Climbers will have their day at 2015 Tour of California

The 2015 Amgen Tour of California will return to Sacramento for its opening stage and finish eight days later in the shadow of the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, race organiser AEG announced on Thursday.

The 10th edition of the race will take place May 10-17 and return to the stunning Pacific Coast as it follows a north-south route over 1,165 kilometres. The course promises plenty of variety, with multiple days for the sprinters and more than 13,000 metres of climbing throughout the eight days, including encounters with Balcom Canyon and Mount Hamilton, as well as a return to Mt. Baldy.

“We’ve reached a milestone this year with the 10th edition of the race, and we want everything to reflect that cache, from the best lineup of teams we’ve ever had to an unbelievably beautiful and exciting route,” said Kristin Bachochin Klein, executive director of the Amgen Tour of California and senior vice president of AEG Sports. “All of the pieces of the race have come together to set the stage for something truly legendary and memorable. I think it’s going to be a year for the record books.”

Unlike 2014, when eventual winner Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) seized the race lead during the stage 2 time trial in Folsom, the general classification this year will likely be sorted out in the closing days, starting with the 24km individual time trial in Big Bear on May 15.

The racing will begin with two days for the sprinters on a circuit that starts and finishes in the state capitol of Sacramento, followed by a 193km trek from Nevada City to Lodi. In 2014, the sprint between Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) and John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) in Sacramento resulted in the closest margin of victory in race history, with Cavendish taking the win by three millimetres. Stage 2 will start with a short circuit on the historic Nevada City Classic course.

Riders will get their first taste of the climbing that lies ahead when the race visits San Jose for the 10th consecutive year. From San Jose, the riders will head toward Livermore on a familiar route via Calaveras Road. The narrow, twisty road makes it easy for a breakaway group to escape out of sight of the peloton.

Any escapees will have to survive the race's first trip over Mount Hamilton as the route goes up the “backside” of the 1,285 metre climb. Descending back into San Jose, the route will traverse Metcalf Road, which was used as part of the 2013 individual time trial. Metcalf Road features short rolling climbs with a final half-kilometre climb to the finish featuring gradients of more than 10 per cent.

Stage 4 from Pismo Beach to Avila Beach looks like another day for the sprinters. Although the start and finish are only 13km apart as the crow flies, riders will cover 172.2km on the day. The stage starts on the Pismo Beach Pier and revisits the Avila Beach finish, where crosswinds blew the race apart in 2013. Fan favourite Jens Voigt won that stage with a typically audacious solo attack.

Stage 5 will visit coastal Santa Barbara, site of last year's solo stage win by Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing), for its start before taking the same route it visited in 2008 for the finish in Santa Clarita. Following three short-but-steep KOMs, the stage will enter Santa Paula at the base of Balcom Canyon, which the Optum Pro Cycling team trained on during their recent Southern California camp.

This wide-open climb ramps up steeply near the top and is likely to separate the sprinters from the group, but the long, technical descent down Grimes Canyon into the orange groves in the valley below will help bring things back together for another possible sprint finish in Santa Clarita.

The stage 5 time trial on Friday, May 15, should provide the first significant sorting of the contenders for the final general classification as the race visits Big Bear and its namesake lake at more than 2,000 metres of elevation.

The 24km race against the clock begins in the heart of Big Bear Lake village before taking the Stanfield Cutoff and turning left toward the town of Fawnskin. The return back into Big Bear Lake will essentially follow the same route.

As the route makes a right onto Big Bear Blvd., with just 1km remaining, the riders will make a left turn through a narrow stone archway and onto a 304-metre jetty and the finish. This flat, fast course will definitely favour the time trial specialists.

The race's Queen Stage comes on the penultimate day with the 128km route from Ontario to Mt. Baldy, which hosted summit finishes in 2011 and 2012. It is very possible that the winner of the 2015 race will be decided on the final 15 switchbacks to the finish on Mt. Baldy, where Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) took control of the race in 2012, and Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale-Garmin) announced his arrival to world-class level cycling that same year.

After departing from the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, the race will head to Rancho Cucamonga and then west to Upland. Just 10km from the start, the route rejoins the 2011 and 2012 routes.

The riders will then start an 18km climb to the Village of Mt. Baldy and then another 1.6km climb up Glendora Ridge Road to their first of three KOMs. A fast and technical descent down the backside of Glendora Mountain Road will take the riders to Highway 39 and the town of Azusa.

A left turn onto Glendora Mountain Road will lead the peloton to a grueling 14km climb to the second KOM of the day, followed by another 20km of gradual climbing back to Baldy Village. A left turn back onto Baldy Road will see the race gain 304 metres in just under 5km. Then the day's real challenges begin.

At Ice House Canyon, the route makes a hard left turn where the sign to the ski area points toward the sky. Over the next 4km, the riders will face 10 switchbacks on a road so steep that many of the race vehicles cannot make it to the top. With 2km to go, the road straightens and the finish will be in view, but the road is relentless; the riders will tackle another five switchbacks in the final half kilometre before the finish.

The stage race will end with a 96.5km run from the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles to Pasadena and the iconic Rose Bowl stadium. The early morning start will begin with an 8km circuit that incorporates a portion of the 2010 time trial route. The circuit will highlight the Biltmore Hotel, Pershing Square, City Hall, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, the Los Angeles Music Center, Staples Center and L.A. Live.

With the opening circuits completed, the race will head toward Pasadena through downtown L.A., Chinatown, Lincoln Heights, Cypress Park, Mount Washington, Montecito Heights, Highland Park and Eagle Rock. Entering Pasadena on Colorado Blvd., the Colorado Street Bridge will reprise its 2014 role as a backdrop to the beautiful Arroyo Seco Park and the Rose Bowl.

The riders will do nearly one complete 5km circuit of the Rose Bowl before reaching the finish line on West Drive, where they will have seven more laps to go.

2015 Amgen Tour of California:
Stage 1: Sunday, May 10 – Sacramento (204.3km)
Stage 2: Monday, May 11 – Nevada City to Lodi (193.1km)
Stage 3: Tuesday, May 12 – San Jose (168.9km)
Stage 4: Wednesday, May 13 – Pismo Beach to Avila Beach (172.2km)
Stage 5: Thursday, May 14 – Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita (157.7km)
Stage 6: Friday, May 15 – Big Bear individual time trial (24.1km)
Stage 7: Saturday, May 16 – Ontario to Mt. Baldy (128.7km)
Stage 8: Sunday, May 17 – Los Angeles to Pasadena (96.5km)

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