The official route of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California is scheduled to be announced this week. We know the start and finish towns for each stage, those were announced this past summer. What we don't is the exact roads the race will take between those towns. Below is part fact, part speculation on the route. Read at your own risk.
Stage 1 - Sacramento. Well it was supposed to be stage 1, but instead of an out-and-back course up into the Sierra foothills east of Sacramento, it looks like the state's capitol will host a prologue time trial.
Stage 2(well, stage 1, but we're not going to go there again)- Davis to Santa Rosa. Exact route unknown. It is not that far as the crow flies between the two towns so there has to be some bobbing and weaving. Rumour has it that the major climbs will be Howell Mountain (2 miles of 9-10%) and Calistoga Road. Unfortunately, these climbs are not long enough to really affect the overall results especially with Howell Mountain coming mid-stage.
Stage 3 - Sausalito to Santa Cruz has the profile to shake up the general classification. No doubt the race will be neutralized over the Golden Gate Bridge and through San Francisco. When the race hits Hiway 1 it will make several detours on its way to Surf City. The first includes Tunitas Creek Road, a testing 2000-foot ascent, but its location at least 50-60 miles before the finish negates its impact. Once back on Hiway 1 at either San Gregorio or Pescadero, the final ascent, Bonny Doon/Pine Flat Road coming only 15 miles before the finish and the screaming descent down Empire Grade past UC Santa Cruz will definitely see a small 10-20 person group at the finish. Will Lance be one of them?
Stage 4 - San Jose to Modesto will most likely feature either Mount Hamilton or Sierra Road, but the over 50 miles of downhill and flats to the finish will neutralize any effect of either climb.
Stage 5 - Merced to Clovis should feature several trips up into the Sierra foothills. I am guessing that Tollhouse Grade just east of Fresno will be one of them, but again, there is enough flat or downhill into Clovis to take the sting out of any of the climbs.
Stage 6 - Visalia to Paso Robles. About the only thing notable about this predominately flat stage is that it passes right past the intersection where James Dean was killed in a traffic accident in 1955.
Stage 7 - Solvang to Solvang. As in every one of the three editions of the Amgen Tour of California, the race will be decided in the 15(or so) mile time trial.Be there or miss out on the decisive stage.
Stage 8 - Santa Clarita to Pasadena. This is a carbon copy of the final stage of the 2008 race. Again, the climbing comes too early to have an effect on the overall.
Stage 9 - Rancho Bernardo to Escondido. This is the final stage and is rumoured to include Palomar Mountain, a nice 4200' climb from Pauma Valley. Unfortunately, as in every other stage except stage 3, it is a long way from the top of Palomar to the finish and any advantage gained on the big climb will need a very, very motivated group of riders to keep it all the way to the finish.
So, there you have it. Fact and fiction. What's real and what's not?