Amgen Tour of California to hit Squaw Valley, Mt. Baldy in May
The Amgen Tour of California cycling race will have a visually spectacular mountaintop finish on the second-to-last stage of the 2011 race at Mt. Baldy and will start at high altitude with a trip around Lake Tahoe in the first stage. The route for the May 15-22 stage race, America's largest stage race, was announced Thursday.
After moving the time trial last year for the first time out of Solvang and to downtown Los Angeles, organizers put the time trial back in Solvang but the route, said race director Andrew Messick, will be longer and harder than in 2009. The Claremont to Mt. Baldy stage May 21 will have riders climbing to 6,500 feet. Messick said that because Mt. Baldy is so close to Los Angeles he hopes crowds will be big and make the stage resemble the classic L'Alpe d'Huez climb that is always one of the most memorable stages of the Tour de France.
This will be the sixth year of the race and for the first time there won't be a stage finish in Santa Rosa, which has been plagued by rain. It is also the hometown of three-time champion Levi Leipheimer. But it has been Leipheimer who has lobbied for a mountaintop finish and the Claremont-Mt. Baldy stage is what he had been looking for. Leipheimer had his three-year winning streak ended last year by Michael Rogers of the HTC-Highroad team.
The fifth stage from Seaside to Paso Robles will offer the most dramatic scenery with part of the route along the Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur and including a climb over the coastal mountain range.
Messick said that the drumbeat of bad doping news recently -- an ongoing grand jury investigation into doping allegations that have peppered the career of seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong and a failed drug test by 2010 Tour de France champion Alberto Contador -- has not hampered the growth of the Tour of California. Messick said no host cities indicated hesitancies about being part of the race and that no sponsorships have been lost.
-- Diane Pucin
Photo: With Big Bear Lake in the background, racers crest an incline on the North Shore in Fawnskin during Stage 6 of the Tour of California. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times.