The Tour of California will end this year with a time trial through downtown Los Angeles, to be topped of with a final stage which features four laps of a circuit including the 1,000-foot Mulholland Highway climb. Race organisers released the details of the final two stages Friday.
Stage 7, an individual time trial, could set an all-time attendance record. The riders will cover two laps of the 10.5-mile (33.6km) circuit which goes past many of the city's landmarks. Starting at Figueroa Street and 12th Street, the riders will first head south, passing by the Los Angeles Convention Center and the University of Southern California and Exposition Park, before circling around the LA Coliseum and heading back north. The second half of the course will feature two short steep climbs, and the riders will probably not notice when they pass by the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and the Los Angeles City Hall.
Hitting the northernmost point of the course at the intersection of Temple Street and Grand Avenue, the riders will then head back south to the finish line at Chick Hearn Court and LA LIVE, an entertainment complex containing concert halls, theatres, museums, and restaurants.
The riders are expected to cover the course in anywhere from 41 to 48 minutes. The first 90 riders will go off at one-minute intervals, with the final 30 at two-minute intervals.
The Tour's final day, stage 8, will give the riders' tired legs another final test. The 21-mile (33km) circuit contains the Mulholland Highway climb, which takes the peloton up 1,000 feet.
The course, to be ridden a total of four times, will start at "The Oaks" shopping mall and covering 4.8 miles (7.6km) on a neutralised section before starting on the circuit. The peloton will turn on to the Mulholland Highway about a third of the way into the course, and there they will face steep climbs and numerous switchbacks.
After about six miles, they will start descending a dangerous and technical descent on Westlake Blvd., before setting off again on the course. Each lap is expected to last anywhere from 45 to 55 minutes.
The stage, and the Tour, end on Townsgate Road in Agoura Hills, where the 2010 winner will be crowned.
On paper I'd say the race will still have four to five top riders within 30 seconds of one another when we come to this time trial. The race will have been tough, but I can't see a stage that will absolutely separate Leipheimer, Nibali, Rogers, Gesink, and Zabriskie before the time trial, so this will be the day that gives the final nod to the winner. A course with long straights and just a few hills, it will suit Zabriskie and Cancellara much more than the Solvang time trial used to. Fatigue will also be a bigger part of the result than in the past, as this is stage 7, and the riders will be tired after the hellish day to Big Bear. That suits Leipheimer and Nibali more than Zabriskie and Cancellara.
Tough to come up with a good pick... It should be interesting to say the least.
With a 1,000ft climb each lap for four laps, this isn't going to be a stroll in the park, at all. I don't imagine whoever wins the battle on stage 7 will win by much, so the war will still be open on stage 8.
Since there is absolutely nothing to lose, as on Monday we don't race, the attacks will be hard. The leader's team will be pushed in a way that is atypical for a final day of racing, but it should be exciting. The stage will probably be taken by a strong opportunist that isn't in the GC running, but has recovered well from the week of racing.
So, who wins the overall? My three picks are Nibali, Leipheimer, and Zabriskie . They are all riders that fight for the win in smaller races, whether they are getting ready for the Tour or not. They all climb and time trial incredibly well, and they all have stated they are focusing on this event.
The darkhorses? Robert Gesink, for sure an incredible talent, but he'll need to time trial better than he's ever done on a course that isnt suited to him. Michael Rogers will be stronger than in 2009, but will need to have a bit more pop than he is known for on the hills.
Then there is Lance Armstrong, not really a darkhorse in the typical sense, but I imagine he will be more focused on the Tour and supporting Leipheimer.. And finally? Tommy D. the real darkhorse, for sure.
I'm sure I have missed a few folks that will make their names known as the season progresses, but that just makes it more captivating. My crystal ball only works so well in the middle of winter...