News Column

Tour of California Cycling Event Plans Big Bay Area Finish

Feb 12, 2013

Elliott Almond, San Jose Mercury News

The Bay Area landscape promises to offer lung-burning challenges for some of the world's best cyclists during the 2013 Amgen Tour of California.

Starting with a 19.6-mile time trial in south San Jose followed by a grueling ascent of 3,864-foot Mount Diablo the three Northern California stages conclude with a scenic trek from San Francisco to Santa Rosa, according to route details released Tuesday.

North America's biggest cycling event will travel south to north for the first time since its debut in 2006. The 750-mile race begins May 12 in Escondido and ends eight days later in downtown Santa Rosa.

Organizers have created another challenging route beginning a 104.3-mile circuit in Escondido that includes

a climb up 6,142-foot Mount Palomar.

The drama, however, should unfold over the first two days in the Bay Area, starting with an individual time trial May 17 that ends at Metcalf Motorcycle Park. Race organizers say the finish should be the toughest of any time trial in event history.

A time trial is an all-out sprint against the clock with the fastest riders in the standings going last. It is one of the few times in a multi-stage road race where cyclists can separate themselves from others.

The final three kilometers along Metcalf Road to the finish includes elevation gain of 1,000 feet and a couple spots with a 10 percent grade or more.

The stage is scheduled to start on Bailey Road toward Chesbro Reservoir before

turning east toward Santa Clara County's motorcycle park. The first three quarters of the route will follow the course used in the 2006 time trial in San Jose.

The time trial will start in the afternoon as the riders will make a long transfer from Avila Beach, the end of Stage 5.

Many expect the race to be won the next day on a 93-mile stage from Livermore to the top of Mount Diablo, one of the Bay Area's most distinguishable landmarks. The long, hard-pedaling day will take riders through the bucolic East Bay backcountry including an ascent of Patterson Pass Road.

The 2012 tour took riders part way up Diablo for the first time. But organizers added an additional 4.5 miles of climbing for a heart-pounding summit finish.

The tour concludes with an 86.2-mile stage starting at the Marina Green and ending in downtown Santa Rosa. Barring an unforeseen mishap the standings are not expected to change after the Livermore-Mount Diablo stage.

The final day will include a trip across the Golden Gate Bridge before competitors head to Point Reyes National Seashore and west Sonoma County. The race will end with a couple laps in downtown Santa Rosa as a coronation of the victor.

The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which helps sponsor the San Jose stage, plans to hold its annual charity ride and CEO Challenge in conjunction with the time trial.

"The Amgen Tour of California is about the best cyclists in the world competing against each other and our 375-member company CEOs know a thing or two about global competitiveness," SVLG executive Carl Guardino said in a statement.

Two new cities are included in this year's race: Greater Palm Springs and Murrieta will play host to Stage 2. The desert stage is highlighted by a tough finish up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway -- a 1,880-foot elevation gain over the last four miles.

The race comes in the aftermath of Lance Armstrong's admission to drug use and a scathing report by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that cited some of the tour's previous stars as admitting to taking banned substances.

Although team rosters have not been finalized BMC Racing Team of Santa Rosa announced reigning world road champion Philippe Gilbert will compete.

"We take great pride in creating challenging, beautiful routes that attract top international riders and showcase the state's amazing terrain and scenery," race director Kristin Bachochin said in a statement. "This year will be not only the most competitive but the most spectacular with diverse California scenery, from coastal routes to mountain vistas."



Source: (c)2013 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.