North-to-South Route This Year Seeks to Push Racers Early and Keep Excitement Levels High All Race Long
The Tour of California is one of RoadBikeReview’s favorite events since it is a huge event with world class racing right in our own back yard. The race will be held this May 11-18 and will run a total of more than 740 miles through 12 host cities. Stage 3 will start in San Jose and end up on one of our favorite Bay Area climbs, Mount Diablo State Park. This year marks the ninth edition of the Amgen Tour of California, being called “America’s largest and most prestigious professional cycling stage race”. Back this year is the north-to-south route with two mountain top finishes and scenic coastal riding along Highway 1.
If you haven’t seen it before, you owe it to yourself as a cyclist to come and check out the scene. Even if you aren’t really in to the whole “racing” thing, there is plenty to see and enjoy just by being around fellow cycling aficionados.
The organizers have created a route that is hoping to have some early excitement by forcing riders to face the longest stage, the fast and flat time trial, and the hardest stage in the first three days of racing. In past races, the time trial and Queen stages – which typically shape overall standings – came late in the race, and the leader after that point had to defend his top position for only one or two remaining days. This year, with several days of difficult racing to follow, it is likely 2014 race fans will see the coveted yellow leader jersey change hands throughout the week with top performers in close contention and challenging each other until the very finish.
Kristin Bachochin, executive director of the race and senior vice president of AEG Sports explains, “Every year we look to incorporate new destinations, as well as vary technical aspects of the race. With the time trial on day two, followed by the most difficult course the next day, we’ve set the stage for thrills early in the race. There are no easy days, and teams will have to be strategic about when to take the lead and how to protect their positions through the rest of the week, so we’ll see some really exciting racing to the end.”
Thousand Oaks-based Amgen returns as the title sponsor for the ninth consecutive year for the heralded 8-stage race, which will conclude there after three race days in Los Angeles County. Beginning at the state capitol in Sacramento, the route will include three new host cities: Folsom, Cambria and Pismo Beach. The latter two will play a part in highlighting the beauty of the Central Coast, providing sweeping ocean vistas along California’s iconic coastal route, but looks can be deceiving; these stages will be anything but relaxing with head winds, tons of climbing and relentless effort to stay in contention. Starts and finishes will also be hosted in San Jose, Mount Diablo State Park, Monterey, Santa Barbara, Santa Clarita, Mountain High and Pasadena.
The peloton will be tested with more than 40,000 feet of climbs this year, with a categorized climb on every road stage. Stage 3 arguably will be the toughest in race history with two categorized climbs – up Mount Hamilton just five miles into the stage, and the final ascent to the summit of Mount Diablo, which will be a trying end to the day after 95 miles of racing. In the 10.8 miles of the Mount Diablo climb alone, riders will gain nearly 3,300 feet in elevation at an average six percent grade. Other notable climbs throughout the week include San Marcos Pass before the descent into Santa Barbara; a long, restless climb to finish at the summit of Mountain High North; two technical climbs heading into Pasadena; and the infamous short and steep “Rock Store” climb in Thousand Oaks, which the riders will have to scale four times during the final stage. These climbs throughout the later days of racing will make life difficult for the sprinters and could allow small groups of strong climbers to break away from the peloton before the finish, making for exciting viewing opportunities for fans who historically turn out in droves to cheer on the riders as they toil uphill.
A total of 16 world-class teams, including nine previously announced UCI Pro Teams and seven Continental and Pro Continental teams added earlier today, will comprise a field already considered the best collection of teams from top to bottom ever to compete in a stage race on U.S. soil. Additionally, earlier this week, race organizers also announced that the 2014 Amgen Tour of California will feature more professional women’s racing than any previous race of its kind with two days of action-packed competition presented by SRAM. Invitations are now being extended to an elite international roster of female cyclists to compete in a circuit race surrounding the state capitol building in downtown Sacramento when the Amgen Tour of California begins on May 11. The following day, a field of nearly two dozen of the world’s top-ranked women time trialists will race the clock during a time trial in Folsom over the same course the men will ride later that day.
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 contenders and world champions, including last year’s winning team, BMC Racing. When a victor is named May 18, the cyclists will have experienced three new host cities, two mountaintop finishes, a bevy of twists and turns, climbs and sprints galore, and the most beautiful and varied scenery the state has to offer. From lush forests to desert roads to oceanfront finishes – and even a historic start on a pier – this year’s route promises breathtaking moments for riders and fans alike.
For video highlights of the 2014 route presented by Visit California including a special guest appearance by Amgen Tour of California stage win record holder Peter Sagan of Cannondale Pro Cycling, visit http://www.amgentourofcalifornia.com/social/youtube. The 2014 Amgen Tour of California will have no shortage of excitement day by day*:
Stage 1, Presented by Visit California: Sunday, May 11 – Sacramento
Start/Finish Location: State Capitol Building, L Street
Start Time: 10:50 a.m.
Stage Length: 123 miles
The inaugural stage of the 2014 Amgen Tour of California – the longest of the race at 123 miles – will begin and finish at the steps of the State Capitol building. As the route heads north out of the city, it will hug the east bank of the Sacramento River. After a ride through Pleasant Grove and a sprint in Lincoln, the racers will blaze into Auburn to contest the second sprint of the day. After a fast descent to the American River, the peloton will be confronted with a difficult climb up Highway 49 for the day’s KOM. The riders then will head southwest for a fast and flat run back into Sacramento. Once the peloton passes by what is sure to be a large and loud crowd gathered at the steps of the State Capitol Building, the race day will conclude with three circuit laps. Past circuit finishes in Sacramento have delivered some of the most thrilling finishes in the race’s history, and history is sure to repeat this year.
Stage 2: Monday, May 12 – Folsom (Individual Time Trial)
Start Location: Sutter Street
Finish Location: Liedersdorff Street & Wool Street
Start Time: 1:05 p.m.
Stage Length: 12.5 miles
Day two will see the teams in nearby Folsom, for the 2014 Amgen Tour of Californiaindividual time trial, where riders race the clock one by one. Though the race has visited the historic gold rush town in the past, this will be the first time the city is hosting a stage. A short, flat course will reward the strongest rider and prove an honest test of who is riding well and who is not. Designed for speed, the 12.6-mile route will begin and finish in Folsom’s historic district. A start on Sutter Street will be followed by a turn onto Riley and a short downhill run onto the Rainbow Bridge and over the American River. The route will then turn north toward Folsom Lake. A right turn onto Folsom Lake Crossing will take the riders past the main entrance of California’s second oldest prison. A turn onto Green Valley will lead the riders to a 180-degree turn back over the same route to finish downtown. While there is a good chance Stage 2 will result in a new race leader, expect results to be close – no one can afford to lose time on this stage so early in the week, and racers will have to ride all out, even with the Queen stage in their sights the next day.
Stage 3: Tuesday, May 13 – San Jose to Mount Diablo State Park
Start Location: Lake Cunningham Regional Park
Finish Location: Mount Diablo Summit
Start Time: 10:45 a.m.
Stage Length: 110 miles
The Queen stage will come early in the 2014 Amgen Tour of California. Stage 3 will begin at the Lake Cunningham Regional Park on the east side of San Jose, which has the distinction of hosting a stage of the Amgen Tour of California for each of the nine years of the race. While the racers won’t see the south face of Mt. Hamilton from the start line, they will feel the beginning of the climb just five miles into the stage – the first time the course has winded this way to the summit of Mt. Hamilton. With 22 switchbacks, the long and steep climb is sure to be lined with thousands of spectators. The descent route will be shorter than the ascent, but steeper and much more technical. The long, rolling San Antonio Valley Road will quickly give way to twisty Mines Road, where it will be easy for a breakaway to form and quickly be out of sight of the peloton.
As the riders skirt the east side of Livermore, the race will hook into last year’s route to Danville and the approach to Mt. Hamilton. The race up Mt. Hamilton in 2013 will still be fresh in many of the rider’s minds – the initial climb, the flat run to “The Junction“ and the final relentless push to the summit. The winner of the stage will almost certainly wear yellow on the podium. The question for the teams will be whether to defend the leader jersey for the rest of the race or save themselves for the race’s second mountaintop finish during Stage 6.
Stage 4, Presented by Visit California: Wednesday, May 14 – Monterey to Cambria
Start Location: Monterey Municipal Wharf
Finish Location: Main Street & Cambria Road
Start Time: 11:50 a.m.
Stage Length: 105 miles
While Stage 3 can be dubbed the most difficult stage of the 2014 race, Stage 4 is arguably the most beautiful. Monterey returns to host its second Amgen Tour of California stage, with a start on beautiful Alvarado Street. After heading out along Monterey Bay, the riders will head south on one of the most iconic roadways in the world – Highway 1. Riders will vie for one sprint in Big Sur and three KOMs on the way to first-time host city Cambria for the stage finish.
Halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Cambria has an ideal mix of beaches, wineries, shopping and great restaurants. The route will feature spectacular ocean vistas, crashing waves, lighthouses, state parks, elephant seals, herds of zebra and Hearst Castle. It sounds like racing through a postcard, but the reality will be punishing on riders since there are very few stretches of flat road. The race last visited these roads in 2009, when rain and gale force winds stretched a four-hour race into more than six hours.
Stage 5, Presented by Breakaway from Cancer®: Thursday, May 15 – Pismo Beach to Santa Barbara
Start Location: Pismo Beach Pier
Finish Location: Cabrillo Boulevard & Garden Street
Start Time: 11:45 a.m.
Stage Length: 108 miles
The third new host city for the 2014 Amgen Tour of California is Pismo Beach, where the beauty of the Central Coast takes center stage. In the most unique start in race history, the riders will begin the day over the waves on the 1,200-foot long Pismo Beach pier before heading east past several vineyards and ranches, and the first sprint in Arroyo Grande. As the route turns south toward a beachfront finish in Santa Barbara and the racers approach Los Olivos on Highway 154, some may be deceived into thinking they are in for a flat run to the coast. The experienced riders will know the final climb up San Marcos Pass waits just ahead, with a steep and fast descent into Santa Barbara.
Stage 6: Friday, May 16 – Santa Clarita to Mountain High
Start Location: Main Street & Market Street
Finish Location: Mountain High North
Start Time: 11:35 a.m.
Stage Length: 97 miles
Stage 6 will include the second true mountaintop finish of 2014. Racers will begin the day in the Newhall area of Santa Clarita. For those who remember screaming down Bouquet Canyon to finish Stage 3 in 2013, they will know they have a long and steep climb up this year. A left turn onto Spunky Canyon will lead through the small town of Green Valley. The race will continue through the familiar host city of Palmdale and onto the route used in 2010 to reach Big Bear. The Big Pine Road climb was the first of many that year, and it will serve as the final climb of Stage 6. When the riders reach the top and have Mountain High Ski Resort in their sights, the leaders will find that the route makes an unexpected 180-degree turn up Table Mountain Road and another steep 1.2-mile climb to the remote finish at Mountain High North. Many will assume that the race will be won on this stage, but don’t count on it!
Stage 7: Saturday, May 17 – Santa Clarita to Pasadena
Start Location: Town Center Mall
Finish Location: Holly Street & Arroyo Avenue
Start Time: 11:40 a.m.
Stage Length: 91 miles
As in 2013, Santa Clarita will host two stages this year. Stage 7 will start at the popular Town Center Mall. The route will follow a familiar high desert path to a sprint in Acton and into the Angeles National Forest. A slight twist from the previous routes through the forest will be the addition of Upper Big Tujunga. This means a second KOM and several additional miles on the picturesque Angeles Crest Highway. After passing Mount Wilson Observatory, the riders will quickly begin a long, steep and very technical descent into La Cañada Flintridge. In Pasadena, riders will pass the Rose Bowl and cross the iconic Colorado Street Bridge. After some quick turns in Old Town Pasadena, the leaders will see City Hall, the finish line, and three laps to go. The three-mile circuit will follow many well-known Pasadena thoroughfares, including the route of the famous Rose Parade along Colorado Boulevard.
Stage 8, Presented by Amgen: Sunday, May 18 – Thousand Oaks (Circuit Race)
Start/Finish Location: Townsgate Road and Village Glen Road
Start Time: 8:30 a.m.
Stage Length: 84 miles
Thousand Oaks, home to title sponsor and biotechnology pioneer Amgen, will host the overall finish for the 2014 Amgen Tour of California, where the race winners will be decided and jerseys awarded. The final stage will be contested over the same circuit used for the race finale in 2010. That means four ascents up the infamous “Rock Store” climb on Mulholland Drive and a sprint at the finish line each lap. Each 21-mile circuit will pass through Westlake Village, Agoura Hills, past the Rock Store at the foot of the climb, and finally, a very technical descent of Westlake Boulevard. If the race is close coming into Stage 8, there is a strong likelihood that the yellow jersey will change on the final day of the race. It will have been a very difficult race, and unlike most stage races, riders can make up significant time on this course. The yellow jersey almost changed when the race finished on this course in 2010. Will it happen this year?
(*Route and start times are subject to change.)
Cycling fans can experience the excitement of America’s biggest professional stage race from the inside by becoming a race volunteer. Race organizers are looking to fill nearly 5,000 volunteer positions. Registration and further information about the various duties available is now available online at www.AmgenTourofCalifornia.com.
Amgen is leading the race to dramatically improve people’s lives through its national initiative, Breakaway from Cancer®. Founded in 2005 by Amgen, Breakaway from Cancer aims to raise awareness of important resources available to those affected by cancer – from prevention through survivorship. Four individuals – one from each of the 2014 Amgen Tour of California communities of Sacramento, Cambria, Santa Barbara and Thousand Oaks – will ultimately be selected as the Breakaway from Cancer Champions and lead a celebratory walk on the race course in those cities on race day. Members of the communities will be invited to participate in the Breakaway Mile walk. In addition, throughout the race Amgen will recognize and celebrate cancer survivors. Learn more about Breakaway from Cancer at www.breakawayfromcancer.com
About the Amgen Tour of California
The Amgen Tour of California is a Tour de France-style cycling road race created and presented by AEG that challenges the world’s top professional cycling teams to compete along a demanding course that traverses hundreds of miles of California’s iconic highways, byways and coastlines each spring. The teams chosen to participate have included Olympic medalists, Tour de France contenders and World Champions. More information is available at www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.