Tour of California details announced

Next year's Tour of California will be the USA's first major race of the season. In the hope of gett

Next year's Tour of California will be the USA's first major race of the season. In the hope of gett
IMAGE BY TOUR OF CALIFORNIA The full route and course details of next year's Amgen Tour of California have been announced. The race takes place between February 18-25 over a challenging 650 mile (1040 km) course, starting in San Francisco and finishing in Long Beach. "California's varied landscape makes for challenging geographical features, and we designed the 2007 route to include some the most picturesque and demanding terrain in the state," said Shawn Hunter, president of race promoters AEG Sports. "The striking scenery resulting in a truly challenging level of difficulty along the route will ensure an exciting race for riders and spectators alike." The race will be televised on the VERSUS (formerly OLN) channel with a recap at 8:00pm PT/11:00pm ET nightly. The channel will show some live action on the weekends. Full stage details Prologue: San Francisco (Sunday, Feb. 18), 1.9 miles At 1 p.m., riders will kick off the 2007 Amgen Tour of California with a short, but intense prologue through the streets of San Francisco. Starting by the Ferry Building at Pier 1, the cyclists will ride 1.9-mile individual time trials along the Embarcardero, making the sharp left onto Bay Street and then up the tight, steep climb through Telegraph Hill to the finish at Coit Tower. Stage 1: Sausalito to Santa Rosa (Monday, Feb. 19), 96.8 miles Starting on the northern side of the San Francisco Bay, Stage 1 will cover almost 100 miles from Sausalito to Santa Rosa. The stage begins with a climb from Mill Valley up to Mt. Tamalpais State Park before turning toward Muir Beach. The route mirrors that of 2006 all the way to Valley Ford, but where the riders headed east to Santa Rosa, the 2007 route will continue north to Bodega Bay and turn onto Coleman Valley Road, a landmark climb in Northern California. Then, spectators can watch the stage win unfold as the field heads downhill from Occidental for three finishing circuit laps in downtown Santa Rosa. In 2006, Santa Rosa set the mark for one of the most enthusiastic and largest crowds of the entire Amgen Tour of California. Stage 2: Santa Rosa to Sacramento (Tuesday, Feb. 20), 116.3 miles A scenic start through several Sonoma County wineries will quickly turn into one of the most significant climbs of the race as the peloton heads east en route to Sacramento. Twelve miles from the start, Trinity Road's vertical climbs and treacherous descent into the wineries of Napa Valley will make it one of the most difficult climbs of the entire race. Continuing east past Lake Berryessa, the peloton will head through Davis. With a quick turn to the north, the route will follow the Sacramento River to the well-known Tower Bridge and on to the Capitol Mall. The stage concludes with three circuits through downtown, finishing on the front step of California's Capitol Building. Stage 3: Stockton to San Jose (Wednesday, Feb. 21), 94.6 miles After a neutral start with parade laps through Stockton's revitalized downtown area, the peloton will head west through California's farm lands. After passing through Tracy, the riders will encounter a climb new to this year's race, Patterson Pass. After passing through the city of Livermore, The route then connects to the familiar roads of the 2006 Stage 2 route on Calaveras Road. This long, constant grade leads to the most difficult climb of the race, the Category One Sierra Road climb in San Jose. After completing this King of the Mountain competition, the peloton will finish the 94.6-mile course in front of San Jose City Hall. Stage 4: Seaside to San Luis Obispo (Thursday, Feb. 22), 133.7 miles The remarkable views of stage four will make it a favourite for riders and spectators alike. Beginning in Seaside with a short neutral lap and travelling along a similar route to last year's Stage 4, the peloton will head south on scenic Highway 1 where the mountains and redwood forests flank the Pacific Ocean. At more than 130 miles and with three KOMs, this is the longest stage of the race and will test the riders on consistently hilly and technical terrain. The six-hour day will take the riders through Big Sur and by Hearst Castle before shifting inland toward the finish at the intersection of Osos and Monterey in San Luis Obispo. Stage 5: Solvang Individual Time Trial (Friday, Feb. 23), 14.5 miles The quaint Danish village of Solvang hosts some of the ProTour teams for training camps as well as some of the largest cycling events in the U.S. At only 14.5-miles, and with the start and finish located only two blocks apart, Stage 5 is an ideal location for spectators to view the race. The route will highlight some of the most beautiful areas and towns of Central California, winding through quaint towns, vineyards, farms, and one short but steep climb. This year's shorter, flatter and faster time trial will create a challenging test for the riders. Stage 6: Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita (Saturday, Feb. 24), 105 miles This could be the pivotal stage for the 2007 Amgen Tour of California. This is one of the longest stages at 105 miles, and it is heavy on climbs with four KOMs, two Sprints and a demanding finishing circuit in Santa Clarita. With the individual time trial late in the tour, there could be several riders separated by just a few seconds. After a start in view of the Santa Barbara shoreline, this stage will be the last chance for a solid favourite to emerge before the circuit race finale in Long Beach. Once the peloton hits Highway 150, the racers will face two KOMs before passing Lake Casitas and riding into the scenic town of Ojai for the first Sprint of the day. The third KOM will be just a few miles outside Ojai, and then the course will head downhill into Santa Paula for the second Sprint of the day among fragrant citrus groves. The ominous Balcom Canyon will be the final climb of the day, where in 2006, nearly 10,000 fans formed a narrow corridor for the riders. The cyclists will end the day with three circuits in Santa Clarita that finish at McBean Parkway at the Valencia Town Center. Stage 7: Long Beach Circuit Race (Sunday, Feb. 25), 77.5 miles Stage 7 is flat, fast, and will be another favourite with spectators. It features a lot of sprint action as the riders race 10 laps around a circuit course in downtown Long Beach. The stage includes part of the famous Long Beach Grand Prix course used for CART race cars, meaning a legacy of roads that are wide and fast. Views of San Pedro Bay and the Pacific Ocean will be visible for the entire course, with a backdrop of the famed Queen Mary in the bay. More information: www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.

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