Specific route and race details for the 650-mile, eight-day 2007 Amgen Tour of California stage race were announced Wednesday. The first US ProTour race of the season will be held February 18 - 25 and will cover a course from San Francisco to Long Beach, California. Sixteen pro teams are expected to compete in the second year event
The 2007 race will feature a longer, more challenging route. Major changes include a shift in the time trial stage from San Jose to Solvang and to later in the race (from Stage 3 to Stage 5). Stages 2 and 6 are also longer than in 2006.
Over eight days, the race will visit 12 host cities for official stage starts and finishes, with communities along the route seeing firsthand a lineup of some of the best and most recognizable teams in the world. Those already signed up include Discovery pro cycling team, Team CSC and Predictor-Lotto. Host cities for the eight stages include San Francisco, Sausalito, Santa Rosa, Sacramento, Stockton, San Jose, Seaside, San Luis Obispo, Solvang, Santa Barbara, Santa Clarita and Long Beach.
The race will be televised nightly with recaps on weeknights at 11 pm ET/ 8 pm PT and some live coverage on weekends on VERSUS network.
The 2007 route is described below.
Prologue: San Francisco (Sunday, February 18)
At 1 pm, riders will kick off the 2007 Amgen Tour of California with a short, but intense prologue through the streets of San Francisco. Starting by the Ferry Building at Pier 1, the cyclists will ride 1.9-mile individual time trials along the Embarcardero, making the sharp left onto Bay Street and then up the tight, steep climb through Telegraph Hill to the finish at Coit Tower.
Stage 1: Sausalito to Santa Rosa (Monday, February 19)
Starting on the northern side of the San Francisco Bay, Stage 1 will cover almost 100 miles from Sausalito to Santa Rosa. The stage begins with a climb from Mill Valley up to Mt. Tamalpais State Park before turning toward Muir Beach. The route mirrors that of 2006 all the way to Valley Ford, but where the riders headed east to Santa Rosa, the 2007 route will continue north to Bodega Bay and turn onto Coleman Valley Road, a landmark climb in Northern California. Then, spectators can watch the stage win unfold as the field heads downhill from Occidental for three finishing circuit laps in downtown Santa Rosa.
Stage 2: Santa Rosa to Sacramento (Tuesday, February 20)
A scenic start through several Sonoma County wineries will quickly turn into one of the most significant climbs of the race as the peloton heads east en route to Sacramento. Twelve miles from the start, Trinity Road's vertical climbs and treacherous decent into the wineries of Napa Valley will make it one of the most difficult climbs of the entire race. Continuing east past Lake Berryessa, the peloton will head through Davis. With a quick turn to the north, the route will follow the Sacramento River to the well-known Tower Bridge and on to the Capitol Mall. The stage concludes with three circuits through downtown, finishing on the front step of California's Capitol Building, a good viewing location.
Stage 3: Stockton to San Jose (Wednesday, February 21)
After a neutral start with parade laps through Stockton's revitalized downtown area, the peloton will head west through California's farm lands. Then after passing through Tracy, the riders will encounter a climb new to this year's race, Patterson Pass. The route will pass through the city of Livermore and connect to the familiar roads of the last year's Stage 2 route on Calaveras Road. This long, constant grade leads to the most difficult climb of the race, the Category One Sierra Road climb in San Jose. After completing this KOM (King of the Mountain) competition, the peloton will finish the 94.6-mile course in front of San Jose City Hall.
Stage 4: Seaside to San Luis Obispo (Thursday, February 22)
The remarkable views of stage four will make it a favorite for riders and spectators alike. Beginning in Seaside with a short neutral lap and traveling along a similar route to last year's Stage 4, the peloton will head south on scenic Highway 1 where the mountains and redwood forests flank the Pacific Ocean. At more than 130 miles and with three KOMs, this is the longest stage of the race and will test the riders on consistently hilly and technical terrain. The six-hour day will take the riders through Big Sur and by Hearst Castle before shifting inland toward the finish at the intersection of Osos and Monterey in San Luis Obispo.
Stage 5: Solvang Individual Time Trial (Friday, February 23)
Known for hosting some of the ProTour teams for their training camps, Solvang is the site of Stage 5. At 14.5-miles, and with the start and finish located only two blocks apart, Stage 5 is spectator friendly. The route will highlight some of the most beautiful areas and towns of central California, winding through quaint towns, vineyards, farms, and one short, but steep climb. This year's time trial is shorter, flatter, and faster.
Stage 6: Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita (Saturday, February 24)
This could be the pivotal stage for the 2007 edition. One of the longest stages at 105 miles, it is heavy on climbs with four KOMs, two Sprints, and a demanding finishing circuit in Santa Clarita. With the individual time trial late in the tour, there could be several riders separated by just a few seconds. After a start in view of the Santa Barbara shoreline, this stage will be the last chance for a solid favorite to emerge before the circuit race finale in Long Beach. Once the peloton hits Highway 150, the racers will face two KOMs before passing Lake Casitas and riding into the scenic town of Ojai for the first Sprint of the day. The third KOM will be just a few miles outside Ojai, and then the course will head downhill into Santa Paula for the second Sprint of the day among fragrant citrus groves. The ominous Balcom Canyon will be the final climb of the day. Three circuits end the day in Santa Clarita with a finish at McBean Parkway at the Valencia Town Center.
Stage 7: Long Beach Circuit Race (Sunday, February 25)
Stage 7 is flat, fast, and will feature sprint action as the cyclists race in 10 laps around a circuit course in downtown Long Beach. The stage includes part of the famous Long Beach Grand Prix course used for CART race cars, meaning a legacy of roads that are wide and fast. Views of San Pedro Bay and the Pacific Ocean will be visible for the entire course, with a backdrop of the famed Queen Mary in the bay. Organizers expect a sprint finish finale.
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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews. She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.