The 2011 Amgen Tour of California starts in the lofty Sierra Nevada as the sixth edition of the bicycle race rolls out May 15 to May 22.
Organizers announced the general route of the 800-mile bike race and the 15 host cities on Thursday morning.
Essentially, the route starts at South Lake Tahoe, winds through the Central Valley, then over the Coastal Range to the Pacific Coast for a finish in Southern California at Thousand Oaks.
The host cities for the Sunday through Sunday race are:
Stage 1: May 15 — South Lake Tahoe to Northstar at Tahoe, North Lake Tahoe;
Stage 2: May 16 — Squaw Valley USA at North Lake Tahoe to Sacramento;
Stage 3: May 17 — Auburn to Modesto;
Stage 4: May 18 — Livermore to San Jose;
Stage 5: May 19 — Seaside to Paso Robles;
Stage 6: May 20 — Individual time trial at Solvang;
Stage 7: May 21 — Claremont to Mount Baldy;
Stage 8: May 22 — Santa Clarita to Thousand Oaks.
Some of the highlights will be the opening stage completely around Lake Tahoe, summiting fabled Donner Pass, and a climb to the Mount Baldy skiing area. Said tour director Andrew Messick:
“The climb up to Baldy is one of the most iconic and decisive climbs in Southern California … It's hard, it's beautiful, it has the characteristics that you want in a stage that's going to play a pivotal role in who wins the overall general classification of our race next year.”
Missing from the host cities is Santa Rosa, Levi Leipheimer's home.
With rising costs associated with hosting a start or finish of the Tour and tightening city budgets caused by the recession, many cities opted out of applying as a host city.
Responsibilities of the host city include finding a location for the rolling city that accompanies the Tour, as well as the thousands of spectators.
Launched in 2006, the Tour of California rolled as a week-long race in February until 2010, when it switched to May. The date enabled the peloton to visit high-elevation racing locales, but also put it head-to-head against the Giro d'Italia. Many teams had to choose between the two or split their squads to compete in both.
Last year, Australian Michael Rogers of HTC-Columbia became the first cyclist from outside the US to win the Tour of California. Leipheimer is a three-time Tour winner.
The race is owned by The Anschultz Company, which also owns such sports concerns as the Staples Center, the Los Angeles Kings hockey team and shares of the Los Angeles Lakers. The race is presented by Anschultz subsidiary AEG.