Professional bicycle road racing is becoming more popular in the United States, and the Amgen Tour of California is the biggest bicycle race in North America. Patterned after the famous Tour de France, which began in 1903, the ninth annual Tour of California is relatively new. Like its French forebear, it is segmented into stages on public roads that include different terrains to challenge the riders. Urban and countryside, flat and mountainous, wide and narrow, the changing conditions require different riding skills.
The stages are redesigned every year, but they always include some of the most scenic landscapes in California. This year there are eight stages, beginning in Sacramento on May 11 and ending 720 miles later in Thousand Oaks on May 18. The competition will be intense as 16 of the world’s elite cycling teams and 128 international professional riders compete for over-all and special titles. The entire week of racing will be televised and shown internationally.
On Sunday morning, May 11, at approximately 10:50 a.m., the riders will leave the Sacramento Capitol Sacramento to begin a 120-mile race. The riders will pedal to Lincoln for the first sprint of the tour. A sprint is a race within a race. The first three riders to cross the line earn points. The second sprint will be in Auburn. The third sprint will be in Cool. This sprint will be especially challenging as the first three racers to climb the American River canyon and enter Cool will win points in the King of the Mountain category. The lead racer will wear the Michelob Ultra King of the Mountain jersey, white with red polka dots, the next day.
The winner of each day’s sprint race will wear the green Visit California Sprint jersey the next day.
The tour will continue south on Highway 49, down Salmon Falls Road to El Dorado Hills where it will take Green Valley Road east, then Silva Valley Parkway south to White Rock Road, and return to the Capitol. The yellow Amgen Race Leader jersey will go to the rider with the lowest time.
In 2010, the Amgen tour took a similar ride through El Dorado County, when spectators clustered at key places and along the route. This year, the Divide Chamber of Commerce will greet the racers from Auburn with “Welcome to Cool” and “Welcome to El Dorado County” banners.
Stage 1 will include a three-lap circuit around the Capitol by the tour racers and another circuit by professional women bicycle racers.
The California Highway Patrol will control traffic by rolling roadblocks, stopping traffic shortly before and after the racers pass.
Folsom is the host city for Stage 2, on Monday, May 12. This stage is a test of speed in time trials over a flat course. The race starts on Sutter Street and ends on Leidesdorff Street in the Folsom Historic District. At 10 a.m., 50 amateur riders start at 30-second intervals. At 11 a.m., 25 of the world’s fasted professional women riders start at one-minute intervals. Opening ceremonies begin at 12:50 p.m. The men racers begin at 1:05 p.m.
The racers will head for Riley Street, turn left and cross the Rainbow Bridge, turn right on Greenback to Folsom Auburn Road until they reach Folsom Lake Crossing. Over the crossing, a left sweeper on Natoma Street takes them to Green Valley Road where a left turn leads to the El Dorado County line and they reverse direction. They repeat the route except instead of going over the Rainbow Bridge they will continue over Natoma Crossing to turn into the Folsom Historic District and finish on Leidesdorff Street. The entire course is 12.5 miles.
A Lifestyle Festival near the railroad turntable will provide food, activities and entertainment from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Awards Ceremony is scheduled for 3:55 p.m. The awards are specially designed by a local artist.
Although the awards are given to individual athletes, cycling is a team sport, full of strategy, surprises, and sometimes accidents. Getting to know the sport and the teams and riders makes the experience that much more enjoyable.
The Crunchies Best Young Rider jersey, with green diamonds on a white background, will go to rising cycling stars daily.
Amgen is a California biotechnology company. In 2005 it founded Breakaway from Cancer, a national initiative to increase awareness of resources available to people affected by cancer.
The Amgen Breakaway from Cancer most Courageous Rider yellow-and-blue jersey is awarded daily to the cyclist who best exemplifies the character of those engaged in the fight against cancer–courage, sacrifice, inspiration, determination and perseverance.
More information is available at amgentourofcalifornia.com. The mobile Tour Tracker application can be downloaded from the website. Information about the race through El Dorado Hills is available at the California Welcome Center, (916) 358-3700. Stage 2 information, including parking and road closures, is at folsom.ca.us, link on Amgen Tour of California. Check with local bicycle shops for special Amgen-related events.