Amgen Tour of California ’06

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.

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