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2013 Tour of California Returns to Ventura County

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Changing direction for the first time in its eight-year history from south to north, the 2013 Amgen Tour of California professional cycling stage race will pass through Ventura County as it brings riders and spectators first-time destinations on the 750-mile course. (Click here for a map of Stage 4, which includes Ventura County.)

Amgen returns as the title sponsor for the heralded 8-stage race, set for May 12 to 19, 2013. Beginning with a circuit in Escondido, the route will run through 13 official host cities and include a first-time finish at the top of Mount Diablo, the 3,864-foot peak in the San Francisco Bay area. The race's last stage will begin along the San Francisco Bay and continue across the Golden Gate Bridge, where a rolling traffic break will give cyclists uninterrupted access for the six-minute crossing.

Two new cities join the race route roster: Greater Palm Springs and Murrieta will host Stage 2, which will include an intense finish up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, one of the toughest climbs anywhere with an 1,880-foot elevation gain in the last four miles. Two other firsts: Escondido and Santa Rosa will become the first cities in race history to have hosted both an overall start and an overall finish.

"We take great pride in creating challenging, beautiful Amgen Tour of California routes that attract top international riders and showcase the state's amazing terrain and scenery," said Kristin Bachochin, executive director of the race and senior vice president of AEG Sports. "We also consider the many fan and rider route suggestions before we settle on a final course. This year will be not only the most competitive but the most spectacular with diverse California scenery, from coastal routes to mountain vistas."

As one of the most anticipated professional cycling races on the international calendar, the Amgen Tour of California draws top cyclists from the ranks of Olympic medalists, Tour de France competitors and world champions including BMC Racing Team's current world road champion Philippe Gilbert.

The 2013 Amgen Tour of California will feature the following highlights:

Stage 1: May 12 -- Escondido

Start/Finish Location: Broadway and Grand Ave.

Start Time: 11:15 a.m.

Stage Length: 104.3 miles

Expect huge crowds as the Amgen Tour of California returns to San Diego County for the first time since 2009, when record numbers greeted the tour along the course and at the start and finish cities of Rancho Bernardo and Escondido. The 2013 route will include a climb up Mount Palomar, an effort that is often compared to the arduous Alpe d'Huez at the Tour de France.

Stage 2: May 13 -- Murrieta to Greater Palm Springs

Start Location: Murrieta City Hall/Town Square Park

Finish Location: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Start Time: 10:20 a.m.

Stage Length: 126.1 miles

Well versed in staging cycling races, Murrieta has been the host city for the popular Tour of Murrieta for several years. Incorporating a new part of California into the race, this stage will wind south through Temecula Valley Wine Country. Then the riders will tackle the climb up the San Jacinto Mountains to the hamlet of Idyllwild, one of the country's top mountain biking destinations, before descending into the Coachella Valley and the towns of Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Cathedral City and Palm Springs. The stage will finish spectacularly as riders climb Tramway Road to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway parking lot. The last 3.8 miles of the race will gain 1,880 feet of elevation -- one of the toughest climbs anywhere.

Stage 3: May 14 -- Palmdale to Santa Clarita

Start Location: Marie Kerr Park

Finish Location: Magic Mountain Parkway

Start Time: 11:20 a.m.

Stage Length: 111.8 miles

The race will return to host cities Palmdale and Santa Clarita, but will traverse entirely new roads. The stage will feature the 22-mile climb up Lake Hughes Road and follow the route of the famous Furnace Creek 508, the ultra-endurance race through Santa Clarita. The peloton will likely break apart on the massive climb, but an 18-mile descent to the finish will give the riders a chance to regroup and mount a large field sprint toward the finish line.

Stage 4: Wednesday, May 15 -- Santa Clarita to Santa Barbara

Start Location: Theater Drive and Town Center

Finish Location: Cabrillo Blvd.

Start Time: 12:35 p.m.

Stage Length: 84.7 miles

Veteran Amgen Tour of California racers will recognize this stage from past races, but they'll be riding it in reverse. After the desert terrain of Stage 3, they'll welcome ocean breezes as they descend to the finish in coastal Santa Barbara. They'll have their work cut out for them: punishing headwinds are a regular feature along the route to Santa Paula, site of the first sprint of the stage. A sprint in Ojai will be preceded by the K.O.M. and technical descent of Dennison Grade. Past Ojai, the climb up Casitas Pass will give way to long downhill and flat finish along the beach in Santa Barbara. There is no question that this stage will favor the sprinters.

Stage 5: May 16 -- Santa Barbara to Avila Beach

Start Location: Cabrillo Blvd.

Finish Location: Front St.

Start Time 11 a.m.

Stage Length: 116.4 miles

A start along the beach in Santa Barbara will see the race retrace much of its 2006 route, but in reverse order. The riders will continue over the steep and windy San Marcos Pass along state Route 154 before descending into the Lake Cachuma Recreation Area. The racers will then tackle Foxen Canyon Road outside of Los Olivos and pass through Orcutt and the quaint farm town of Guadalupe, which gave the race a warm welcome in 2006. A sprint in Arroyo Grande will foreshadow an anticipated massive sprint to the finish in Avila Beach, which offers a picturesque harbor, quaint shops, a beautiful beach and the opportunity for its 1,700 residents to join thousands of race fans to watch the peloton storm down Front Street in hopes of capturing the stage win.

Stage 6: May 17 -- San Jose (Individual Time Trial)

Start Location: Bailey Ave.

Finish Location: Metcalf Road -- Metcalf Motorcycle Park

Start Time: 12:50 p.m.

Stage Length: 19.6 miles

San Jose is a familiar setting for the race; it's the only city to participate in all eight editions of the Amgen Tour of California. The race returns to the 2006 time trial course for the first three-fourths of the day, with the addition of a wicked stinger at this year's finish. This 19.6-mile stage features a climb that begins soon after the riders push off the starting ramp. As the racers navigate around beautiful lakes and golf courses, they will begin to prepare for the most difficult finish posed by any Amgen Tour of California time trial course. Once they make the final right-hand turn on the route, they will face the strenuous, three kilometer climb up Metcalf Road to the finish. The riders will gain nearly 1,000 feet in elevation and attack several pitches with a grade of 10 percent or more.

Stage 7: May 18 -- Livermore to Summit of Mount Diablo

Start Location: 3rd St./Carnegie Park

Finish Location: Mount Diablo -- summit parking lot

Start Time: 11:35 a.m.

Stage Length: 93 miles

In all likelihood, the 2013 Amgen Tour of California will be won or lost on the climb to the peak of Mount Diablo. The 92-mile route features several cyclist favorites, including Morgan Territory Road, new to the race this year. The riders will navigate narrow, twisting climbs through bucolic farm country and redwoods before making a roller-coaster descent. The race will return to Patterson Pass Road where they will encounter the infamous "wall," a short, steep climb toward the end of the road where riders will pedal up grades over 15 percent in the last two kilometers. The peloton will return to Livermore for a sprint, and finally, expect large crowds at Mount Diablo, which historically has attracted some of the largest audiences for a mountain race route. This year, the race will cover an additional 4.5 miles of climbing to the summit, perhaps the greatest viewscape of any mountain in California with breathtaking views up to 200 miles in any direction.

Stage 8: May 19 -- San Francisco to Santa Rosa

Start Location: Marina Green

Finish Location: 3rd Street and Santa Rosa Ave.

Start Time: 8:15 a.m.

Stage Length: 86.2 miles

We could not have designed a better stage for the finish of 2013 Amgen Tour of California! This stage encompasses some of the most spectacular scenery as it winds through San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito, Highway 1, Point Reyes National Seashore, Occidental and Santa Rosa, where the crowds are expected to be the largest ever to see the race conclude. An early race start at Marina Green in San Francisco (dictated by live race coverage on NBC) and a rolling traffic break of the Golden Gate Bridge will ensure the spectacular sight of the peloton descending on the landmark. The bridge sidewalk will remain open to provide spectators the opportunity to cheer on the cyclists racing across the structure.

The race will be capped off by two spectator-friendly finish circuits in downtown Santa Rosa where the winner of the 2013 Amgen Tour of California will be crowned in a special awards ceremony. At the end of the race, the winner and the team who supported him will take top honors for having conquered the longest and most difficult stage race ever mounted in the United States.

More information regarding the individual stages is available here.

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