Ontario — Mount Baldy (78.3 miles/126 km)
Saturday, May 19
Start: 12:00 p.m. Pacific
Earliest Estimated Finish: 3:17 p.m. Pacific
Mount Baldy’s storied final 15 switchbacks are all it should take to decide the winner of the 2012 Amgen Tour of California. When the route was announced, it was clear this day was intended to sort out the podium in Los Angeles a day later. Before the field makes it to the final climb of the day up Baldy, there’s a 13-mile ascent to the village of Baldy, and then a four-mile jaunt up Glendora Ridge Road, the first of three massive KOM sections.
The queen stage of this year’s race sees the field climb the legendary Mount Baldy, a monster of a mountain, with sections so steep that some race vehicles have difficulty climbing them.
“Hell,” is how Sutherland described Baldy’s heights. “Right at the end of the tour everyone’s starting to get more tired, losing the snap in the legs,” Sutherland said. “The last drag up of the last kilometer, I want to say it’s 15 or 16 percent.
“It’s a very selective finale.”
Last year, the Baldy climb saw Busche tapping out a tempo that decimated the main field and launched Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner, the eventual champion. He’s hoping to do the same for his captain, Horner, this year.
“That stage is definitely going to be the queen stage, but there’s a lot of Tour of California to get through before that,” he said. “Hopefully, when we get to Baldy, we can go to work.”
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RadioShack destroyed the field up Mount Baldy in 2011. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com