The first annual Amgen Tour of California is set to race into the City streets of Santa Barbara on Friday, February 24th. Fashioned after the renowned Tour de France, the Amgen Tour of California will begin its 8 day journey down the coast of California on February 19th. After a short 3.1 kilometer time trial through the Embarcadero in San Francisco, the race caravan hits the open highway to take in Santa Rosa, San Jose, Monterey, and San Luis Obispo prior to arriving in Santa Barbara.
After the first day’s time trial which will open up small time gaps, every morning the entire pack (or peleton) will start together at one of the host cities. Each day the racers will take in winding roads before they finish at the next host city. The racer with the lowest cumulative time for the 8 day event will win one of the largest purses ever offered at an American bike race. Teamwork is everything as the domestiques must protect their rider from the coastal winds so when it comes time to drop the gas on the climb up San Marcos Pass from the Santa Ynez Valley, the team leader can do his stuff. This event takes place on American soil, but all the major European teams will be in California to see if they can upset the national powerhouse squads of the Discovery Channel Team and Team Health Net. Squads such as CSC, Saunier Duval, T-Mobile, and Phonak will be fielding their top level riders before they head over the pond to the spring races in the frigid areas of northern Europe. This is no training race. The winner will have bragging rights and a win at a prestigious event such as this can catapult a rider onto the world stage. Once the race comes over the San Marcos Pass, it’s all downhill to Hollister as the racers weave their way to Modoc and then down Las Positas. At the bottom of Las Positas it’s up and over Cliff Drive before finishing in front of Santa Barbara City College. There will be fantastic viewing locations all along the course. For those most interested in catching a glimpse of the key moments of the days stage, check out the climb of San Marcos Pass or the hill up Cliff Drive. Gravity works against these racers so unless you want to see them race by at speeds in excess of 60 mph, uphill viewing is advised. After a shower, food, and massage, the racers will awake on Saturday morning in Santa Barbara facing yet another long day in the saddle. The stage on February 25th takes the racers from the start line where they finished the prior day down to Thousand Oaks, where title sponsor Amgen is located. On their way to Thousand Oaks the racers will go over Highway 150 (Casitas Pass) which should prove to be not only one of the tougher climbs of the week, but a spot for fantastic viewing of the epic battle between the general classification riders. If you have never seen pro bike racing up close, this is a fantastic opportunity to see why whole countries take a multi week holiday when their national bike tours race around their borders. It’s fast, dangerous, and tactical. You don’t need to understand every chess move to appreciate the pure physical demands and mental fortitude these young men must endure in order to reach the finish line on Sunday, February 26th in Redondo Beach. For more information, check out the race website at www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.