By Phillip Heckler
On the third day of the 2010 Amgen Tour of California, the peloton will return to the scene of one of 2009’s most dramatic moments: the climb up Bonny Doon Road.
Last year, in miserable conditions, Levi Leipheimer attacked on Bonny Doon and caught the day’s breakaway, finishing second on the stage to Garmin’s Thomas Peterson and taking the overall lead. This year, Leipheimer told VeloNews this week, the stage profile looks harder, but the conditions are unlikely to be so bad.
“On paper, it’s a little harder than last year’s stage 3. But the weather is not going to be as much of a factor, so (a race-winning break) is not going to happen this year,” he said.
Race officials are releasing details of this year’s stages throughout this week. They unveiled stage 1 and 2 details Tuesday.
Leipheimer said besides the expected warmer weather due to the race’s later start, the peloton is likely to be better able to respond this year. “The fitness level of everyone will be a bit higher this year,” he said.
The stage will begin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco and cover 182.3 km (113.3 miles) to Santa Cruz.
Riders will take Highway 1 south along the coast, with the Pacific on one side and redwood forests on the other. The three climbs are each long but moderate: first up Tunitas Creek Road, then La Honda Road and then Bonny Doon.
Tunitas Creek Road begins at sea level near the town of Pescadero and ascends 2,000 feet to the day’s first KOM.
The peloton will hit Bonny Doon at the 100-mile mark; crowds are likely to gather near the intersection of Empire Road and Pine Flat Grade, which serves as the Bonny Doon KOM marker.
After the descent the peloton will wind it up along West Cliff Drive along Monterey Bay for a finish at the famous Santa Cruz Boardwalk.
Stage 4 is a 195.5 km (121.5 mile) gallop from San Jose to Modesto.
The 2009 route saw racers on a similar route, but this year organizers beefed up the stage, making it longer and more difficult, although Leipheimer predicts a field sprint.
The day will start with a couple of parade laps in downtown San Jose before the Sierra Road climb.
The Sierra Road climb will take riders up 1,930 feet in the first five miles with an average grade of 10 percent, and some sections of 17 and 18 percent.
After the opening climb racers will negotiate fast, flat and twisting roads – Calaveras Road has more than 40 switchbacks.
Riders will visit downtown Livermore for the first time in AToC history before battling their way up Mines Road, which will dish out 30 miles of narrow road and almost constant climbing.
After a long descent to into Patterson, the peloton will make its way through the Central Valley’s farm land on its way toward Modesto, where they’ll finish off the day with two circuits of the downtown.
Keep an eye on VeloNews.com this week as more race details come out.
-Steve Frothingham contributed to this report.