By Jesse Hammond
Last month's Amgen Tour of California wound its way from San Francisco to Long Beach. Attracting some of the top international cyclists -- including Ivan Basso, Jens Voigt and Michael Rasmussen -- the event covered 641 miles of scenic California highways and roads that passed through small towns and large cities.
But how does this course compare to the venerable roads traversed in European races? According to many, the race made quite the impression.
"California has way better roads, by far," said Dr. Allen Lim, sports physiologist for Team Slipstream. "This is some of the most exceptional terrain in cycling."
Jonathan Vaughters, former professional cyclist and current CEO/Directeur Sportif of Team Slipstream explained why, "The roads are wider and smoother here in California."
Referring to stage four's route along Highway 1, through Big Sur and finishing in San Luis Obispo, Justin England of the Toyota-United team had this to say, "Highway 1 was just spectacular. I was talking to a lot of European guys who said they really enjoyed it."
That sentiment was echoed by stage four winner and defending world champion, Italian Paolo Bettini of the Quick Step-Innergetic team, "The roads are all different, the landscape changes, but the riders and the competition are the same... Day by day, I am discovering California on this course and it is beautiful.
"Here in California the courses are good for me. They are difficult, but not too difficult... The fans here are incredible, just incredible," said Bettini.
But while European races sometimes ride over cobblestones, in California riders had to deal with a slightly different hazard, the raised reflectors designating lane lines -- known to cyclists as turtles.
"They can wreck havoc sometimes," said Lim. "But the guys know they're there. They are mainly bad in packs, where they can be dangerous."
On the whole, the future looks bright for the Tour of California. At the conclusion of the race, Frenchman Christophe Laurent of the Credit Agricole team remarked, "There were lots of people at the start and finish...and the encouragement was great. The races in Europe have to be envious. There isn't a race in Europe that is this well organized."
Visit the Active.com Cycling page to read more about the Tour of California.