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Amgen Tour of California — Stage 1

Santa Rosa — Santa Rosa (115.9 miles/186.5 km)

Sunday, May 13

Start: 10:50 a.m. PST
Earliest Expected Finish: 3:06 p.m. PST

Day one of the Amgen Tour of California is for the sprinters, though the group that makes the final break should be more selective than you’d see in a traditional flat stage. This stage kicks off and finishes in Santa Rosa, the adopted hometown of three-time Amgen Tour champion Levi Leipheimer. It was unclear early this week if the former champ would make it back to race after suffering a broken leg when he was hit by a car while training in Europe in early April.

Two neutral laps through Santa Rosa set the stage for a day of riding through Sonoma wine country, coastal headlands and redwood-curtained county roads. The route sees the peloton roll through the towns of Windsor, Occidental and Cazadero, with sprint points to be picked up along the way in Santa Rosa and before a final climb.

While a sprinter should win this day, there is one technical descent from they Meyers Grade Road to Highway 1, and the Coleman Valley Road climb, a twisty and steep northern California grade.

American sprinter Ken Hanson (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) said he had stages 1 and 4 targeted for a win. “It’s early in the race. And there will be a lot of teams looking to capitalize on a field sprint,” he said. “It could turn into a GC fight if some of the guys want to animate the race early on.”

For the first time, riders will race straight into the Santa Rosa finish without any circuits, ensuring a sprint to the line, though who’s in that group may be a better indicator of general classification ambitions than anything else.

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Brett Lancaster wins in soggy Santa Rosa in 2010. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com