Bridges, mountains and history start off California tour

The first stage of the 2010 Amgen Tour of California will mark the 50th anniversary of one of the oldest races in America when it starts in Nevada City on May 16.

By Phillip Heckler

The first stage of the 2010 Amgen Tour of California will mark the 50th anniversary of one of the oldest races in America when it starts in Nevada City on May 16.

Race organizers announced last year that the opening stage would begin in the historic Gold-Rush town and end in Sacramento. On Tuesday they released more details of the stage and of stage 2, which travels from Davis to Santa Rosa.

Stage 1: History, old and more recent.

The opening stage runs 167.7 km (104.2 miles). The route finishes lower than it starts, but is punctuated by several climbs. It also passes some spectacular scenery.

Chris Horner puts the hurt on the field at the Nevada City crit last year.

This will be the first time Nevada City will host a part of the Tour of California, and will mark the 50th anniversary of the pro-am Nevada City Classic, where many of the biggest stars in American racing have won, including Lance Armstrong last year, in the first win of his comeback.

From there the peloton will head south, winding through Grass Valley and Old Town in Auburn. The day’s first intermediate sprint will be in Meadow Vista, a town between Grass Valley and Auburn.

The stage will also take riders over the Auburn-Foresthill Bridge — the tallest bridge in California and third tallest in America — 738 feet above the North Fork of the American River.

The downhill spin will be interrupted by the 1,500 feet climb from the American River up to the town of Cool. After the climb to Cool, the peloton will ride around Folsom Lake and head for El Dorado Hills.

As they enter the Sacramento city limits, they’ll ride down Folsom Boulevard before finishing the stage with three circuits of Sacramento’s city streets. The stage finish will be in front of the north steps of the Capitol building.

It will be the fourth time Sacramento has hosted either a prologue or finish. Last year Fabian Cancellara scored a dominant prologue win in the city.

Stage 2: Return to Howell Mountain

Last year's stage 1 passed some of the same territory. Everyone is hoping for better conditions this year.

Stage 2 will see the peloton ride 176.2 km (109.5 miles) from Davis to Santa Rosa.

Outside Davis, the peloton will see flat sections interspersed with short, but steep climbs, like the ascent to Monticello Dam followed by “Cardiac Hill” – a category 4 climb of over 1,000 feet. The riders will then pass by Lake Berryessa on their way to the third climb of the day, Howell Mountain Road, which figured in last year’s first stage, won by Francisco Mancebo.

Howell Mountain is followed by a fast descent into the Napa Valley.

The day’s final climb will be the Oakville Grade, followed by the Trinity Grade descent, which will dump racers into Santa Rosa — the hometown of three-time ATOC defending champion Levi Leipheimer.

This is the fifth year in a row Santa Rosa will host a stage. The finish will be held in front of Santa Rosa courthouse.

ATOC organizers plan to roll out details of the subsequent stages this week.