Stage 3: San Francisco - Santa Cruz
The third stage from San Francisco to Santa Cruz will 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.
Departing from Ocean Beach in San Francisco rather than imposing a traffic jam of biblical proportions on the city by crossing the Golden Gate bridge as the route did last year, the race heads due South to take in the almost obligatory stint on the Pacific Coast Highway. Following the same route as last year, 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 the road for a flatter route to the coast, the route turns onto Pescadero Road to take in two climbs before dropping back to sea level on highway 1.
But the fun isn't over, because after nearly 150km of racing there is still one more major climb, the Bonny Doon Road climb which Levi Leipheimer used to catapult himself into the overall lead last year.
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.
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