By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
The three-day women's stage race originally planned to run concurrent with the men's race at the Tour of California has been scrubbed, with two of the cities, San Jose and Sacramento, dropped from the plans. Only Santa Rosa remains – it will now host a scaled-back women's criterium on the men's 0.7-mile finish circuit on February 15, similar to last year's event. Additionally, the original out-and-back opening stage for the men in Sacramento has been changed to a prologue time trial.
The Examiner.com cited a report in the local Santa Rosa newspaper on Monday, with local officials excited that they were now hosting the 'first stage finish' of the race, and of Lance Armstrong's American return. "This will be Lance’s first stage finish in America since he retired three years ago," Raissa de la Rosa of the city’s economic development and housing department told the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. "And it will be in Santa Rosa. Given his stature in cycling and that cycling is an international event, this is huge."
The reasons why the women's stage race, listed on the 2009 UCI calendar as a three-day event, was cut-back to just a criterium were not immediately known. However, the money and logistics involved in closing down roads on top of the men's race would have been significant and likely result in much longer road closures for the communities.
Representatives from AEG, owners of the race, did not return calls for comment regarding the reported changes.