By Mira Reverente
The Amgen Tour of California is returning to the Conejo Valley after a three-year hiatus.
The ninth edition of the prestigious cycling race will be wrapping up its final stage on Sunday, May 18, in Thousand Oaks, where title sponsor Amgen is based.
“We always look for new cities every year,” said Kristin Bachochin, executive director of the race. “This year, we thought it was fitting to bring it back to Thousand Oaks since it’s title sponsor Amgen’s headquarters and it’s also the city’s 50th anniversary.”
Pismo Beach, Folsom and Cambria are the new host cities, while San Jose has been a host city for the past nine years.
For eight straight days beginning on May 11th, the grueling 720-mile professional cycling race from Sacramento to Thousand Oaks attracts world-class teams from all corners of the globe. Elite cyclists, including past world champions and former Tour de France contenders, battle it out in eight stages which include 40,000 feet of climbing and time trials.
“This is one of the most challenging and technical courses to date,” said Bachochin. “Stage one alone, beginning at the state capitol building, is 123 miles long.”
In the past, the time trials were usually held later in the race, Bachochin said, but this year, it will be on the second day. Riders will race the clock on a short and flat 12.6-mile course around Folsom, host city of stage two.
Also new this year, elite women cyclists will be competing in a 1.25-mile circuit race around the state capitol on May 11, followed by a time trial in Folsom, right before the men’s time trials. There will be a $10,000 purse at stake on both days.
“We have extended an invitation to the world’s best women cyclists to take part in this competitive two-day event,” said Bachochin,
Starting at the Lake Cunningham Regional Park in San Jose on day three, riders will race up Mount Diablo, gaining about 3,300 feet in elevation at an average six percent grade. The 110-mile stage also features 22 switchbacks and a steep and technical descent down San Antonio Valley Road.
The remaining stages will treat both riders and spectators to sweeping views of the Central Coast after days of sprints, mountaintop finishes, twists, turns and the requisite climbs that this challenging race is known for.
About two million spectators are expected throughout course that is expected to wind through Santa Barbara, Santa Clarita, Mountain High and Pasadena before concluding in Thousand Oaks.
On May 18th, the final stage will be battled along the same course that was used in 2010. Cyclists will pass through Westlake Village, Agoura Hills, past Rock Store at the foot of the climb before tackling Westlake Boulevard on a very technical descent, four times total, in order to complete the 83.5-mile circuit.
At the finish area on Townsgate Road and Village Glen Road, there will be a lifestyle festival featuring vendors, live entertainment, kids’ activities and wellness booths.
“It’s a very cool event. We have watched it every year, except for one year,” said John Muller, an avid cyclist from Camarillo. “We are excited it is coming back to Thousand Oaks. It’s fun to see pro riders who you normally only see on TV and see how fast they are in person.”
The various stages and races will be streamed live on www.amgentourofcalifornia.com, as well as on the downloadable tracker app.