I get pretty geeked out over pro cycling. The big stage races are fun to watch on TV and even better in person. Its awesome that we now have 3 UCI stage races here in the good 'ol US of A. Also, being in the race promotion biz myself, I have more than a passing interest in how the big shows are run and organized.
The biggest and longest running of the 3 stage races is the Amgen Tour of California. Just yesterday, the 2012 route was announced. I have a soft spot for California as I spent a very influential 6 years in San Diego. I graduated from San Diego State University and my wife is an Eastern Sierra Nevada native. California is big, diverse and beautiful. The ATOC takes advantage of most of it and I've ridden some of the very roads the race travels on. While some great stages have been left off for 2012, like the Solvang TT, the new route takes us to some of the most exciting places we've seen in the past.
There's no shortage of climbing with Big Bear and Mt. Baldy in the works. The Bakersfield TT will be a hilly affair as well and may not favor the best rolleur but someone with some TT and climbing ability.
The course really sets us up for a great showdown between last year's top 2, who are no longer teammates...Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner. Yes, these guys are no spring chickens but you've got to believe they are the favorites. Levi won 3 in a row but played second fiddle last year to Horner so you know he's hungry. Both these guys call CA home for part of the year as well so there's a desire to win on home turf.
Because of the spring date however, the ATOC skips some of the most epic climbs available in California. Onion Valley Road, Whitney Portal and Bishop Creek are all still snowpacked in May. They're pretty remote as well. Add the fact that stages are held near population centers to please sponsors and its unlikely we'll see the race visit the likes of Mammoth Mountain for Death Valley.
Regardless, this years race is setting up to be a battle. There will be sprints, circuits and big climbs and the race between old (literally & figuratively!) teammates will be one for the ages.