For the fifth consecutive year, a stage of the Amgen Tour of California finishes in Santa Rosa, home of three-time winner Levi Leipheimer.
This year’s 109.5-mile route, beginning in Davis, delivers two intermediate sprint points and three categorized climbs, including the category-2 ascent over Trinity Grade, which tops out 20 miles from the finish.
After 20 miles of flat roads, the peloton will hit the first climb, a short, steep section leading to the Monticello Dam. A long, flat section along Lake Berryessa will take the riders to the category-2 Howell Mountain Road, followed by a fast descent into the vineyards of Napa Valley.
Climbing out of the well-known valley the bunch will hit the back-to-back Oakville Grade and Trinity Grade before a 20-mile roll in to Santa Rosa, where, unlike in previous years, there will be no finishing circuits.
Past winners in Santa Rosa include Juan José Haedo (2006 and 2008), Graeme Brown (2007) and Francisco Mancebo (2009).
Prior to this year’s Amgen Tour of California, VeloNews sat down with five riders for a stage-by-stage breakdown. Those riders — Levi Leipheimer, Dave Zabriskie, Ben Day, Mike Friedman and Rory Sutherland — form an expert panel VeloNews.com will refer to all week for insider analysis. Here’s what they had to say:
Levi Leipheimer (USA), RadioShack:
I know these roads like the back of my hand. It’s a great stage. We ride past Lake Berryessa and over Howell Mountain Road, where a certain Chris Horner took the reins and blew the field apart last year when he started to chase down Mancebo. That’s a tough climb. We’re doing the Trinity climb, which we’ve done (at the Amgen Tour of California) from the other direction. It’s pretty hard, but no one is going to win the race here. You could see a small group coming into Santa Rosa; it’s not too far from the climb to the finish, and it’s not flat either, and there are no circuits in Santa Rosa. If you’re dropped on Trinity it’s going to be tough to come back. Maybe there’s a team with a sprinter who can climb well, an Oscar Freire type, and if his team keeps driving it so the other sprinters can’t come back, it’s a great opportunity for someone like that.
Dave Zabriskie (USA), Garmin-Transitions:
I know Trinity Grade, we did it once, it was in the rain, and we rode it fairly conservative, because the downhill is screaming fast. It’s a decent climb. I think Levi will be all excited since it’s close to Santa Rosa. We’ll see what happens there. It could be decisive for a small enough group. If Levi throws an attack it could be 10, 20 guys that go with him.
Rory Sutherland (Australia), UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis:
It’s a pretty memorable stage for sure, there are always a lot of people there at the finish … last year it poured rain all day, it was a freezing day. Hopefully it won’t be the same this year. I’m kind of hedging my bets that it’s going to be a smaller group to the finish, maybe anywhere from 20 to 60 guys, which definitely opens the opportunities for the younger guys, the domestic guys, the guys who can get over the climb and have a a little bit kick at the finish.
Mike Friedman (USA), Jelly Belly:
I think the sprinters will get over the little climbs. It may divide up, but it should come back together. It may split over the second climb, but some sprinters will make it over, and it may come back all together. It will be a hard day, but not nearly as hard as what’s coming up.
Ben Day (Australia), Fly V Australia:
Stage 2 is going to still be a day for the opportunists. California is a big race for domestic teams, a massive race, a great chance for us to prove ourselves in front of the other international teams. So it’s going to be super, super aggressive in the beginning … I think it’s going to be very aggressive to establish that early breakaway. It’s probably going to come down to a kick. The top sprinters in the worlds are pretty decent climbers as well, they are not shabby at all. And I believe they are going to get over the climbs they have to get over on this particular stage.