Organizers for the Amgen Tour of California announced the 13 cities that will play host to the eight stages of next year's bike race that rolls across 750 miles of landscape from May 13-20, 2012.
Starting in Santa Rosa, the route generally heads southward to the San Francisco Bay area, then east into the Mother Lode. There's an individual time trial in Bakersfield, then two stages in the southern mountains before the final criterium in Los Angeles.
The 13 host cities are:
Stage 1: Sunday, May 13 — Santa Rosa
Stage 2: Monday, May 14 — San Francisco to Santa Cruz County
Stage 3: Tuesday, May 15 — San Jose to Livermore
Stage 4: Wednesday, May 16 — Sonora to Clovis
Stage 5: Thursday, May 17 — Bakersfield (ITT)
Stage 6: Friday, May 18 — Palmdale to Big Bear Lake
Stage 7: Saturday, May 19 — Ontario to Mt. Baldy
Stage 8: Sunday, May 20 — Los Angeles
New host cities next year will be Sonora and Ontario.
The week-long bike race will be broadcast on the Versus cable channel, part of NBCSports.com.
The 2011 winner, Chris Horner of Team RadioShack, said he'll be returning to defend his title in 2012. He'll be a member of the RadioShack and Leopard-Trek team merger known as RadioShack-Nissan-Trek in 2012.
The start of the 7th Tour of California in Santa Rosa had already been announced. The city is paying $500,500 for the honor of hosting the first stage. City fathers expect to reap $6.6 million economic benefit from the deal.
Santa Rosa is the home of three-time Tour of California winner Levi Leipheimer. After two years with Team RadioShack, Leipheimer is slated to bike with Omega Pharma-Quickstep cycling team in 2012.
The Tour of California is owned by AEG Sports of Los Angeles. Main sponsor Amgen, a biotech company, reportedly pays $3.6 million for the honor.
According to a host city announcement, Stage 1 will be held in Santa Rosa. Stage 2 starts at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and follows the Pacific Coast to Santa Cruz.
Stage 3 starts in San Jose (the only city in all six previous Tours) and end in Livermore. A new route has been chosen to link these two cities, according to organizers.
Stage 4 opens in Sonora, and cyclists will face some climbing in the Sierra Nevada foothills before ending at a sprint finish Clovis. The individual time trial this year will be held in Bakersfield for Stage 5.
The uphill battle from Palmdale to Big Bear Lake on Stage 6 will be more challenging as a new climb is added to the route.
The Stage 7 route from Ontario to Mt. Baldy, where Horner and Leipheimer combined to gut their challengers in 2011, will be lengthened by 10 miles to make it more difficult.
The final stage will be held in downtown Los Angeles and finish at the Staples Center complex.
Here's a video about the route: