The 2016 Tour of California was arguably the best edition of the 11-year-old race yet, with more WorldTour teams than ever before and courses that rivalled other week-long stage races that top the international calendar.
The race hit many of the state’s iconic sites as it travelled from the start at the southern tip of the state in San Diego to Sacramento, the state Capitol in Northern California.
The racing was aggressive, decisive and entertaining, and Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) proved himself a worthy winner after taking the lead during the queen stage to Gibraltar road outside Santa Barbara, and then fending off all challengers through the rest of the week.
But covering the length of the state, nearly 800 miles, in just eight days, required a lot of driving in between stages for teams and the large army of support staff that make the race happen.
Those between-stage transfers were a big topic of discussion throughout the week, causing some riders to complain on social media and spawning a new nickname for the race: The Tour de Transfers.
Tinkoff's Peter Sagan, who as the record holder for stage wins in the race has earned the nickname The King of California, addressed the issue at the post-race press conference.
"I'm very happy," Sagan said when asked what he thought of this year's race. "It was a good Tour of California for me. I won two stages, and I won the green jersey."
"I've done seven years in a row at the Tour of California, but it was never a lot of transfers like this year," he continued. "I think it would be better to change for the future. It was good, organisation was good, but sometimes we got to the hotel very late for the dinner and massage and everything. We were just all day on the bus."
Rally Cycling's Evan Huffman sitting next to Sagan on the dais as the race's King of the Mountains winner, agreed.
"I definitely agree with Peter that it was a little bit heavy on the transfers this week," he said. "But the actual route and the racing, I really enjoyed. I thought it was more challenging than last year, which is good for me and my team. So overall we're pretty happy."
Kristin Klein, a senior vice president at race owner AEG and the president of the Tour of California, told Cyclingnews the size of California made the long days in the car necessary.
"It's a bike race," she said when Cyclingnews asked about the transfers. "You travelled close to 800 miles from San Diego to Sacramento. It is the most competitive course to date. It's tough when you have to travel basically across the state of California.
"We take everything into consideration," she said. "The great thing is that we have such great relationships with the riders and the teams, and we have on-going communications with them. It's very helpful every year to get feedback on every aspect of the race."
For the first 10 years of the race, US events management company Medalist Sports served as the race's technical directors. But following last year's race, AEG decided to move away from Medalist and brought in the ASO, the company that owns the Tour de France, to organise the event. ASO had previously partnered with AEG to handle TV coverage and international distribution of the race, but this year the Frenc company handled almost every aspect of the organisation.
Klein said she was pleased with the new arrangement and how it worked this year.
"ASO has been our partner for eight years now," she said. "They've been a phenomenal partner of ours, handling the international distribution and the television production, and of course elevating their overall involvement in the managing the race operation. So it's been a great year. Definitely out best edition yet."
Sharing the dais with Sagan and Huffman after winning the final stage, Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) backed Klein.
"I've been coming to the Tour of California many years, and there's a reason all the top riders in the world come over to America to race here," he said. "It's always been a great race. Kristin and AEG always put on a tremendous show as well as a great race, a relaxed race to come to. I know that they'll always take on board the comments that are raised here, which is brilliant. I think that's why people will always continue to come here."
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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.
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