Until the official announcement later this morning this is what we know (or at least think we know) about 2010 Amgen Tour of California. The change in dates from February to May was an attempt to avoid the miserable weather that had plagued the race for the past two years. California is known world wide as being perpetually sunny. Images of racers slogging through rain and 40 temperatures wasn’t what the organizers were looking for. Also with the later date is more of an opportunity to head to the mountains. In February it was a little too soon in the season to subject the riders to the Sierra Madres. As of right now, Stage 1 is looking to start in Nevada City and ending in Sacramento, which means no prologue. This seems to be a sensible choice. It will be beautiful in Nevada City providing ample opportunities for photographers to snap that money shot. Levi Leipheimer let the cat out of the bag with his Twitter post, “I am confident that Santa Rosa will be announced as a host city on Thursday for the @amgentourofcali.” Other than the mayor of Santa Rosa, I think Levi is connected enough to know that the Tour of California is coming to his hometown. Another town that looks to be getting a visit from the Tour of California is Bakersfield. I was a bit surprised when I had heard that town as a potential start town. Bakersfield has always been to me a place to fill up on gas and beef jerky for that final push to Las Vegas. I’ve read that Bakersfield raised $161,000 to get the Tour to roll through Another strong rumor is the final stage will be from Thousand Oaks, the home of Amgen to downtown Los Angeles. San Diego, the mecca of cycling in California is not getting a visit. Officially the word is that because the Tour of California is being reduced to eight days it just wasn’t possible to reach that far south. However what I heard was that San Diego, while packed with fans watching the race, charged the organizers and arm and a leg to bring the race there. The classic Solvang time trial course is also not on the parcours of the Tour of California. The racers and the fans loved this stage but the residents of the Solvang, not so much. All these pesky bike riders were jamming up the street and they weren’t shopping in the local boutiques. I think the only merchant crying about the loss of the Solvang stage is the Bulldog Cafe. It’s a cycling shrine and the owner is a complete nutter for racing. Plus, she had a line out the door all day long.
The final question is, who will show up? As we all know the Tour of California coincides with the Giro, which has been the classic Tour de France lead-up race. An appearance by Armstrong puts any race through the atmosphere in terms of spectators, but with the Tour his big goal will he compromise his training to race in California? Just moments ago Armstrong Twittered that he is going to race the Tour of California. The course is going to be tougher, so that probably helped with the decision. Expect media madness now at every stage start and finish town. Leipheimer will be there, so it looks like RadioShack is sending their “A” squad. The same applies to other big teams. Will Riis send the brothers Schleck and the rest of the “A” squad to California when the Giro is on as well. Team Saxo rides Specialized bikes, so they will feel the pressure of having to send a strong squad to represent. The same applies to Quick Step. Just keep TSA’s dogs away from Boonen’s luggage. BMC with Hincapie and former world champion Allesandro Ballan will definitely be there looking for stage wins. Garmin of course will be in attendance. However their Tour de France squad raced the Giro and went on to a strong Tour, so I’m not sure Vaughters will want to mess with that schedule. The smaller domestic teams will be battling it out not only for stages put just to get an invite. Usually for the domestic teams it comes down to politics: is the team sponsor going to have a booth in the expo, how much money can they pony up? If the team has the cash the chances of a Tour of California invite goes up exponentially. But hey, it’s nothing personal. It’s business.
I’ll be Twittering during the press conference with info so stay tuned to @neilroad. I’ve got live Tour of California Twitter buzz streaming on my web site now.