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.
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).
Halfway through the tenth edition of the Amgen Tour of California, we arrive at the business end of the 724-mile, eight-day stage race. The next three stages will determine the overall winner with today’s Stage 5 from Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita not to be overlooked ahead of Friday’s individual time trial (forced to move from Big Bear Lake to Santa Clarita due to impending snow and frigid temperatures) and Saturday’s highly anticipated epic battle on Baldy.
Great news: Amgen Tour of California stage 5 winner Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) is back on the bike after sustaining two fractures to his lower left leg and injuring his knee on Memorial Day last month at the USA Cycling Professional Road Race Championship. But it’s only a stationary bike for now.
It was great to hear Taylor Phinney’s enthusiastic voice this morning on a media conference call from the Park City Medical Center in Park City, Utah where the U.S. National Time Trial Champion continues his recovery from the broken left tibula that he sustained Memorial Day during the Volkswagen USA Cycling Professional National Road Race Championship in Chattanooga, Tennessee.