The Amgen Tour of California organizers announced the details of stages 5 and 6 of this year's race, revealing the course of the much anticipated stage to Big Bear Lake. Those hoping for a mountaintop battle may be disappointed to find a perfectly flat final 10km to the stage.
Providing a tune-up for the Big Bear stage, the fifth day of the Tour will see the central valley town of Visalia return as host of the start, but the riders will travel to Bakersfield this year, covering 195.5km with a mid-stage trip into the Sierra Nevada mountain foothills. It's no mountain stage, but there are a few tough ascents which will play into the hands of those battling for the KOM prize.
The first mountain sprint features a punishing 14 percent grade before the riders get some relief on the long, gradual descent to the Kern River oil field.
As they exit the valley they'll take in another KOM before heading into Bakersfield where the organizers have devised a crafty three-lap finishing circuit which could ruin the plans for the sprinters.
Containing a short climb of 10 percent which riders will encounter three times, it will be a prime launching pad for attacks, but with 2km left to go to the finish, it will take great fortitude for any escapee to hold off the sprinters.
The GC contenders will likely be resting their legs for the next day and the 213.7km Queen stage to Big Bear Lake. With over 10,000 feet of climbing, the sixth stage will likely see the sprinters form a "gruppetto" not far from the start as the contenders for the overall wage war on the first ascent out of Pasedena.
The climbing begins shortly after the start at the Rose Bowl and continues at an unrelenting grade for nearly 7000 feet of elevation gain to the highest point of the Tour at 7900 feet.
A long and potentially dangerous descent, should the winds be high, follows before the race heads back up the long and less steep climb to Big Bear Lake.
The greatly anticipated mountaintop battle may prove to be a bit of a let-down, as the race does not finish at the summit, but continues along the valley for 10 miles before the finish line.