From Stockton to Morgan Hill, Stage 3 of the 2019 Amgen Tour of California cements a connection between two of the race’s most recent favorite host cities. The last time that the peloton headed west from Stockton, however, was way back in 2007 when fan favorite Jens Voight arrived ahead of American Levi Leipheimer to win the stage. At 126-miles, this year’s route is quite a bit longer than a decade ago and includes more climbing – nearly 10,000 feet. A notable addition to the 2019 route is the KOM atop Mt. Hamilton (4,265 feet) before a quick descent to the finish.
From the stage start at Stockton Arena, the peloton skirts Stockton Marina before crossing the San Joaquin River and into the heart of the sophisticated California Delta. South and west the peloton meanders until following the Old River to the small community of Mountain House. Just to the south, the riders will see the Altamont Pass Windfarm Substation, an indication of what’s ahead. Barreling along Patterson Pass road, the landscape is bare and dry, allowing the winds to howl across the rolling hills. It’s not just the wind that the peloton will contend with, but the elevation climb averaging 5% over the next five miles to the top of the pass.
The descent takes us into Livermore and the famed Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, or LLNL. In the 1950s, Cal Berkeley founded this lab to spark competition with the Manhattan Project’s Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico. Today it is a one square mile federally-funded research campus that focuses on energy development, primarily through nuclear science. The likes of the National Ignition Facility, for example, will literally blow your socks off. If all this is way over your head, don’t worry, visit the lab’s Discovery Center. Here, interactive exhibits showoff the groundbreaking research tools, and capabilities of the lab, ideally suited for fifth graders and up. If a more relaxed science is your thing, head down to Tesla Road where the science of fermentation will spark your taste buds. There, a myriad of tasting rooms display the wonders of the Livermore Valley AVA - wineries like Darcie Kent Vineyards or Wente.
Turning off Tesla Road, the peloton ventures south onto Mines Road for what will be a thirty-nine mile gradual climb into the Diablo Range and past the Lake Del Valle State Recreation Area (SRA). At the base of Mt. Hamilton, the road goes up an average of 11% over 3.5 miles. With the clouds coming in from the Santa Clara Valley, the ride to the top is grueling and surreal. Yet when the road finally crests, the dome of Lick Observatory comes into view. The giant dome of the observatory has topped Mt. Hamilton since 1888, when James Lick gave $700,000 to the University of California to establish the world’s first permanently occupied mountaintop observatory. Inside the large South Dome is the 36-inch 1888 Great Lick Telescope, still the third largest refracting telescope in the world. The Lick Observatory campus has grown to include nine telescopes, which have resulted in some spectacular finds in our universe, including six of Jupiter’s moons. Stop by for one of the observatory’s phenomenal tours or nighttime events.
From the Observatory, the steep descent into the outskirts of San Jose and into the Santa Clara Valley is a moment when a breakaway may be able to withstand the final twenty miles to the finish in Morgan Hill. In 2019, the road into Morgan Hill will differ from the time trial finish of one year ago. Yet with the gorgeous Santa Cruz Mountains climbing to the west, it is no less beautiful. Just before reaching downtown the race turns into Morgan Hill’s thriving commercial core, where southern Silicon Valley has its home. But Morgan Hill’s historic Monterey Street should not be overlooked. Its jewel is the stately Villa Mira Monte, an 1884 southern Victorian house that is an iconic representation of the community’s identity. Built by Morgan Hill and his wife as a summer retreat, the villa became the community’s central attraction. The Morgan Hill Historical Society keeps this landmark open to the public and features rotating exhibits that tell the story of Morgan Hill – the person and place.