The rugged terrain, remote mine locations, and inconsistent water supply made for severely inefficient operations. As with most gold strikes, the money wasn’t to be made in mining, but in supplying food, clothes, and hard goods to the miners. Fred Dell realized this early on. Dell was a bighorn sheep hunter who knew the San Gabriel Mountains better than most. In 1894 he established a supply camp near present-day Mt. Baldy Village which he stocked by herding pack animals up the steep trails along San Antonio Creek. It was toilsome labor, and in 1903 a wagon road was finally built from town to service Dell’s. In 1908, the road was improved enough so that early cars could make their way to present-day Mt. Baldy Village, radiators steaming as they struggled up the long grade. In 1925, the road was extended to Manker Flats, just below what is now the base of Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts.
The Rally team was riding high on the morning of stage five in Ontario. Yesterday, they had their biggest result maybe ever as Evan Huffman stole a win from the sprinters and the UCI World Tour teams. A jubilant scene at the team bus extended to the morning as fans, other teams’ staff and riders all stopped by to congratulate Evan, Rob Britton and the organization. But, it was a new day and the Queen Stage of the 2017 Amgen Tour of California, with a grueling mountaintop finish at Mt. Baldy, was about to get underway.
Colin Joyce was tasked with marking the early breaks, while Rally’s climbers would once again try to get in the featured break and have a go at stripping the King of the Mountains jersey from UnitedHealthcare’s Daniel Jaramillo. The early attacks formed, as expected, on the long ramp out of town toward the Angeles National Forest. Colin covered the moves and Evan and Rob were able to counter and go with what would end up being the main break of the day. Once Jaramillo took max points on the first KOM, it was mathematically impossible for the team to take the jersey, so the tactics shifted.
Two riders bridged briefly, but after a few rotations they too were moving backward toward the main field. Quickly, it was Rob against the peloton as Lotto Jumbo put as many riders as they could on the front to pin back Rob and set up their men George Bennett and Robert Gesink for the stage win or a General Classification coup.
Ultimately, Rob was caught about four kilometers from the finish, but he was rewarded with the Most Courageous Rider jersey for the stage, proving to everyone that the aggressive Rally Cycling team is capable of animating a top-level race. With the team represented up the road in a breakaway, 22-year-old Sepp Kuss was free to save energy and go for his own result should the riders up front be absorbed. Once Rob was caught on the lower slopes of Mt. Baldy Road, Sepp found himself on a good day.
The Durango, Colorado native gave it his all, fighting hard up the ridiculously steep pitches to Baldy, ultimately finishing up in 10th on the stage. It wasn’t a win, but it was an incredible result for the young rider, something for him to carry forward as he learns the nuances of road racing, and yet another punctuation on the week for the Rally team.
1. "For breakfast, I have a big helping of FOX news, two cups of coffee and one grape."
2. "I’m a very bad driver. So bad, I have my own car insurance category, you know, buddy?"
3. "The suck knob is going to get turned up pretty high today boys."
4. "We’re bringing the race to ‘em…don’t know what else you can ask for, eh?"
5. "If we win again today, I’m going home and taking the rest of the year off."
6. "Mountain lions are like Chuck Norris, they always see you, and if you see them, you’re probably going to die."