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Stage 2 | South Lake Tahoe Redux | Amgen Women’s Tour

On paper, stage two of the innagural Tour of California women's race appeared almost identical to stage one – a big loop in South Lake Tahoe, with the same kicker ending things. The stage two loop didn't follow the emerald blue Tahoe waters, though, instead veering out of town and into the upper reaches of Eldorado National Forest. Featuring two big climbs, one stretching over 12 miles, the stage was one for the climbers.

The profile wasn't the only jarring change – the weather turned on a dime, as is wont in the thin mountain air. A 25-degree drop from the previous day meant riders were bundled up, breathing mist, and cramming down as much food as they could to battle the energy sapping cold. The roster, built primarily to contest the sprints coming in stages three and four, was in survival mode for most of the day. That didn't stop Kirsti Lay from riding near the front of the shattered race on the grinding climb to Daggett Summit. She finished 16th and the rest of the Rally Cycling flatlanders survived to fight for the sprints in Sacramento.

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Zane Freebairn doesn't just have a cool name and cool hair. He's actually a pretty serious mechanic. Here he carefully checks the brakes of each bike before the race.
Caitlin Laroche wasn't deterred by the nasty weather – she was raring to go, if you couldn't tell from the picture. She was the second-highest finisher on the tough day for Rally Cycling. 
Kelly Catlin is either extremely focused or extremely tired – she moved her college finals up a whole week, and took them all in a row, in one day – so she could race in California. That's 6.5 hours of final exams as "prep" for one of the hardest bike races in America. 
Emma White tests out a new way to stay warm on the bike. Her voluptuous locks can double as a Lord-of-the-Rings-style beard. 
Race prep in the RV is even more intricate before a cold day. Embrocation creme is applied, layer upon layer are added, and nerves run high during the final few moments of warmth.
Borah Teamwear long sleeve thermal jerseys and vests, leg warmers, and shoe covers play a vital role on a cold day.
Erica Allar covers a tiny air vent in the bottom of her shoe with tape to help combat the cold temperatures.

The feed zone makes for a delicate dance between peloton and soigneur. Riders must find their "swannie", carefully approach, and crisply grab a bottle, all while dodging 100 other women spread across the road, trying to do the same thing.

The enormous physical strain of high altitude, anaerobic efforts don't really hit until a rider stops moving. Kirsti Lay was doubled over, gasping for air once she stopped pedaling. A few minutes later, she was back to normal. Incredible. 
CLIF Recovery Protein Mix, specifically the chocolate variety, is a godsend after a tough race. Kelly Catlin, a track star and sprinter, downed a bottle in no time flat. She also summarized the day succinctly – "I don't like climbing."