Tahoe stages could prove critical to 2016 Amgen Tour of California
Prior to starting Sunday’s Stage 1 of the 2016 Amgen Tour of California, reigning road cycling world champion and 2015 Amgen winner Peter Sagan told the Associated Press that this year’s course was “not quite suited to [his] style,” because its rugged terrain favors climbers.
The famed Slovakian sprinter went on to win Stage 1 in San Diego in thrilling fashion during the final quarter-mile charge to the finish. He followed that on day two by finishing just off the podium in fourth, making a case that sprinting may not be his only strength.
Sagan and the rest of the men’s peloton will be put to the test when the race heads from Lodi, California, to South Lake Tahoe for Stage 5 on Thursday, May 19. With a total elevation gain of 13,300 feet, Stage 5 may prove to be the eight-day race’s most critical stage.
“We continue to make it tougher every year,” Tour of California president Kristen Klein said of the course. “This year is no different.”
If Sagan can stay in the mix, he could be on his way to another surprising finish.
But falling out of the top 10 during a climb-intensive Stage 3 Tuesday, May 17, will make it an uphill battle for the rest of the week for Sagan.
The race will likely favor a stronger climber like France’s Julian Alaphilippe, who surged to the top of the pack Tuesday with a Stage 3 win.
They’ll both be tested the rest of the way by a deep field that includes strong climbers, past Olympians, Tour de France and Tour of California Stage winners and the some of the world’s top cycling teams.
“There are favorites in the field and some iconic men in the race,” Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority director Carol Chaplin said. “We loved having the women here last year. This year the day is going to be longer and bigger. It’s a great platform to showcase Tahoe.”
The four-stage women’s race will open with a Stage 1 start and finish at Heavenly Mountain Resort’s California Lodge base area.
MEN’S STAGE 5
Stage 5 of the men’s race will kick off Thursday morning, May 19, in Lodi, California, after a stage on the Pacific Coast Highway between Morro Bay and Monterey. Riders will pass through vineyards to open the stage before heading toward what might best be described as a 132.4-mile climb to the South Shore of Lake Tahoe.
The stage will start at 10 a.m., bringing riders from 50 feet above sea level up and over 8,600 feet at Carson Pass on Highway 88 — the highest point in the race’s 11-year history — and into Hope Valley.
From there riders will face another challenging climb up Luther Pass, before speeding down to Meyers. The peloton will then charge around Meyers and up Pioneer Trail to a final King of the Mountain climb up Ski Run Boulevard and stage finish at Heavenly’s California Lodge.
Riders are expected to cross the finish at around 3:45 p.m.
WOMEN’S STAGE 1
The women will open their race entirely in the Tahoe Basin on May 19.
“I think the Tahoe stage will be a hard race,” former U.S. Olympic cyclist Shelley Olds said, describing the course. “There could be a lot of selections on the first day because of the terrain, which could already set the GC [general classification].”
The race will include a full clockwise lap around Lake Tahoe with a start and finish at the California Lodge Base Area.
Riders will shoot down Pioneer Trail to Al Tahoe Boulevard before heading to Camp Richardson. Highway 89 will feature a Queen of the Mountain challenge before riders reach Emerald Bay.
After passing through Tahoe City and Incline Village, riders will follow the East Shore back to Stateline.
The 72.7-mile course will feature a final steep climb back to the California Lodge.
The women are expected to finish at 2 p.m.
Both the men’s and women’s riders will head to Folsom for time trial stages the following day.
Both races will end with final stages in Sacramento Sunday, May 22.
Race coverage will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network and online at NBCSports.com. A cable subscription is required for the live stream. Tour coverage is also available on the Amgen mobile app.
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