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AMGEN Tour of California announces host cities

By Gar Swaffar     Nov 4, 2011 in Sports
The AMGEN Tour of California has announced the thirteen host cities for 2012 and the cycling race is going through some of the best parts of California again.
The largest cycling event staged in the United States is the AMGEN Tour of California which is held in May each year. Next year from May 13 - May 20 the cycling tour will be covering some of the most scenic and arguably most difficult routes available in what is a Tour de France style race.
From Santa Rosa to San Francisco then to Santa Cruz and on to San Jose for the first three stages. A new city on the tour never used before will be Sonora, and the climb from Sonora is rumored to include the Old Priest Grade from Sonora to Groveland With Sonora sitting at 1,825 ft. (556 m.) and Groveland at 3,136 ft (956 m.) the climb can be brutal on a bicycle or even in a car coming back down it. The elevation change from the town (hamlet) of Moccasin to the top of Old Priest Grade at Priest Station is 910' (277 m.) covered in only 2.7 miles (14.26 km.). Ouch!
Just leaving Sonora to get to the base of Old Priest Grade can be a journey all to itself and is not for the casual cyclist as the total elevational change between the two points is 1,782 ft. of climb, to then face the 910 ft climb up Old Priest Grade.
Unofficially, Old Priest Grade has been rated as one of the steepest paved climbs for cyclists in the nation. After finding the top of Priest Station, the race continues to Clovis for the end of the fourth stage.
The race then continues from Bakersfield for the start of stage five, then to Palmdale for stage six. Weather and the temperatures may play a big part of how those stages are carried out, since it can get rather hot in both the stage five and six host cities. Stage six will be ending at Big Bear Lake next year and although the climbing grade is long, Big Bear Lake sits at 7,000 ft.
Stage seven will begin in another city added for the first time to the race, Ontario, Ca. and end at Mt. Baldy another truly grinding climb.
Mt Baldy was the stage in 2011 at which Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer respectively crossed the finish line first and second. Levi Leipheimer was the overall race winner in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
The race will be quite a trial for the cyclists again and with two new host cities, the routes will be a new challenge to the riders who come together from all over the world for the event.
The AMGEN Tour of California is hosted by Amgen, a biotechnology company, and the race is now one of only three events in the United States rated as 2 HC since 2006. 2 HC is a classification meaning 'beyond categorization' and is the highest rating for both difficulty and prestige of winning. Prior to the change the UCI had given the race a 2.1 rating, difficult, but not of the same caliber as the Tour de France.
Next year the race promises to offer new country to cover and it is to be hoped that more Digital Journalists in the areas of the respective host cities will also cover the race as this reporter will be covering stage four from Sonora.
More about AMGEN Tour, Cyclists, Sonora, California, bicycle race
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