton.
New to the team for 2017, women's team soigneur Delphine is pure rockstar. If you don't believe us, just take a closer look at that hat.
This is your body on bike race. It hurts folks, and hurts more at altitude. Kirsti and Katherine recover in the shade after a long stage with a tough uphill finish, where Kirsti finished 11th.
Zane sparkles up Kirsti's "Plants" frame. Don't forget to check out these amazing bikes, up for auction until May 20th!