The Amgen Tour of California Women's Race empowered with SRAM takes to the high mountains once again for Stage 2. This stage produced an epic result in 2017 and will surely live up to expectations in 2018. The 70-mile stage features three QOMs, including the 7,740' summit of Luther Pass and the now legendary Kingsbury Grade. This monster of a climb is 8 miles in length, gains 2,600 feet, and rises an average of 6%. The "Grade" had never been attempted in any previous Amgen Tour of California until last year, when the women demolished it. It was so epic that we had to include it again. Let's see what the rest of this tantalizing route has to offer.
From the start in South Lake Tahoe on Pioneer Road, the peloton heads further south to meet-up with Highway 89. Not even ten miles from the start, the riders come to the base of Luther Pass. It's a great place to see the race as well as dip one's toes into the scenic wonders that South Tahoe has to offer. It's impossible to visit Tahoe and not explore its expansive menu of hikes that take you further and further off the beaten path into unspoiled California. Here at the base of Luther Pass are several trail options for all ability levels. The closest and easiest is a lightly undulating five-mile roundtrip portion of the Pacific Crest Trail that starts at Echo Chalet and hugs the north side of Upper and Lower Echo Lake. These glacial bodies of water are cratered between the stony monoliths of Talking Mountain and Echo Peak to form a blissful scene in summer or winter. From the far end of Upper Echo Lake are a web of additional trails that continue further into the Desolation Wilderness. If so inclined, take the path up to Echo Peak. For another alternative, canoe Echo Lakes and then hike to any number of other glacial bodies, like Lake of the Woods or Lake Aloha.
At the descent of the Luther Pass climb, the peloton makes a slight detour to embark on a short loop in Diamond Valley. At over 5,600 feet in elevation, the tiny community of Woodfords served as a reliable outpost along the trail to California as early as 1847. Only two years later, there were enough residents to warrant a post office, operated by none other than Daniel Woodford. Heading west, the town was the end of a relatively easy fifteen miles in the high mountains and the final resting point before climbing Luther Pass. It was for this reason that the inaugural route of the Pony Express passed through Woodfords and established a remount station before making the final push over the Sierras. Today, a close-knit community of 150 residents keeps the fires lit. Calm and quiet, Woodfords still makes a great place from which to explore the Sierra backcountry.
After the second QOM at 7,400 foot Kingsbury Grade, the descent back to South Lake Tahoe is both short and harrowing. On the positive side, it rewards riders and spectators with breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding peaks. At the base is chaotic Stateline, where the Heavenly Gondola meets a social scene unlike anywhere in North America. The peloton, however, continues for another two miles to the final QOM, a finish at Heavenly Mountain's California Lodge. Heavenly is a legend in the lore of skiers who have images of Glen Plake's epic mohawk bombing down the Gunbarrel etched in their minds. Perhaps few think of it as a summer playground as well. Taking the Gondola to the top, Heavenly offers ziplining, hiking, and world class mountain biking, all with blue Lake Tahoe as the backdrop. Vail Resorts has even been proposing a giant bike park to augment the existing trails. So if you're looking for another type of exhilaration on two wheels, Heavenly once again highlights the fact that South Lake Tahoe has something for everyone.