A stage-by-stage look at the 12th Amgen Tour of California:
Sunday, Sacramento to Sacramento, 104 miles – An opening day for sprinters. The route is flat and fast, with unpredictable winds the only unknown. Expect the field to arrive intact for the three strategic circuits and a high-paced finale.
Monday, Modesto to San Jose, 88.8 miles – The debut of riders contending for the overall title. The stage will include two sprints, six climbs and about 9,000 feet of climbing. The first major obstacle is the ascent of Mount Hamilton. A technical descent on Quimby Road follows, then a short, steep climb to the finish at Santa Clara County Motorcycle Park.
Tuesday, Pismo Beach to Morro Bay, 113.7 miles – Another flat course with a scenic countryside view of beaches, sand dunes, vineyards and wineries. It will be a day for team riding with two sprints and a half-mile climb to the finish after the long haul through Guadalupe, Orcutt, Nipomo, Arroyo Grande and San Luis Obispo.
Wednesday, Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita, 100.3 miles – A testy, winding course with moderate climbs including Balcom Canyon, the route passes Montecito and Carpinteria and advances to Lake Casitas. The route will also feature a descent on Highway 150 and a 13-mile section on Highway 126 toward Santa Clarita. An expected tailwind likely will keep the field together for a sprint finish.
May 18, Ontario to Mount Baldy, 77.9 miles – The “Queen Stage” probably will help determine the overall winner. After starting at the Ontario Convention Center, riders will head north into Upland before an 11-mile climb to the village of Baldy. But there’s also the ascent of Glendora Ridge Road, a good share of narrow, twisting roads, another climb back to Baldy and the finale. It will include 10 steep switchbacks in 2 1/2 miles and another five switchbacks in the final quarter mile to the top of Mount Baldy. Look for the field to shatter with only climbing specialists in the lead mix at the end.
May 19, Big Bear Lake time trial, 14.2 miles – In this high-altitude individual time trial, competitors will pedal in reverse order of the overall standings. It’s also likely the final day for top overall race placement with a sprinters’ day predicted in Stage 7. The route will start and finish in Big Bear Lake. It will advance three miles along a residential section along the lake’s south shore and progress on Highway 38 to Fawnskin and return to Big Bear Lake.
May 20, Mountain High ski resort to Pasadena, 77 miles – Starting at Mountain High ski resort, the race finale will feature two sprints, 6,400 feet of climbing and a long straightaway. It likely will be another sprinters’ stage, but bicycle races often offer surprises, so the overall winner could be determined in the final sprint.
Thursday, South Lake Tahoe to South Lake Tahoe, 72.7 miles – The stage will repeat last year’s women’s debut with a clockwise loop around Lake Tahoe, starting and finishing at Heavenly Mountain Resort. The route will pass South Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay and Tahoe City. The course will enter Nevada and pass through Incline Village and feature 5,300 feet of elevation gain and a steep, short climb to the finish.
Friday, South Lake Tahoe to South Lake Tahoe, 67.1 miles – On a climbers’ day, the start and finish again will be at Heavenly Mountain Resort, but it’s a high-altitude endeavor with a shakeup in the standings expected. The field will climb the 7,740-foot summit of Luther Pass and descend in Carson River Basin. What awaits is an eight-mile haul that gains 2,700 feet to Kingsbury Grade and likely will separate the field. The finish will be the same short, steep climb to the resort.
Saturday, Elk Grove to Sacramento, 73.3 miles – After a neutral start through Elk Grove Regional Park, the course will head west, then south to the Sacramento River and into the Delta. The field probably will still be intact for a sprinters’ finish at the Capitol.
Sunday, Sacramento to Sacramento, 43.5 miles – Twenty 2.2-mile loops, all fast and strategic. Crashes are likely on the circuits around the Capitol with teams jockeying to get their best sprinters to the front of the pack in the final few hundred yards.