On May 15, we launch the second decade of the Amgen Tour of California by racing 106 miles through the city that was the birthplace of the Golden State. The fact that America’s Greatest Race will be visiting San Diego for the very first time attests to the vastness of California itself, but we’re finally going to showcase the state’s second largest city by starting the overall race there, which is also where the first stage will finish.
Last year’s inaugural Amgen Tour of California Women’s Race empowered by SRAM was a sensational success showcasing a peloton filled with the world’s fastest female cyclists competing in a three-day stage race followed by an invitational time trial event. The ante is being upped in a big way in 2016 as the Amgen Tour of California Women’s Race empowered by SRAM, taking place May 19-22, is part of the inaugural UCI Women’s WorldTour and will include the first ever women’s team time trial as Stage 2 of America’s Greatest Race.
This week, we finally got a look at the challenging route for the 2016 Amgen Tour of California, which was revealed at a media event presented by Visit California. From top to bottom – actually that should be from bottom to top since for only the second time ever, the race will travel south to north – the courses for the May 15-22 event will showcase California’s breathtaking beauty while taking the breath of the world’s most accomplished cyclists in a stage race that could be described as long and tall. The route for the eleventh edition of America’s Greatest Race is one of the longest in race history at nearly 800 miles and one of the tallest with almost 65,000 feet of climbing.
Last month’s inaugural Amgen Tour of California Women’s Stage Race was a thrilling showcase for an international field comprised of world and national champions and Olympians. With the yellow jersey changing hands after all three days and the overall winner determined during the final stage through the aid of time bonuses, it was an edge-of-your-seat showdown set in South Lake Tahoe (first two stages) and Sacramento (Stage 3). Amongst the enthusiastic crowds lining the challenging courses was Melanie McMullen, contest winner of a VIP trip to attend the women’s race. Having attended the men’s race virtually every year, McMullen, a 54-year-old tech media communications business owner pictured left with spouse Hanna Hurley in the photo, was eager to support the women’s pro peloton and enjoyed the VIP experience.
What an extraordinary week it was, the tenth edition of the Amgen Tour of California. Like the inaugural Amgen Tour of California Women’s Race empowered by SRAM won by pint-sized Trixi Worrack (Velocio-SRAM), the yellow jersey changed hands on the final day with the aid of time bonuses in a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat sprint showdown that crowned Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) the new King of California by a scant three-second margin over 22-year-old French phenom Julian Alaphilippe (Ettix-Quick-Step).
Planning for each Amgen Tour of California stage starts almost a full year in advance, sometimes even longer. It’s mindboggling when you consider the avalanche of logistics and bureaucratic red tape involved with permitting, city planning requirements, local organizing committee considerations, sponsorship arrangements, police and security; staffing and housing issues; UCI approval to protect the athletes and so much more that is involved with ensuring a safe event for the riders, staff and spectators alike. Everything is planned, itemized and scheduled down to the minutest detail. However, the one variable that cannot be planned or controlled is the weather. What’s a race organizer to do when Mother Nature forces them to slam on the brakes and pedal fast in an entirely different direction? Act decisively in order to preserve the safety and security of everyone involved and that is exactly what the Amgen Tour of California organizers – AEG Sports and Medalist Sports - did this week when faced with that exact scenario, which ultimately resulted in the relocation of Friday’s Stage 6 men’s and women’s individual time trial from Big Bear Lake to Santa Clarita at Six Flags Magic Mountain.