It’s just over two weeks until the start of the second Amgen Tour of California Women’s Race empowered with SRAM, which is part of the inaugural UCI Women’s WorldTour. For lay people, that means the best women’s teams and most accomplished riders in the world will gather in the Golden State May 19-22 to put on a thrilling four-stage cycling spectacle not to be missed.
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.
It was a flat out drag race to the finish line atop Metcalf Road in San Jose during Stage 3 of the tenth Amgen Tour of California and it was neck and neck. Fan favorite Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and upstart Julian Alaphilippe (Ettix-Quick-Step) clashed for the runner-up spot after Hincapie Racing’s Toms Skujins rode off with the day’s top prize. Trading a series of jabs and body blows, Sagan, who has the record for stage wins at America’s Greatest Race, barely edged out the 22-year-old Frenchman riding for the first time in California. That mad dash to the finish presaged the ultimate result in the GC battle that would unfold in the shadow of the iconic Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Stage 8. One could argue that Sagan won the Amgen Tour that sunny Tuesday afternoon. Standing 50 meters past the line, I watched Alaphilippe take his left hand off his bars to pat the speedy Slovak on the back in an offer of congratulations. It was a classy sporting gesture of respect from the second-year pro who in his breakout season was the breakthrough rider of this year’s Amgen Tour of California.
There’s a reason why Toms Skujins, the new leader of the Amgen Tour of California after a spectacular solo assault on Mt. Hamilton propelled him to victory on Tuesday’s Stage 3 in San Jose, was cracking jokes and deftly delivering perfectly-timed one-liners to the media during the post-race press conference. The 23-year-old Latvian riding for Hincapie Racing learned to speak English watching the Cartoon Network. Skujins audacious attack on the above category mountain was no joke.
What a difference a day makes. Stage 2 of America’s Greatest Race, a 120.4-mile pedal from Nevada City to Lodi, culminated in another group gallop that saw the Amgen Tour of California yellow jersey leader Mark Cavendish (Ettix-Quick-Step) win in a photo finish over rival Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Drapac’s Wouter Wippert. Unfortunately there were some casualties out on course.