If there was ever a climb that suited American Katie Hall, it's Mt. Baldy, and so when the organisers of the Amgen Tour of California today announced that the iconic ascent would be included in the women’s three-day race in 2019, the defending champion was nothing shy of ecstatic.
"I love the mountaintop finish for myself," Hall told Cyclingnews. "I understand that some riders want to see more different types of finishes in the Tour of California, but I love a good mountain top finish."
Race organizers announced the 13 host cities for the 2019 men's race held from May 12-18, and the five host cities of the women’s race which will use almost the same start and finish locations from May 16-18. Although race organisers have not provided the route details yet, stage 2 will finish on the summit of Mt. Baldy, a roughly 42km climb along a road that hits a dead-end at the top. The ascent has been a regular fixture in the men's parcours over the years, but it will be the first time the climb is used in the women's race.
The women's race will begin Thursday with a stage that starts and finishes in Ventura on the same day the men's stage 5 finishes there. Both races follow the same host locations from that point, with the women taking on Mt. Baldy for stage 2 on May 17, and then finishing in Pasadena for stage 3 on May 18.
This year's Tour of California Women's Race overlapped with the Emakumeen Bira in Spain, and teams were forced to choose between the two WorldTour events. The 2017 champion from Boels Dolmans, Anna van der Breggen, decided to compete in the Spanish race instead.
The UCI regretted those conflicts and promised to separate the events on the Women’s WorldTour calendar in 2019, and held true to their word. However, there are only four days between the American and Spanish races, and so Hall said it still might be hard for teams to line-up at both events.
"I think it is still hard to participate in both," Hall said. "Tour of California is a long travel for one race for European teams. I would love to see another Women's WorldTour race in America around that time, or a longer Tour of California, to get the top European teams to make the long trip over here. The three days between does make it possible to do both but still quite difficult."
Hall won the overall title at this year’s Tour of California, while racing for UnitedHealthcare, a team that has announced it would fold at the end of the season. She has signed a contract to race with Boels Dolmans for 2019, and said that she’s unsure of her schedule but hopes to return to defend her title. Boels Dolmans have a number of potential winners, strong climbers, and two defending champions in Hall and Van der Breggen.
If Hall does return to defend her title, she could face other world-class climbers such as Annemiek van Vleuten and Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) or Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), who was third this year. An official start list for the race won't be confirmed until May.
"I hope I’m back," Hall said. "My schedule is not set yet but I hope to be back and to defend my title."
Amgen Tour of California Women's Race 2019:
Thursday, May 16 - Stage 1: Ventura
Friday, May 17 - Stage 2: Ontario to Mt. Baldy
Saturday, May 18 - Stage 3: Santa Clarita to Pasadena