“It’s going to be hard opening stage.” Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) said of the kickoff stage of the 2012 Amgen Tour of California.
Northern California native and the only rider to have participated in every edition of the event, Jacques-Maynes shared his insight with podiuminisight on each stage of this year’s edition. The 33-year old has spent many hours training and racing on these same roads during his career.
After skipping the city last year, the race returns to Santa Rosa to take on a portion of Levi Leipheimer’s King Ridge GranFondo route. Beginning in Santa Rosa, the 115.9- mile stage starts with two neutral laps before heading out to do a 32-mile (52-km) loop to Grafton before returning to town. Then, after the intermediate sprint, it’s a straight shot towards the coast and into the town of Occidental. From here, the stage heads north on Bohemian Highway and the climbing starts.
Starting in Cazadero, the road goes up to the top of Fort Ross Road and then a quick descent down Meyers Grade Road with breathtaking views of the coast line. A left onto Highway 1 will take the racers south 12 miles to the quintessential northern California climb of Coleman Valley Road, which is long, twisty and steep. Then, it’s a fast 16 miles back to Santa Rosa.
Jacques-Maynes continued, “People are going to want to ease into the race and the Ft Ross and Coleman Valley climbs are not easy climbs. People are going to hit it and have a hard race to get over those. The last time we raced Coleman Valley it was the only real difficulty of the day and then we came into town and had finishing circuits so the top of Coleman Valley was about 50 kilometers out. Now it’s going to be a straight shot in, it’s under 20 kilometers, and it’s going to be rip right into town and sprint. People are not going to be able to get back on, the front group will race hard all the way to the line, starting the lead-out much sooner.”
His prediction for the finish is a reduced field sprint. A prediction that he made for most, if not all, of the stages.
“Out of Cazadero, the whole Ft Ross stretch is steep, narrow, kind of gnarly, it’s definitely broken apart. It’s far enough out that I think we’ll be taking it pretty easy.” he added. Teams with racers that can climb and sprint will be taking over the front later on. Racers such as Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and George Hincapie (BMC). “Guys who can make it up over climbs and then just rock people’s world in a sprint, in big bunch sprint let alone diminished pack sprint like we’ve going to be seeing all week. Any sprint is going to be diminished, at least half the field is going to be dropped. I think the biggest pack that we’ll see at the finish line will be 80, any day.”
The severity of the race will be the major difficulty. “People are going to want to make it as easy as possible but make no mistake, Ft Ross and Coleman Valley are not easy climbs. Just by the nature of the course, people are going to get whittled out the back.”
And of course, a lot of teams will want to be represented in the early break. “Exposure all week long, it’s very important.”
And it’s not just exposure in the break which might mean podium time with the Breakaway From Cancer Most Courageous rider and the Exergy Most Aggressive rider jerseys on the line every day, but also the fight for the KOM and sprint points.
“You’re not going to have small breakaways because there’s enough teams interested in those KOMs and sprints, and once the KOM and sprint start to get solidified, guys are going to have to get into multiple breakaways in order to continue to hold that jersey. You’ll see some guy making the break three days in a row, I’d hate to be him,” he laughed, “who knows it might be.”
According to Jacques-Maynes, the most decisive stage in the GC battle will be the stage 7, the only mountain top finish on Mt Baldy. But, maybe surprisingly, he thinks that the hardest stage will probably be the first or second stage.
“Everyone is fresh, everyone things they can win, there’s not going to be the random crash that takes out this guy or that guy, there’s not going be some guy that flats and loses minutes so he’s out of the GC. Everyone is believing in themselves, in their chances and they have legs. People are going to be racing super hard on courses that are super hard, and it will be a hard fought start.” he concluded.
Stage 1 details:
- Length: 115.9 miles (186.5 km)
- Start time: 10:50 am PDT
- Finish time (ETA): 3:06 pm – 4:16 pm PDT
- Neutral section: 3.8 miles (6.2 km)
- Time bonus at finish of 10, 6 & 4 seconds
- 2 Intermediate sprints for seconds (3, 2, 1 sec)
- in Santa Rosa (mile 32.4)
- on CA 116 (mile 88.8)
- 4 KOMs:
- cat 4 on Cazadero Highway (mile 64.9)
- cat 3 on Ft Ross Road (mile 69.6)
- cat 3 on Ft Ross Road (mile 73.3)
- cat 3 on Coleman Valley Road (mile 92.6)