Archive for category Tour of California

You’re sure to have seen this by now…

Host Cities for the 2012 Amgen Tour of California:

  • Stage 1: Sunday, May 13 – Santa Rosa
  • Stage 2: Monday, May 14 – San Francisco to Santa Cruz County
  • Stage 3: Tuesday, May 15 – San Jose to Livermore
  • Stage 4: Wednesday, May 16 – Sonora (new for 2012) to Clovis
  • Stage 5: Thursday, May 17 – Bakersfield (Individual Time Trial)
  • Stage 6: Friday, May 18 – Palmdale to Big Bear Lake
  • Stage 7: Saturday, May 19 – Ontario (new for 2012) to Mt. Baldy
  • Stage 8: Sunday, May 20 – Los Angeles/L.A. LIVE

Rather than complain about the lack of bike racing that will be happening in my neck of the woods, I guess I’m going to have to make plans for a road trip.

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Redesigned Grand Prix to return to Sacramento

Downtown Sacramento will host a new major criterium on September 10, bringing hundreds of top US cyclists back to the city for the final weekend of the national racing season. The Sacramento Grand Prix adopts the model set in 2010, a street-race that ushered in the prologue of the Amgen Tour of California.

The reborn Grand Prix criterium has been moved to a new slot in the racing calendar, occupying the weekend before the cycling industry’s biggest convention, Interbike, in Las Vegas, NV. Race organizers Project Sport hope the Grand Prix will come to be regarded as a memorable and important closing competition on the US racing schedule each year. Sacramento’s proximity to Las Vegas will make the race attractive to riders committed to attending Interbike.

The projected course will take 500 riders in six fields around a tight one-mile route around the capitol. The riders will complete 50 laps in total, creating a major visual attraction for the estimated 10,000 assembled spectators. Competitors are expected to range in ability from recognizable pro-tour household names down to first-time amateur racers. There will also be an over-35 field, and a law-enforcement category.

Grand Prix organizers conceived the event in response to the huge public support and turnout for the Amgen Tour of California over the last few years. Sacramento is frequently selected as a host for one of the stages of the ToC, but in the event that the city is passed-over in future years, the Grand Prix will provide local cycling fans with a major, all-day event which organizers and city officials hope will replace revenues normally filled by the Tour of California.

The criterium course begins and ends on L Street, opposite the Capitol. From there, riders travel west, then turn down 10th St, onto N St, then up 15th St before turning back onto L Street. The route encapsulates the whole of Capitol Park, providing plenty of opportunity for spectators and vendors to find a space on the inside or the outside of the course. A $10,000 prize is on offer, making the Sacramento Grand Prix one of the richest purses on the US Cycling schedule.

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Successful Bike Month despite poor weather

Sacramento is not the only US city to organize cycling promotions during the month of May, but the local May Is Bike Month initiative has become one of the most successful and widely-observed city programs in the nation since its inception. Thousands of cyclists participate and attend cycling-themed celebrations and events throughout the month, often logging their accumulated mileage on the website.

This year, May Is Bike Month coincided with the return of Bicycle Film Festival to Sacramento, as well as two local stages of the Amgen Tour of California. On the 12th May, the cycling art and culture showcase came to downtown, bringing a selection of films and events. Then, on the 16th, the second official stage (but the first actual race) of the tour finished in Sacramento after a last-minute change to the start. The following day, the peloton rode through Folsom on its way to Modesto.

The success of this year’s May Is Bike Month can be measured in terms of distance traveled. The website – which encourages riders to sign up and log their accumulated miles for the month – this year set a target of 1,000,000 miles before pledges came in which took the total target to 1,474,970. As of 10am Tuesday morning, with fourteen hours to go, the total accumulated miles for May stood at 1,245,229. Many riders may not have visited the website in order to input their personal mileage, so despite the shortfall, the target could easily still be reached. Logging remains open until Friday, June 3rd.

6,717 cyclists from the Sacramento area participated in the website mile-log, with several individuals racking up over 2,000 miles each – around 65 miles everyday – an impressive achievement when you consider the weather, which has brought some of the wettest and coolest conditions on record for the month.

The biggest upset caused by the inclement weather was the last-minute cancellation of the first stage of the Tour of California due to snowfall and freezing temperatures in Lake Tahoe. The poor weather followed the pro cyclists for several days before a brief period of high pressure brought back the usual California conditions. Since then, the Sacramento area has suffered further storms, heavy rain and wind. Forecasts predict clouds and rain showers well into June, before the long-awaited return of sunny, 80F days.

This year’s May Is Bike Month appears to continue the happy trend for more cycling-related events in Sacramento over the previous year. As greater numbers of locals reach for their bike instead of their car-keys, the region grows more healthy and more bike-friendly: a win-win situation.

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On ATOC, weather, old friends we met for the first time and beer before noon

The story of the Amgen Tour of California is, if you were to listen to real sports writers paid to cover things like the Amgen Tour of California, a story about weather. By now, anyone reading this blog knows about the cancelled Stage 1 and truncated Stage 2. You’ve read stories about snow and rain – perhaps you’ve even stood outside in the rain just to catch the glimpse of the pro-peloton rolling through your neighborhood.

But since I’m a cycling fan first and a member of the press second (or third or fourth, even), I’ll say something a bit different about this race that I’ve heard several people called cursed – by now you, no doubt, know all about the weather woes of previous editions of this race. Because I’m a cycling fan first, I’m going to talk about cycling fans.

I’ve been at the finishing circuit every year they ATOC has circled the Capitol. I’ve sat in the rain drinking beers outside Crepeville, sipped Fat Tire from a can at the Amgen VIP booth, shot photos from the corner of 18th and L – opposite Crepeville – and I’ve leaned over orange barricades 75 meters from the finish. I’m not the only one.

The crowds do fluctuate. Rain tends to keep those who work downtown from running outside to watch the finish before they clock out for the day. Lance Armstrong tends to attract casual fans more interested in cycling’s pop star than anything else. Even as I walked around I heard more than a few people coming out of their offices to find the roads closed and musing about what it is that must be happening.

But then there’s the rest of us. With our tablets, smart-phones and laptops streaming the race at is approaches. Walking around the Lifestyle Fair just so we can drool over the latest bicycles from the big manufacturers. We care about the results – even if we have no idea what’s going on until the Peloton roars by at 40 miles per hour. We care about the excitement of the roar of 150 or so of the fastest cyclists in the world blowing past in an all out sprint. We don’t care about the rain, mostly.

Fewer people showed up to the finish this year, I’m sure. But it was still crowded. People still lined up at the barricades three or four deep. Because we love cycling. We love the bike. We love it February. We love it in May. We love it in the snow. We love it in the rain.

So yes, on Monday, with rain threatening, I took my press pass downtown and drooled over bikes and ran up and took a couple of photos of Ben Swift after his victory and went to the press conference and had a beer with Sam, all because I love cycling. Not so much because I love professional cycling but because I just like cycling.

And then, on Tuesday, I did it again. Only this time with on my bike, with guaranteed rain, to the sprint point in Folsom. Kurt and I rode out early, scoped out the route and more or less just milled around and grabbed a good spot near the sprint point. We stood around in the rain. We took pictures. We met friends. And we weren’t the only ones.

But why?

At Monday’s press conference Andrew Messick, President of AEG Sports, talked about the timeline around moving the Stage 2 start from Squaw Valley USA to Nevada City. It was sometime after midnight, he said, that he first contacted the Nevada City race committee and told them about the change. By 6:30 that morning Nevada City was ready to host the start of Stage 2. With almost no notice, cycling fans turned up at the start and saw the riders off, kicking off the Tour of California in style.

Several years ago now, I accompanied my wife to her company holiday party and I met Sam. The British spouse of my wife’s co-worker who had a funny last name and, like me, was just starting to ride his bike. Eventually, we started riding together and now I count Sam as one of my best friends; because of the relationship we built on the bike.

A co-worker and I started talking about cycling one day. He was a mountain biker. I was a roadie. We conjured up an idea for a blog about cycling and just ran with it.

A handful of cyclists interact with me or this blog on Twitter. Yesterday, I met one of those people, in person, for the first time. It was a blast and, at least I think, we hit it off as fast friends. I was even there when she drank a beer before noon for the first time, ever. And while that was happening, thousands of people lined up on the side of the road to catch a glimpse of elite professional cyclists ride past, in a matter of seconds.

But do we love cycling because of the people? Or do we love the people because they love cycling?

Does it even matter?

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Peloton

This is pretty much exactly how it felt when the riders came down L street as they circled the Capitol.

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Ben Swift after ATOC Stage 2 Victory

Completely unedited video of Ben Swift at the press conference after his Stage 2 (or is it 1?) victory at the Amgen Tour of California (you really have to crank up the audio to hear, sorry).

I’ll post a couple of photos tonight or tomorrow with a full write-up of my ATOC adventures after Stage 3 (or is it 2?), tomorrow.

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Dear ATOC…


I snapped this after the awards ceremony. Didn’t have time to chat, but I think it’s pretty self explanatory.

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City of Folsom plans ToC “viewing event”

The small, historic town of Folsom, east of Sacramento, will host a “viewing party” along Sutter Street on May 17th. Spectators will congregate to watch Stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California, which starts in Auburn and ends in Modesto.

The racers will enter Folsom and cross the local landmark Rainbow Bridge around 10.45am before continuing south through Rancho Cordova and on to Modesto. The intersection of Sutter and Riley in Old Folsom – a short, steep climb for the cyclists – marks the first unofficial “sprint point”, according to Robert Goss, director of Folsom Parks and Recreation. This section has been dubbed “The Folsom Prison Breakaway Sprint”.

From Sutter Street, the riders will proceed to Blue Ravine, Prairie City and White Rock Road – all of which are familiar routes for Sacramento area cyclists.

Local businesses and the Folsom Tourism Bureau have offered a $1,000 cash prize for the first cyclist to reach the “sprint point”.

Festivities on the morning of the event, which begins at 9.30am, include a DJ, street vendors, and a prize draw for a customized bicycle donated by popular local bike shop Bicycles Plus. The event is expected to wrap up around 11.30am.

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