Tour of California announces details of Sacramento, Folsom stages

The 2014 Amgen Tour of California will feature a 123-mile opening stage that begins in downtown Sacramento and winds through areas of Placer and El Dorado counties before finishing at the steps of the state Capitol, according to route details released Thursday.

Race officials announced specifics of the ninth annual Tour, which returns to Sacramento after skipping the capital city the past two years. The eight-day road race that attracts some of the world’s top cyclists begins May 11. It will cover more than 740 miles before finishing May 18 in Thousand Oaks.

The second stage will be an individual time trial on a 12.6-mile course in Folsom, that city’s first appearance as a Tour host.

The Sacramento stage, the longest of the Tour, begins at the Capitol and runs north along the east bank of the Sacramento River before passing through Pleasant Grove and continuing through Lincoln and Auburn.

After descending toward the American River, riders climb Highway 49 before veering southwest for a flat run back to Sacramento, where the route ends with three circuit laps around the Capitol.

“It’s going to be a challenging course as you get past Auburn into El Dorado Hills and that area,” said Mike Sophia, director of the Sacramento Sports Commission. “You get some pretty good elevation changes for the first stage. It’ll be a good challenge to kick off the tour, but really great features and great highlights of the whole region.”

The opening stage is set to start at 10:50 a.m.. Depending on race conditions and pace, Sophia said, riders likely will get back to downtown Sacramento between 3 p.m. and 3:45, coming down Folsom Boulevard before turning right onto 26th Street and left onto L Street toward the Capitol.

The final circuit will be bordered by L and P streets on one axis and 15th and 18th streets on the other, Sophia said, providing “a lot of cool spots around town” to watch the final three laps.

Speaking at a news conference in Calabasas on Thursday, Tour director Jim Birrell said the Sacramento course “will be a great day to see our star-studded field of sprinters.”

The May 12 time trial in Folsom begins and ends in the city’s historic district, along the way crossing the American River on the Rainbow Bridge and passing the main entrance to Folsom Prison. Birrell described the course as “designed for speed.”

“We’re featuring the dam, the river canyon or gorge, and then when you get up to the high point you get a beautiful overview of Folsom Lake,” said Robert Goss, Folsom’s Parks and Recreation Director and co-chair of the city’s Tour organizing committee. “(The route is) compact, it’s beautiful. I wouldn’t call this a hilly or a mountainous time trial, but it’s definitely not flat. The riders are going to have to work hard for the win.”

Riders then face the “Queen stage” – the Tour’s most challenging – on Day 3, starting on the east side of San Jose and ending with a climb of Mount Diablo. Race officials said having the longest stage, time trial and hardest stage in the first three days is aimed at adding to the intrigue of the event, as leaders after the third stage will have to protect their position over the final five days.

Sacramento hosted the prologue in 2009 and stage finishes in 2007-08 and 2010-11. According to estimates from the Sacramento Sports Commission, its return will bring 2,790 nights of hotel bookings to the city and have an estimated economic impact of about $8.4 million.

Goss said Folsom city officials have not placed a projected value on hosting the time trial, but their hope is the impact will go beyond bolstering the economy for the day.

“When you consider the aesthetic value of our rivers, lakes, bridges and historic district, and the place Folsom has in California’s history, and you get to advertise that – that is possibly invaluable,” Goss said. “When it boils down to it, we want Folsom to be viewed as a cool city.”

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