By Bruce Hildenbrand
This year's Amgen Tour of California is loaded with climbs of all shapes and sizes and except for stage five from Visalia to Paso Robles and the following day's time trial, the riders will face significant uphill challenges every day.
While some ascents come a bit too early in a stage to potentially affect the outcome of the race for the overall title, there will be more than enough action from those hoping to steal a stage victory to make the climbs interesting.
Stage one from Davis to Santa Rosa features three notable ascents. The race reaches its first ascent at the top of Cardiac Hill just past the Monticello Dam. This 1,000 ft, two-tiered climb is moderately graded at between four to seven percent and will provide the perfect warm up for the peloton. The next test will fall on Howell Mountain Road, a two-mile 10-percent beast that could split the field if someone is feeling frisky. Everything should come back together in the Napa Valley, setting the stage for the last ascent of the day. Petrified Forest Road is steep and straight but it is also short at just over 500 ft. If you're race contender you should finish in the bunch at Santa Rosa.
In race's three year history there has never been a mountain-top finish, but stage two from Sausalito to Santa Cruz is close to being one. There are two significant climbs, with the first coming at Tunitas Creek Road. It's a popular test for Silicon Valley cyclists and this 6-mile, 2000 ft test has two miles of between nine and eleven percent in its mid-section, but even with that difficulty, it is too far from the finish to see a move by any of the overall favorites.
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