The Amgen Tour of California will take in a new climb for 2012: the East Bay landmark of Mt. Diablo will feature on stage 3, but will be just one of several climbs on the route from San Jose to Livermore on May 15.
Livermore hosted the start of stage 4 last year, but it is the first time a stage will finish there, while San Jose has hosted either a start or finish in every edition of the Tour of California.
Unlike last year when the Sierra Road climb became the race's first ever summit finish, where Chris Horner's solo win sowed the seeds for his final overall victory, the category 1 ascent will not feature in this year's stage 2.
Instead, the race will head straight to Calaveras Road, roll along past the Calaveras Resevoir and up Highway 84 before dropping into Livermore at about mile 30. This will be the first opportunity for the locals to glimpse the flying peloton which will then head northwest on Highland Ave, Camino Tassajara and Blackhawk Road before hitting the slopes of Mount Diablo.
The stage will miss the summit, which can be seen from across the San Francisco Bay, climbing only 1600 vertical feet up South Gate Road (average grade 4.5%) before heading down North Gate Road.
Local pro Roman Kilun (Kenda-5h Energy) was excited to hear that his stomping grounds on Mt. Diablo would be included, but didn't think it would be a critical point in the stage.
"South Gate is a beautiful climb and has some steep sections but should not be decisive. At race speed it should not take much more than 20 minutes. While there are some steep sections they are split up by faster flat sections that will provide recovery. There is also a little downhill stretch in the middle. The last 2km is the hardest for sure, but with such a long descent after I expect it would come back together."
After cresting the shoulder of Diablo, the race still has to wind its way to Clayton on Ygnacio Valley Road and Clayton Road toward Byron in the Central Valley.
Mountain House Road then Grant Line Road will deposit the racers at the day's final difficulty, Patterson Pass. This stair-stepped, 1000' climb could turn into a real test if the normal, afternoon weather pattern is holding. The hillsides are festooned with hundreds of wind generators as steady gusts of 20-30mph will most likely be blowing directly into the rider's faces.
It's a short run from the summit to the finish in downtown Livermore for a total stage length of 116 miles. Look for a sprint finish from a large group of very tired riders.