By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
The route for the fourth edition of the Tour of California was announced Wednesday by AEG Sports, promoters of the race, during the U.S. broadcast of the Tour de France. As was the case in the second and third editions, the race will be expanding upon its foundation. The amount of racing increases again to nine days and will visit new areas of the state – including climbs in the Sierra Nevada mountains and the first ever stage south of Los Angeles in San Diego county.
The race's start will also be different with a road stage starting and finishing in Sacramento instead of a prologue time trial. While Sacramento has been a host city before, eight cities will be first-time hosts, including: Davis, Santa Cruz, Merced, Clovis, Visalia, Paso Robles, Rancho Bernardo and the overall finish in Escondido.
After three years of racing mainly on the coast, AEG is clearly answering fans' and riders' calls for a race that covers more of the state. "This year is a year of exciting firsts for us," said Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports. "After getting input from riders and fans last year, we decided to expand the race to better showcase the great state of California. For the first time, the Amgen Tour of California will take place over nine days, we will make our first visit to the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada and visit San Diego County for what promises to be another exciting conclusion to the race."
While specific routes are still to be finalised, the race will cross the infamous Golden Gate Bridge on stage 3, from Sausalito to Santa Cruz. As well, the individual time trial will likely be the same Solvang course as in the past two years. Conversely, after an epic stage down Highway 1 in 2008, some riders will be happy to find out that it was not included in 2009 for the first time.
The announcement of the route during the Tour de France broadcast illustrates the newly formed partnership between AEG and the Tour's promoter, the Amaury Sports Organization (ASO.) The release from AEG called the relationship between the two bodies, "a multi-year agreement for the organisations to develop and initiate comprehensive cross-promotional platforms for the world's most prestigious cycling event and America's most successful cycling race, as well as provide assistance with media and sponsorship sales for the races in their respective regions."