This morning the host cities for 2010 Amgen Tour of California were announced via an orchestrated marketing campaign on twitter launched by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Lance Armstrong, three-time champion Levi Leipheimer, Dave Zabriskie and George Hincapie each posted information about one or two stages, and also committed to racing in the event held in May 16-23.
As a reminder, after four years of being held in February, the race has now been moved to May, going head to head against the Giro d’Italia. During two of its four years, riders at the Tour of California have faced rain, hail, wind and cold temperatures, and the move should allow everyone to take advantage of warmer, drier weather and to finally have a mountain top finish.
On the shift to May, “for us to be able to continue grow, we needed to, one showcase the entire State of California”, said Andrew Messick, President of AEG Sports, “secondly, as we continue to grow our race, we aspire to be an important part of the cycling calendar and we felt as though being a February race put us in a position where we were – I don’t want to say pre-season – but we weren’t a race where most of the riders were really targeting. Being a May race gives us an opportunity to have riders that are sharper, thinner. It is the heart of the season and we think that the racing will be better and the competition will be better.” Lastly, Messick invoked the weather and rains that hit the past two years as an impact in the decision to move to May.
We do finally have one mountain top finish, stage 6 from Pasadena to Big Bear Lake. Unfortunately, it also brings about some long transfers again. I personally miss the coastal route but hopefully this new route will grow on me. Messick stated that they are inclined to look at route options for 2011 that are a little bit coastal.
Le Tour. The organizers want to position the Tour of California as great preparation for the Tour de France.
“We want to be an important race to the lead up to the Tour [de France].” said Messick. To that end, the organizers made the race “a little bit longer and a bit harder not remarkably harder”. The goal is to make the Tour of California, a strong and solid base to those athletes preping for the Tour but also an opportunity to have some of the stages provide a fitness test.
Messick stated that they are “pretty optimistic” that top European riders will also be racing in the event, even with the conflict with the Giro. “A 20-stage, three week long race that is hard is not something that is for everyone when they may have other goals for the season.” said Messick. “Our belief is that there are a number of athletes for whom, eight hard but not impossible days on the bike in California will provide a training block and a preparation block that will help them be ready and at one hundred percent of their peak in early July in Rotterdam when the Tour starts.”
What about the women? At this point, there are no associated Women’s Tour of California races, but “it’s certainly something that we are taking a very serious look at, we would like to” said Messick. They are still looking at the possibility and the logistics of putting a race but they are not in a position to be able to confirm that right now.
Steve at Steephill.tv had most of the route figured out, with a few changes. Also, the organizers had originally wanted to go through Yosemite, but the Yosemite National Park Officials turned down the application, citing crowd control, safety and road closures as issues. Also Yosemite is prohibited from hosting events that don’t serve the park’s purpose or have a large monetary prize. According to the Merced Sun Star, that stage would have “featured challenging climbs over Marshes Flat, Priests Grade, Bagby and Mid Pines Summit, with a final push out of El Portal down into the Yosemite Valley”, to end “in the shadow of El Capitan’s rock wall.”
The 2010 Amgen Tour of California Stages (with some of the tweets added).
Part of the decision process to shorten the race by one day, was “pushback from some of the teams that nine days was too long.” commented Messick.
Stage 1: Sunday, May 16 – Nevada City to Sacramento. “This will be for the sprinters.”
For the first time, the race starts with a road stage as opposed to a prologue. Pretty much downhill, the stage should end in a sprint. Pays hommage to the Nevada City Classic that is celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2010.
Stage 2: Monday, May 17 – Davis to Santa Rosa.
Returning once again to Santa Rosa for the second stage. At one point, the organizers had thought to go all the way to the coast and come back via Coleman Valley Road, but that is probably too long a stage, so now they want to make it “a little bit shorter and a little bit bumpier”. They would like to incorporate Trinity Grade into the stage. Decision about finishing circuits is still up in the air.
Stage 3: Tuesday, May 18 – San Francisco to Santa Cruz. “Bay to Breakers route & redwoods. Bonny Doon again?”
Similar to last year very tough stage – hopefully no sideways rain or hail this year however. The stage starts in San Francisco and not Sausalito however, which means no Golden Gate Bridge crossing. The day will start near The Embarcadero and follow the Bay to Breakers route, which crossed the City to take the panhandle into Golden Gate Park to the Great Highway. The organizers are looking at adding one additional climb, making it a total of three (last year 2 climbs) before finishing near the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz.
Stage 4: Wednesday, May 19 – San Jose to Modesto. “A breakaway might succeed on this one.”
Breakaway? more probably a sprint finish. The route should be substantially similar as previous years including the climb up Sierra Road but the organizers want to veer into a more hilly terrain, towards Tracy, to drop into Patterson and finish with a 20 mile flat dash into Modesto.
Stage 5: Thursday, May 20 – Visalia to Bakersfield. “Sierra Nevada & Sequoia National Forest. Gorgeous country.”
The race’s first venture into the Sierras and the Sequoia National Forest. “We’re looking at a different number of route options, some are longer and some involve more climbing than others so we’re trying to be mindful of how much climbing we want them to do on Thursday given that Friday is going to be a very hard day.” stated Messick.
Stage 6: Friday, May 21 – Pasadena to Big Bear Lake. “Over 10,000 ft. of climbing. Queen Stage.”
The first-ever mountaintop finish in Big Bear Lake. A challenging day starting with the first set of climbs start in Pasadena and go up the Angeles Crest Highway with 6000 feet of climbing on the first climb, and 4000 feet of climbing up to Big Bear. The roads up Angeles are currently closed from the Station Fire but after consultation with CalTrans, the organizers are optimistic that they will be re-opened.
Operational & technical guys are recommending that the route goes through the desert after Angeles and then come up the backway, the alternative is to come up the Rim of the World Highway.
Stage 7: Saturday, May 22 – Los Angeles (individual time trial) “I will defend my three time trial wins….”
Will take place in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. The stage will both begin and end at L.A. LIVE, the new sports and entertainment district that is home to Staples Center, Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE and much more.
Stage 8: Sunday, May 23 – Thousand Oaks/Westlake Village/Agoura Hills. “Rock Store circuits? My home roads….”
“We would like to have the Rock Store circuit feature prominently within the stage” as per Messick. They are still working on how the 24-mile Rock Store circuit will fit into the complete stage, still a lot of detailed work that needs to be done with the relevant cities.
The Rock Store is named for a local hangout where the motorcycle riders gather. The climb starts on Mulholland Dr. and goes into the Santa Monica Mountains.View route in mapmyride.com.