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February 15-21, 2006

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Wheels of Fire

The Amgen Tour of California: A Quick Glance

By Michael Shapiro

Bottom Line

Who Sixteen teams for a total of 128 of the world's top cyclists.

What A 600-mile race modeled after the Tour de France. The race is invitation-only and includes many of the world's top cyclists.

When Sunday-Sunday, Feb. 19-26.

Where Starts in San Francisco and heads north to Santa Rosa before turning south to San Jose, Monterey, Big Sur, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Thousand Oaks and ending in Redondo Beach.

Why Because it's there.

Best Watch Spots

11am. Sausalito Spinnaker Restaurant, Bridgeway Avenue Note: The intersection at Bridgeway and Nevada Street offers a hill from which spectators will be able to see the cyclists leave town.

11:12am. Muir Beach, Highway 1 Race promoters recommend spectators take advantage of the room and views at the Pelican Inn as well as the area above Slide Ranch.

11:35am. Stinson Beach, Highway 1 Race promoters say that the best viewing will be from the south end of town, just on the outskirts. As the cyclists head toward Pt. Reyes Station, recommended viewing spots include Dog Town and the junction in Olema. Cyclists are expected to hit Pt. Reyes at 12:10pm and cycle directly through the center of town. First Charles and Camilla, now this! An exciting sprinting climb begins here.

12:46pm (roughly) Tomales Bay, Highway 1 Cyclists turn inland here and should be arriving in town in their earliest waves around this time.

1:02pm. Valley Ford Racers travel Valley Ford to Freestone Road to Bodega Highway to Jonive Road to Occidental Road, following this last road all the way into Santa Rosa.

1:37pm. Enter Santa Rosa Cyclists turn off of Occidental Road onto Fulton Road and take West Third Street through Railroad Square to Courthouse Square.

1:45pm. Finishing Circuits Three laps through downtown Santa Rosa. The race's finish is estimated to be 2:06pm for the fastest riders, 2:38pm for the slowest.

Following the Race

Watch the hour-long ESPN2 report each night at 10pm (check local listings) during the race, or visit The website includes detailed maps of each stage, information about the riders and their teams, and will add race results.

About the Stages

The tour isn't a continuous line down the state of California. One stage's ending is not necessarily the next stage's starting point. Sometimes the riders and their equipment drive to the next day's start.

The Stages

Feb. 19 Prologue, San Francisco. A 1.9-mile "sprint" from the Ferry Building along the Embarcadero and up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower.

Feb. 20 Stage 1, Sausalito to Santa Rosa. An 84-mile course through the Marin Headlands, Pt. Reyes and western Sonoma County, culminating with three laps around downtown Santa Rosa. Many downtown streets will close by noon; the riders are expected by 2pm. Streets should reopen by 3:30pm.

Feb. 21 Stage 2, Martinez to San Jose. This 95-mile stage from the East Bay to the South Bay features a rigorous climb along Sierra Road, 22 miles before the finish line at Guadalupe River Park in San Jose.

Feb. 22 Stage 3, San Jose. This 17-mile time trial follows a course past the Chesbro and Calero reservoirs. During the time trial, racers may not travel as a team or draft behind other riders; this is an individual event, which some call a "race of truth."

Feb. 23 Stage 4, Monterey to San Luis Obispo. At 130 miles, this is the longest leg of the race and is known as the Queen Stage. The course follows coastal Highway 1 through Big Sur and past Hearst Castle.

Feb. 24 Stage 5, San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara. This 105-mile stage starts in San Luis Obispo's Mission Plaza and winds through the Santa Ynez mountains via Solvang, culminating with a beachfront finish in Santa Barbara.

Feb. 25 Stage 6, Santa Barbara to Thousand Oaks. This 89-mile jaunt features three mountainous climbs during the first 80 miles, before ending with three three-mile laps in Thousand Oaks.

Feb 26 Stage 7, Redondo Beach. The Tour of California will culminate with 10 laps (7.6 miles each) for a 76-mile circuit along the Redondo Beach Esplanade. The race is expected to conclude around 4pm.

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