The cyclists careened through Coast Village Road in a tight, fast pack. If you fiddled with your phone, you might have missed them.
Forty-five minutes later, after Egan Bernal crossed the finish line at the summit of Gibraltar Road to win Stage 2 of the Amgen Tour of California (ATOC), he had time to try on four different jerseys while the majority of the 117 riders were still laboring up the mountain on a sunny Monday afternoon.
Bernal, a 21-year-old Colombian riding for Britain’s Team Sky, sprung to the lead on the steepest part of the road with two kilometers remaining. The few riders who managed to stay in contention were powerless to answer his move. Runner-up Rafał Majka was closest at the end, 21 seconds behind — a gaping margin in a sport where races are won by the thickness of tires.
With his victory in the “Queen Stage” of the 13th ATOC, Bernal claimed the yellow jersey of the overall leader, as well as the KOM (King of the Mountain), Sprint, and Best Young Rider jerseys.
As it did in the 2016 tour, Gibraltar Road made some very accomplished cyclists choose not to suffer. As announcer Dave Towle said, to try to win the relentless 3,100-foot climb at the end of a 97-mile race required a rider “to find a very ugly place in the corner of the pain cave.”
Team Sky’s Tao Geoghegan Hart set a punishing pace up the road and then gave way to Bernal, who has the sleek body (5′9″, 130 pounds) and the firepower of a champion climber.
“They put out more than 600 watts on a climb,” said Jack Bianchi, a longtime Santa Barbara cycling master and cancer survivor who helped hand out awards on the podium.
Peter Sagan, the heralded Slovakian sprinter, eased up at the start of the climb and finished in the defeated peloton, 18½ minutes behind the leader. He didn’t have much to say after the race, as he consumed mouthfuls of gummy bears.
If Bernal is crowned overall champion after Saturday’s final stage in Sacramento, he can look back fondly at Santa Barbara, the setting for a splendid event just months after it was besieged by natural disasters. There was a stark reminder on a ridge across from the finish line — a slope that was scorched by the Thomas Fire, which, like Monday’s race, had started in the Ventura area.
FRONT-PAIGE STORY: Paige Hauschild made a huge impact as a first-year water polo player at USC. The 5′11″ driver out of San Marcos High scored three goals in the NCAA women’s semifinals, a 10-6 victory over UCLA, and her defensive prowess was a highlight of the championship match, as the Trojans edged Stanford, 5-4. Hauschild is one of three finalists for the Cutino Award, given to the nation’s best collegiate player. “Paige is a future Olympian, probably three-, four-time Olympian; as long as she wants to play water polo she will be an Olympian,” USC coach Jovan Vavic said. “She’s just a tough, tough kid.”
SPEED CITY: In prep track and field, two marks of high speed are going sub-11 seconds in the boys’ 100 meters and sub-14 in the girls’ 100 hurdles. Bishop Diego’s Isaiah Veal (10.87) and Carpinteria’s Wyatt Stevenson (10.96) qualified for this weekend’s finals of the CIF Division 4 100, and Allie Jones of San Marcos flew to a 13.79 clocking in the Division 2 hurdles. She also sailed 18′6″ in the long jump.
A TEAR OR TWO: Tom Hanks famously said, “There’s no crying in baseball,” but like a cloud of dust on a slide into home plate, there were moments of sadness last weekend at the Santa Barbara Foresters Hot Stove Banquet. Manager Bill Pintard paid tribute to two of the baseball team’s most generous supporters, John McManigal and Mark Montgomery, who died in the Montecito debris flow on January 9. Augie Garrido, the winningest coach in college baseball, was slated to be a guest speaker, but he died from a stroke in March.
The newest members of the Foresters Hall of Fame, Bill Oakley and Jim Buckley, waxed nostalgic: Oakley about the 1958 Foresters, who fielded an outstanding lineup of local players in Laguna Park, a ballpark that the city tore down in 1970, and Buckley about serving the club in various capacities for more than two decades with Pintard, “the coach I never had.” The 2018 Foresters will open their season on June 8 at Pershing Park.