For the first time in its eight-year history, the Amgen Tour of California will trace a south-to-north route when it rolls away from Escondido on May 12. The eight-stage race concludes 750 miles later on May 19 in downtown Santa Rosa, home to multi-time Tour of California champion Levi Leipheimer.
It’s still unclear whether Leipheimer will be around to chase another title. The former Omega Pharma-Quick-Step rider was recently fired after his name surfaced in the Lance Armstrong doping scandal, and he’s yet to catch on with another team.
One big name that is confirmed, though, is reigning world champion Philippe Gilbert. In January, the Belgian BMC rider announced he’d be bringing his rainbow stripes to the U.S. for the first time. There’s no word yet on who else will be racing in California. But if past years are any indication, expect a top-notch field that includes many of the sport’s biggest names.
Beginning with a circuit in Escondido, this year’s 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 that’s likely to decide the race’s overall winner. 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 to the iconic landmark 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 a grueling finish climb up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which has an 1,880-foot elevation gain in the last four miles.
“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.”
Here’s a stage by stage breakdown of this year’s route:
Stage 1: Sunday, May 12 – Escondido
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.
Stage 2: May 13 – Murrieta to Greater Palm Springs
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.
Stage 3: May 14 – Palmdale to Santa Clarita
Stage Length: 111.8 miles
The race will return to host cities Palmdale and Santa Clarita, but will traverse new roads in between. 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 likely give the riders a chance to regroup and mount a large field sprint toward the finish line.
Stage 4: May 15 – Santa Clarita to Santa Barbara
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, as punishing headwinds are a regular feature along the route to Santa Paula. Following the climb up Casitas Pass, there’s a long downhill and flat finish along the beach in Santa Barbara, making this stage one for the sprinters.
Stage 5: May 16 – Santa Barbara to Avila Beach
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.
Stage 6: May 17 – San Jose (Individual Time Trial)
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 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
Stage Length: 93 miles
Expect the 2013 Amgen Tour of California to be won or lost on the climb to the peak of Mount Diablo. The 93-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 peddle 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 views of any mountaintop in California.
Stage 8: May 19 – San Francisco to Santa Rosa
Stage Length: 86.2 miles
This stage encompasses some of the state’s 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 TV 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 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.
For more information, visit www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.