World’s Best Cyclists Tackle Brutal 750-mile Route
2009 Amgen Tour of California
By KAREN KEFAUVER
With California’s grim budget projections, state residents need something to cheer about. Fortunately, fans of cycling as well as casual observers can rally around this winter’s 2009 Amgen Tour of California, the largest professional bike race in the United States, which runs February 14-22. The 750-mileplus ride will attract some of the world’s best cyclists – including Lance Armstrong of Texas, the seven-time winner of the Tour de France, and two-time defending Tour of California (TOC) champion Levi Leipheimer, a Santa Rosa resident.
Competing in teams, 128 road racers will test their strength and endurance during the grueling, nine-day event, known as a “stage race” in cycling parlance. From the state capital in Sacramento to Escondido in San Diego County, the all-male peloton will cover almost the entire length of California — racing day after day at a pace most of us can only imagine. They will start and finish the consecutive races in 16 cities that have been selected by TOC presenter AEG Sports. Communities along the route will witness, firsthand, a lineup of some of the most elite, recognizable cycling teams and athletes in the world. (As of press time, the slate of 2009 teams had not been finalized, but many of the same riders will compete in the Tour de France in July). More than one million spectators came out to watch the tour last year, according to AEG.
Host cities for the prologue and eight stages include: Sacramento, Davis*, Santa Rosa (site of the Women’s Criterium), Sausalito, Santa Cruz*, San Jose, Modesto, Merced*, Clovis, Visalia*, Paso Robles*, Solvang, Santa Clarita, Pasadena, Rancho Bernardo*, and Escondido*. (*Cities participating for the first time in 2009).
Rain or shine, some of the most exciting action will unfold in the Northern California portion of the route, including Stage 2’s ride over the Golden Gate Bridge, followed by demanding climbs on Tunitas Creek Road and Bonny Doon Road. Fast descents will follow.
Pro riders Ben Jacques-Maynes and Taylor Tolleson, both Santa Cruz County residents, said they were happy to know what was in store for them on these tough climbs.
“It will be an advantage that I ride Bonny Doon Road regularly on my training rides,” said Jacques-Maynes, who has competed in the three previous TOCs.
The 2009 Tour of California is presented by title sponsor Amgen and organized by AEG, a sports and entertainment company. Amgen launched an initiative in 2005, Breakaway from Cancer, which helps raise funds and awareness for cancer support programs.
For more TOC information, visit www. amgentourofcalifornia.com. For details on Stage 2, the leg from Sausalito to Santa Cruz, visit www.tourofcalifornia-santacruz.com.
Glossary – Five Road Racing Words to Know
Like any sport, road cycling has its own lingo. The more you understand, the more you will enjoy watching the race. Many of the words are French since road cycling has its biggest following in Europe. Here are a handful of terms you will hear repeatedly in any stage race.
• Breakaway: One or more riders who sprint away from the main group in an effort to build a lead.
• King of the Mountains (KOM): This is the title to win for cyclists who excel at climbing. The King of the Mountain is awarded to a racer based on points earned from the many KOM sprints in the Tour. That rider will wear a special jersey in the race.
• Peloton: The main or whole group of racers. Also called “the pack” or “the field.”
• Prime: (pronounced “preem”) This is a mid-race sprint for prize, points, or time bonuses. Cyclists push themselves hard to win primes.
• Stage Race: A race comprised of multiple, one-day races, or stages, that happen consecutively. The Tour of California and the Tour of Georgia are two of the United States’ best-known stage races.
The Stages of 2009 Amgen Tour of California
Saturday, February 14 Prologue: Sacramento Start Time: 1:30 p.m. Start Location: Intersection of Capitol Mall and 9th St. Finish Location: Intersection of L St. and 11th St. Details: The first day of racing showcases a short, but intense, individual time trial of just under three miles.
Sunday, February 15 Stage 1: Davis to Santa Rosa Start Time: Noon Start Location: Intersection of C St. and 3rd St. Finish Location: Intersection of 3rd St. and Santa Rosa Ave. Details: The 107.6-mile route includes evenly spaced climbs throughout the stage and spectacular views. Amgen Tour of California Women’s Criterium Held in Santa Rosa in conjunction with Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California, the Women’s Criterium will begin at 1 p.m. Some of the world’s top professional women cyclists will compete for $15,000 in prizes.
Monday, February 16 Stage 2: Sausalito to Santa Cruz Start Time: 8:30 a.m. Start Location: Spinnaker Restaurant at 100 Spinnaker Dr. Finish Location: Intersection of Front St. and Cooper St. Details: The 115.9-mile stage will begin with a scenic start in Sausalito and head south over the Golden Gate Bridge, and then through the streets of San Francisco. The sprint finish in Santa Cruz will provide an exciting viewing point.
Tuesday, February 17 Stage 3: San Jose to Modesto Start Time: Noon Start Location: Intersection of San Fernando St. and Almaden Blvd. Finish Location: Intersection of I St. and 12th St. Details: Cyclists will head up Sierra Road (1,930 ft.) within the first five miles of the 104.2-mile stage. This epic climb will be a defining moment in the race.
Wednesday, February 18 Stage 4: Merced to Clovis Start Time: 11 a.m. Start Location: City Hall at the intersection of N St. and 18th St. Finish Location: Intersection of Bullard Ave. and Pollasky Ave. Details: With four KOMs (“King of the Mountain” competitions) and several sprints, the 115.4-mile Stage 4 will test riders with consistently hilly and technical terrain.
Thursday, February 19 Stage 5: Visalia to Paso Robles Start Time: 10 a.m. Start Location: Intersection of Aceqia Ave. and Church St. Finish Location: Intersection of Spring St. and 11th St. Details: At 134.3 miles, Stage 5 is the longest stage of the race.
Friday, February 20 Stage 6: Solvang Individual Time Trial Start Time: Noon Start Location: Intersection of Mission Drive and 1st St. Finish Location: Copenhagen Dr. Details: With the start and finish lines located only one block apart, the Stage 6 course of 15 miles is ideal for spectators.
Saturday, February 21 Stage 7: Santa Clarita to Pasadena Start Time: Noon Start Location: Town Center Drive Finish Location: West Drive, alongside the Rose Bowl Details: The route will showcase the beauty of the San Gabriel Mountains and the second highest elevation ever reached by the Amgen Tour of California, Millcreek Summit (4,906 ft.), followed by a 15-mile descent.
Sunday, February 22 Stage 8: Rancho Bernardo to Escondido Start Time: Noon Start Location: Bernardo Center Dr. Finish Location: Intersection of Grand Ave. and Broadway Details: With four climbs, including the highest point ever reached in the Amgen Tour of California, and two sprints, Stage 8, may be the most difficult final stage that the Amgen Tour of California has ever seen. At 11.7 miles, a seven percent average grade, 4,200 feet of climbing and 21 switchbacks, Palomar Mountain (5123 ft.) will provide a challenging conclusion to the 2009 Amgen Tour of California.
An avid mountain biker and road cyclist, Karen Kefauver is a freelance writer based in Santa Cruz. She specializes in writing stories about adventure travel and endurance sports. For more of her cycling stories, visitwww.karenkefauver.com.