Baldy is back for 2019 Tour of California

Mt. Baldy will return to the Amgen Tour of California in 2019, with both men's and women's WorldTour races tackling the iconic climb about 70km east of Los Angeles.

Race organizers today announced the 13 host cities for the 2019 race following a three-week delay due to wildfires that scorched California, including the area around the title sponsor's headquarters in Thousand Oaks. The 2019 race will visit Ventura County, which was the site of the 2017 Thomas Fire, one of the largest fires in the state's history. 

This year's event will avoid the hardest-hit areas of the more recent Woolsey Fire, with the men starting in Sacramento on Sunday, May 12, and finishing seven days later in Pasadena on Saturday, May 18. In between, the men's race will visit Rancho Cordova, South Lake Tahoe, Stockton, Morgan Hill, Laguna Seca Raceway, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, Ontario and Santa Clarita.

The women's race will begin Thursday, May 16, with a stage that starts and finishes in Ventura on the same day the men's stage finishes there. Both races remain in sync from that point, with the women taking on Mt. Baldy for stage 2 and then finishing in Pasadena on May 18.

Although organisers did not reveal specific route details with today's announcement, the inclusion of Rancho Cordova as the only new host venue suggests the race will cover a lot of familiar terrain. Organisers, however, said the 2019 race will boast seven new courses between the men's and women's events.

With the men's schedule featuring only one day that starts and finishes in the same host city - stage 1 in Sacramento - organisers could be planning to reprise the prologue time trials that started the race in Sacramento in 2009, in Palo Alto in 2008, and in San Francisco in 2007 and 2006.

Stage 2 on Monday, May 13, will take the men's peloton from Rancho Cordova to South Lake Tahoe. Stage 3 takes the race from Stockton to Morgan Hill, followed by stage 4 from the Laguna Seca Raceway to Morro Bay. The peloton will start alongside the Pacific Ocean for stage 5 from Pismo Beach to Ventura, where the race will link up with the women's first stage. From there, both races will ride from Ontario to Mt. Baldy, with a final trek from Santa Clarita to Pasadena wrapping things up.

Organisers are promising some fast, flat terrain in Sacramento, Morgan Hill and Pasadena, while the climbers and GC riders will have their opportunities in South Lake Tahoe, the Diablo Mountain Range outside Stockton, and on multiple climbs between Pismo Beach and Ventura. The final 40km climb up to Mt. Baldy on the penultimate day, however, should be the most decisive terrain for the GC riders.

Once again, the 2019 race will showcase many of California's most well-known and iconic settings and landmarks, said Kristin Klein, president of the Amgen Tour of California and executive vice president of AEG Sports.

"The Amgen Tour of California continues to serve as an international postcard for the state, showcasing the beauty and diversity of California - and the 2019 host cities certainly reflect that," Klein said. "We look forward to hosting another truly dynamic and engaging race, which will feature an all-star peloton, continuing the tradition of delivering one of the most exciting sporting events in the country."

Although 2019 will mark the first time the women's race will face the climb, Mt. Baldy has featured prominently at the men's Tour of California since it was first included in 2011 when Levi Leipheimer won the stage ahead of his Radioshack teammate and eventual overall winner Chris Horner. The climb was back in 2012 when Rabobank's Robert Gesink sealed the overall victory with a stage win ahead of Colombia-Coldeporte riders Darwin Atapuma and Fabio Duarte.

Mt. Baldy took a two-year hiatus from the race but returned in 2015 in dramatic fashion, as stage winner Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) took the overall jersey from Tinkoff's Peter Sagan. But the soon-to-be world champion limited his losses to the point that he was able to seize the overall win on the final day with a time bonus during the final sprint in Pasadena. Mt. Baldy returned for 2017, when Andrew Talansky took the final win of his career before retiring from cycling and taking up triathlon. George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) finished third that day and took the overall win.

The Ontario-to-Mt. Baldy stages in both 2015 and 2017 followed the same route, taking straight, flat suburban roads out of Ontario to San Antonio Heights. The climbing starts on North Mountain Avenue to Mt. Baldy Road, which the race takes to the Glendora Ridge Road summit for the first KOM. It's downhill from there to a loop around East Fork Road, San Gabriel Canyon Road and then back up Glendora Mountain Road. A return trip up Glendora Ridge Road leads to the final, steep trek to the Mt. Baldy Ski Area.

2019 Amgen Tour of California

Men's Race

Sunday, May 12 - Stage 1: Sacramento
Monday, May 13 - Stage 2: Rancho Cordova to South Lake Tahoe
Tuesday, May 14 - Stage 3: Stockton to Morgan Hill
Wednesday, May 15 - Stage 4: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca to Morro Bay
Thursday, May 16 - Stage 5: Pismo Beach to Ventura
Friday, May 17 - Stage 6: Ontario to Mt. Baldy
Saturday, May 18 - Stage 7: Santa Clarita to Pasadena

Women's Race

Thursday, May 16 - Stage 1: Ventura
Friday, May 17 - Stage 2: Ontario to Mt. Baldy
Saturday, May 18 - Stage 3: Santa Clarita to Pasadena

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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.