Conquering California's Stage 3

Following the announcement of the 2008 Tour of California's route last week, Cheerwine professional...

Following the announcement of the 2008 Tour of California's route last week, Cheerwine professional and area local Sarah Bamberger couldn't wait to check out the new course for Stage 3 to discover what challenges the professional men will face next February.

Tour of California organiser Medalist Sports has sharpened the stage three route profile for 2008, with the revised 152.2 kilometre stage from Modesto to San Jose to feature aromatic farmlands, steep pitches in a desolate canyon, the climb up Mt. Hamilton's infamous backside and an arduous, 20-mile descent.

Then the race goes up Sierra Road, which will further punctuate the difference between the event's contenders. For the King of the Mountain's classification this stage will present at least two opportunities for points, but not until the latter half of the stage. This first 'real' climbing stage of the 2008 event will offer the initial glimpse of which general classification riders are actually on track for the early season Hors Catégorie Stage Race.

Small town start to a big stage

Although stage three ends with the familiar Sierra Road climb and finish line approach in San Jose, the remainder of the stage is entirely new. Modesto hosts the start of the day and the preparations are already in effect. I know how exciting it is to race in a huge city that makes you feel important – San Francisco, Philadelphia, Minneapolis – but when a massive event like California comes to a relatively small town, the impact is even greater on the community. As racers you can't really get a better shot at feeling larger than life.

Modesto is a central valley farming community that has been revamped in recent years to showcase the contributions of some of its people. Star Wars director George Lucas was born here and immortalized the town with another of his films American Graffiti. E. & J.Gallo Winery is headquartered here and the race starts adjacent the brand new Gallo Center for the Performing Arts. Modesto still has an old fashion drive in – the A&W Restaurant on G Street – which is especially important for the foreign riders to visit, as it still employs carhops on roller skates to deliver the burgers and shakes.

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