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The teams and the key route details have been confirmed for next month's Tour of California (February 19-26). The 16 teams are split evenly between ProTour outfits and squads that ride mostly on the US domestic circuit.
The eight ProTour teams that have confirmed their participation are CSC, Discovery Channel, Phonak, Gerolsteiner, Davitamon-Lotto, Saunier Duval, Crdit Agricole and T-Mobile. The domestic teams taking part are: Health Net, Navigators, Colavita, United Pro Cycling Team, Team TIAA-CREF, Kodakgallery.com, Jelly Belly and the KB Home Mexican national team.
"The level of competition coming to the inaugural Tour is unprecedented in the United States and rivals any race that was held worldwide last year," said Bob Colarossi, managing director of race organisers AEG Cycling. "We have invited the best teams that the world has to offer to compete on an outstanding course. We are particularly thrilled that so many Californians will have the opportunity to line the race course and experience first-hand the thrill of cycling at this level."
"The Amgen Tour of California is an event that attracts our style of racing, we like to ride aggressively and show some spectacular cycling," said CSC team manager Bjarne Riis. "The organisers have put together a really challenging route that suits the riders we will bring. Naturally, we have very high ambitions for this race, we have always enjoyed racing in the States and we look forward to a great week in California in February."
Of the teams competing in the 2006 event, three (Discovery Channel, CSC and Health Net) will be holding their pre-season training camps in Solvang, California. Many of the Santa Barbara county roads that these teams use in their training will be part of the official 2006 race route, including the category one ascent of San Marcos Pass.
The 600-mile, eight-day race runs from San Francisco to Redondo Beach as follows:
Prologue: Sunday, Feb. 19
From 11am, riders will take part in a short, intense prologue through the streets of San Francisco. Starting by the Ferry Building at Pier 1, the 1.9-mile course will run along the Embarcardero, until making the sharp left onto Bay Street that will bring the riders up the tight and steep climb through Telegraph Hill to the finish at Coit Tower.
Stage One: Monday, Feb. 20
With the start on the Marin side of the San Francisco Bay, stage one will cover roughly 84 miles from Sausalito to Santa Rosa. On its way up Highway 1, the course will run through the Marin Headlands, flanked on both sides by national parkland, before leaving the Point Reyes National Seashore for the race's first sprint competition line in Point Reyes. After crossing into Sonoma, spectators can watch the race for the stage win unfold as the field completes three laps of a technical finishing circuit in downtown Santa Rosa.
Stage Two: Tuesday, Feb. 21
The race will next turn south toward two decisive days in San Jose. After neutral parade laps in the start city of Martinez, the stage is a hilly ride through the East Bay that will bring the race over its first significant climb. Coming 22 miles before the finish line in downtown San Jose, the Sierra Road climb east of the city centre will be the first Category One ascent in the King of the Mountains competition.
Stage Three: Wednesday, Feb. 22
A 17-mile Individual Time Trial on the outskirts of San Jose will test the cyclists on an undulating course along the Chesbro and Calero Reservoirs.
Stage Four: Thursday, Feb. 23
The "Queen Stage" of this year's race begins in Monterey and follows scenic Highway 1 where the mountains run into the Pacific Ocean. At 130 miles, this is the longest stage of the 2006 race and will test the riders on consistently hilly and technical terrain. The six-hour day will see the athletes go through the community of Big Sur and by Hearst Castle before shifting inland toward the finish in San Luis Obispo.
Stage Five: Friday, Feb. 24
Starting in Mission Plaza in San Luis Obispo, Stage Five to Santa Barbara will follow the central coast until the sprint city of Guadalupe, where the field will leave the flatlands and head east to the Santa Ynez Mountains via the Solvang area. The riders will then face the four-mile Category One climb to San Marcos Pass before descending to a beachfront finish in Santa Barbara.
Stage Six: Saturday, Feb. 25
This shorter stage with a hilly profile from Santa Barbara to Thousand Oaks features four KOM climbs in the 80 miles that precede three laps of a three-mile circuit in Thousand Oaks that will cover the stage's final 10 miles before finishing at title sponsor Amgen's corporate campus.
Stage Seven: Saturday, Feb. 26
The race will culminate with a circuit race in Redondo Beach. The stage will be active as the riders compete on 10 laps of a 7.65-mile circuit along the Redondo Beach Esplanade and through an intermediate sprint line in Riviera Village before returning to the start/finish line on Harbor Street.
For complete Google course maps and elevation profiles for each stage, please visit www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.
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