The Amgen Tour of California once again casts the state’s capital in a leading role. Stage 1 begins and ends in Sacramento, where the mighty American and Sacramento Rivers meet before heading west to San Francisco Bay. This will be the race’s 10th year here and each is more thrilling than the last. With an exciting Colombian finish to the 2018 AmgenTOC, 2019 will begin with almost the same route. Without any KOMs and virtually no elevation gain for the day, the finishing Capital Circuit of three loops is an infamously technical and fast one for the sprinters.
After starting in the shadow of the capitol building itself, the peloton begins their neutral start parading down the Capitol Mall past a mix of stately government office buildings and progressive commercial towers. It’s not long before they reach the Sacramento River and are making a portage across the historic Tower Bridge. Standing tall in a mustard yellow veil, the bridge serves as the gateway to downtown Sacramento and is one of the city’s most iconic features. When it opened in November 1935, it was as unique for its design as much as its appearance. The Art Deco Streamline Moderne style bridge accommodated an expanding population who flocked into downtown Sacramento by train, car, and on foot. Two towers hide the counterweights and mechanical equipment used to support the center vertical lift. This type of moveable bridge simply raised a portion of the roadway to let boat traffic pass below. This was the first vertical lift bridge in California and certainly the most beautiful. It is also guaranteed to make an excellent photographic backdrop when the peloton crosses the span - twice.
Once on the western bank of the Sacramento River, the peloton embarks on a tour of the northern Central Valley. Riders and spectators alike will be exposed to the flat expansive landscape that makes up this lush agricultural region. On the rural roads of Yolo County, the race rolls through Woodland before arriving at the edge of the beautiful Capay Hills where the fields of Cottonwood and Winters are set against a California-sun silhouette of these rolling hills. This is farm-to-table country. In fact, California’s agricultural production is both staggering and surprising. Only five miles outside Winters on Putah Creek Road is Bandolio Olive Oil, one of the region’s model growers. Starting as an almond-turned-olive orchard, Karen and Malcom Bond found a passion for fine Italian olive oil in 2002. After years of research and importing trees from southern Italy, the Bonds started producing a yield in 2009 and have been perfecting it ever since. With a goal of producing authentic southern Italian olive oil, Bondolio has become an award-winning staple in California. Make an appointment but be sure to stop by for a taste of Italy in Bondolio’s outdoor tasting room or to take a tour of this faithfully recreated and picturesque Italian orchard.
Back in Sacramento, the peloton finishes on three laps of the Capital Circuit. Along the way, they pass some of the city’s notable highlights, including some of its trendy neighborhoods. Heading north on 18th Street, the race gets intimate with the Midtown district. This is a more recent addition to the capitol’s list of hipster locales due to its proximity to downtown political and economic sectors. With Capitol Park on one end and Sutter’s Fort on the other, Midtown is a great place to venture out beyond the touristy spots for a glimpse of small-town local Sacramento. This one square mile neighborhood is known for its historic Victorian and Craftsmen homes as well as its boutique eateries, bookstores, and coffee shops. The Second Saturday Art Walk gets everyone stirring as a truly Midtown exhibition of the area’s walkable cultural scene and lifestyle. Try watching the race at the corner of 18th and L Streets from neighborhood eateries like Zocalo, 58 Degrees and Holding, or Old Soul Coffee before heading deeper into Midtown for more unique finds like Time Tested Books. Regardless of where you catch the action, Sacramento has never failed to furnish one of the most exciting race finishes on the World Tour calendar, so let’s see who delivers in 2019.