The Amgen Tour of California men's and women's races return to South Lake Tahoe Friday, May 18, with each finishing about an hour apart at Heavenly Mountain Resort's California Lodge.
The United States premier men's stage race will feature about 115 of the top professional cyclists from all over the world. More than a dozen elite cycling teams annually are drawn to compete in the California tour despite the race going head-to-head with another popular tour, the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy).
The Tour of California this year will traverse 645 miles over seven stages, May 13-19, and is a favorite for sprinters who have more fun on the flats rather than the Giro's grueling mountain stages.
World-class sprinters Peter Sagan, Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel will likely vie for stage wins during the mostly flat first five stages before entering the Tahoe Basin. Sagan holds the race record for stage wins with 16 and will be looking to defend his seventh green jersey for dominating the race's sprint competition.
The men's Stage 6 route from Folsom to the South Shore covers 123 miles that may change the complexion of the race. The route climbs over Emigrant and Carson passes then descends into Hope Valley, through Woodfords and into Carson Valley before climbing into the basin over Kingsbury Grade for the first time. Overall, Stage 6 features more than 16,000 feet of climbing.
That's where Homewood's Peter Stetina hopes his climbing ability will earn him a stage win on his home roads and ultimately the top prize. He started his high-altitude training about a month ago and has been visible as he rides the highways alongside the lake. He described the Kingsbury climb as a "kick in the nuts" and "never-ending."
Kingsbury Grade might be a good place to view the riders, either climbing into the basin, or descending toward the lake. But any plans to watch from any point along the route should be made in advance to avoid road closures.
Kingsbury Grade will close from approximately 1 to 3:30 p.m. Overall, temporary rolling road closures will be in effect throughout the day from 10:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.
Some of the planned closures include Pioneer Trail and Ski Run Boulevard from approximately 1:35 to 2:45 p.m., U.S. 50 and Pioneer Trail from 2:13 to 3:17 p.m., Kingsbury Grade and U.S. 50 from 2:10 to 3:14 p.m., Kingsbury Grade and Tramway from 2 to 3:05 p.m. and Kingsbury and Foothill Road from 1:35 to 2:45 p.m.
People can watch wherever they would like along the route, but there may be no better spot than the finish line where festivities begin at 10 a.m.
The women at 11 a.m. will begin Stage 2 of their race, a 70-mile loop that travels through Pioneer Trail to Meyers then over the 7,740-foot summit of Luther Pass down into the Carson River Basin, a loop through the Washoe Reservation before climbing back into the basin via Kingsbury Grade and back to the start/finish line.
Recommended viewing areas for the women's race are Cornelian Drive at California Route 89 and Luther Pass.
Recommended areas to watch the men's race are the Foothill Road and Kingsbury Grade intersection, Kingsbury and Tramway and at Heavenly Village down to Ski Run Boulevard.
The women are expecting to cross the finish line at approximately 2:15 p.m. and the men will follow about an hour later.
Anyone heading to watch from the finish line is encouraged to carpool, bike or use the free shuttle that's on a continuous loop from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The pick-up location is at 1051 Ski Run Blvd., and the drop-off is at the lodge.
For those interested, but won't be there in person, live coverage of the race can be viewed on NBCSN from 2 to 4 p.m. A daily recap of the first three stages can be seen in the evening from 9-10, and from 10-11 for the next three stages.
Volunteer course marshals are still needed and no experience is necessary. Visit amgentourofcalifornia.com/volunteer for more details.