The Amgen Tour of California organisers continued their staged release of the details of this year's race, today giving out information on the third and fourth stages of the 2010 Tour.
The third stage from San Francisco to Santa Cruz is a near repeat of the 2009 stage, minus the trip across the iconic Golden Gate bridge since the stage is no longer on a public holiday and shutting down the route on a workday would cause a traffic jam of epic proportions.
The 182.9km stage will still take in some of the most spectacular scenery that California has to offer as well as providing a potential launching pad for those riders seeking a high finish in the overall classification.
The riders will take in the wild beauty of Half Moon Bay before turning inland toward Kings Mountain toward the first difficulty of the day on Tunitas Creek Road.
The route then heads south again toward La Honda on highway 84, but rather than staying on this road for a flatter route to the coast, the route turns onto Pescadero Road to take in two climbs, then drops back to sea level on highway 1 before hitting the Bonny Doon Road climb which Levi Leipheimer used to catapult himself into the overall lead last year.
Garmin-Transitions' manager Jonathan Vaughters predicted how this stage would play out. "That depends on what's happened the day before. If the race has a real GC contender on a top team in the leader's jersey, then we'll see a defensive day, with perhaps a rider from a small, early, breakaway winning alone, and a group of 15 or so coming in together with all the contenders in it just behind.
"However, if the leader of the race is a more vulnerable rider, then I'd say all-out attacks from riders like Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rogers, and maybe our own Tom Danielson will split the race to pieces."
Vaughters predicted the fourth stage, from San Jose to Modesto, would play into the hands of the sprinters. The 195.5km route hits the steep and painful Sierra Grade climb just 7km into the race, and after a fast descent punctuated by "the wall" on Calaveras Road offers plenty of time for the peloton to come together before the longer climb on Del Puerto Canyon Road. A long, flat run-in to Modesto should ring the race back together for the sprint.
The only thing Vaughters thinks could spoil the day for the fast men is the wind. "Coming out of the East Bay mountains and out onto the San Joaquin valley plain near Modesto could see some echelon racing. If it's windy, it might not be a day where the race is won, but you can certainly lose the overall. "
The full description, maps and profiles of stage three and stage four can be found on the Amgen Tour of California race section.
This was my favorite stage of last years' race, firstly because it determined the winner, but second, because it was won by one of our young guns, Tom Peterson.
In 2010, I doubt the cold and rainy conditions will toughen the race as they did in 2009, but the parcours is pretty tough on its own. It will be the second consecutive day that is crucial for GC, with the climb up Bonny Doon being tougher than the hike from the day before - and the top being a lot closer to the finish line.
However, if the leader of the race is a more vulnerable rider, then I'd say all-out attacks from rider like Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rogers, and maybe our own Tom Danielson will split the race to pieces. My dark horse pick for the day? Peter Sagan from Liquigas.
One of the few sprinters' stages in this year's race should see Greipel or Cavendish winning, but the one unknown factor of this day is the wind.
Coming out of the east bay mountains and out onto the San Joaquin valley plain near Modesto could see some echelon racing. If it's windy, it might not be a day where the race is won, but you can certainly lose the overall. It will be one of the only opportunities for sprinters, so I can't see a breakaway succeeding, as if a given sprinter's team didn't win stage one, this might be their last chance, so I can see it slipping away. However, if the wind is kicking, quite a few riders will be shed off the back in the high speed chase into Modesto.
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