The Tour of California will try its luck again with a stage finish scheduled for Lake Tahoe next year as the 11th edition of the race returns to a south-north route.
Mimicking the direction the race took in 2013, when Robert Gesink won ahead of Garmin's Dave Zabriskie and Tom Danielson, the 2.HC race will start in San Diego on May 15 and finish eight days later in the capitol city of Sacramento. Santa Rosa also returns to the line up on the penultimate day.
Stage 5 on May 19 will take the peloton from Lodi to South Lake Tahoe, where the race endured its only cancelled stage in 2011 after wet snow blanketed the course the morning of stage 1. The next day's stage also had to be shortened, and the start moved from Tahoe to Nevada City.
The women's race, which started its first edition last year in Tahoe before finishing in Sacramento, will also start in South Lake Tahoe on May 19 and finish in Sacramento for 2016. The biggest change for the women's race will be a team time trial that runs in conjunction with the men's individual time trial, which returns to Folsom next year during stage 6.
Race owner Anschutz Entertainment Group announced the 2016 host cities Thursday morning during a ceremony in San Diego that was attended by former pro Fred Rodriguez, NBA hall-of-famer and cycling enthusiast Bill Walton, race executive director Kristen Bachochin and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
The 2016 men's race travels from stage 1 in San Diego to South Pasadena for the start of stage 2, which ends in Santa Clarita with a likely sprint finish. Stage 3 runs from Thousand Oaks to Santa Barbara County and ends with a mountain-top finish that is new to the tour.
Stage 4 will take the peloton from Morro Bay to Monterey County, followed by the stage 5 trip to South Lake Tahoe. Folsom, the site of Bradley Wiggins' 2013 time trial win, will return for stage 6. Santa Rosa is back after a two-year absence for the penultimate stage on May 21, with the final day playing out on the streets of Sacramento, host of the race's opening stage for the past two years.
AEG is taking a risk returning to Tahoe in May, but the women's race went off well last year, and the temptation to include the scenic lake in the race's landscape appears to have won the day. The race also has a new technical partner, with Tour de France organiser ASO replacing US company Medalist Sports as the event's managers. The fact that the race is taking place a week later than in the past could also play into the decision.
Although the women's stages in Tahoe this year went off without a problem, the 2015 men's race experienced weather problems when snow forced the time trial from Big Bear Lake to the Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park outside of Los Angeles. But the 2011 men's stage around Lake Tahoe remains the only time a stage was cancelled outright.
2016 Amgen Tour of California host cities:
Stage 1 – San Diego, May 15
Stage 2 – South Pasadena to Santa Clarita, May 16
Stage 3 – Thousand Oaks to Santa Barbara County, May 17
Stage 4 – Morro Bay to Monterey County, May 18
Stage 5 – Lodi to South Lake Tahoe, May 19
Stage 6 – Folsom Individual Time Trial & Women's Team Time Trial, May 20
Stage 7 – Santa Rosa, May 21
Stage 8 – Sacramento, May 22