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Tour of California Kicks Off in San Diego

Everything you need to know about the largest cycling race in the United States
Tour of California is starting in San Diego for the first time. | Photo courtesy of the Amgen Tour of California

By Tim Ingersoll

San Diego takes center stage of the cycling world Sunday as the Amgen Tour of California kicks off the largest cycling race in the United States. The first stage is starting and finishing at Mission Bay with a 108 mile loop around the county.

What’s the Tour of California?

Set up like a mini-Tour de France, the eight stage road bike race features 18 of the world’s fastest cycling teams battling it out to see which of 200 professional riders can ride with the fastest cumulative time over the 800+ miles of the eight days of the race. The world’s elite cyclists will be there, including Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and defending Tour of California champion Peter Sagan, who beat the second place rider by three seconds over 28 hours of racing last year.

Where does it go?

Tour of California Kicks Off in San Diego

Tour of California Kicks Off in San Diego

For the first time in the Tour’s 11-year history, an entire stage will take place in the heart of San Diego, starting at Ski Beach in Mission Bay before heading up Laurel and through Balboa Park, downtown through East Village, then to National City, Chula Vista, and Imperial Beach before heading to the rolling hills of East County.

The race then loops back toward the beach through El Cajon, down Mission Gorge Road to Friars, up Morena Blvd. and west on Garnet before heading across the two bridges on Ingraham leading to a sprint finish at Quivera Basin. You can download the course map here (PDF).

Sounds cool. How do I watch?

First things first—download the free Amgen Tour of California Microsoft Tour Tracker via the Android or Apple app stores or on the web. You can use the app to figure out the best place near you to watch the race, and get live updates of the race as riders are on course. It even has a glossary so you can learn the difference between a pace line and the peloton.

Where should I watch?

With 108 miles of race course and 6700’ of climbing across San Diego county, there are lots of options, with official and unofficial watch parties all around, and restaurants along the route offering great places to wait and watch. Expect tens of thousands of spectators to be lining the streets, but traffic disruptions to be minimal with ‘rolling stops’—meaning traffic will be blocked off for about 20 minutes as the peloton moves through the different areas.

The start and finish line will have a family-friendly ‘lifestyle festival’ with extensive hospitality and exhibitor areas set up to show off the local cycling industry. There are other Tour-related events all weekend you can check out as well.

What if I want to ride?

The Tour is for professional riders only, and we’re sure every road racing club in town has been Strava-ing the route for weeks now. On race day, however, we have a different idea.

The Tour’s route is essentially a figure eight across the county with a small, 10-mile loop around Mission Bay on top, and the remaining 100+ miles of the route south and east.

Its not quite the Champs Elysees, but one could ride their bike to watch the start of the race at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday near Ski Beach or Sea World, and proceed along the Mission Bay bike path on a leisurely stroll around the bay while the peloton is off to the south and east.

Even taking a stop or two for food and refreshment—or answering the age old question of whether Rocky’s or the High Dive has a better burger—should give you plenty of time to loop around Pacific Beach in time to catch the finish, which is expected to be at 3:40 p.m. Just stay safe, pace yourself, wear your helmets, lock your bikes, and keep an eye on the app to see where the peloton is.

Once you get back to the finish line at Quivera Basin, the San Diego Blind Stokers Club is hosting a bike valet to take care of your steed. Don’t forget to DVR the race summary on TV to see the parts you may have missed!

May is National Bike Month. We’re celebrating the many reasons to ride this month with a series of blog posts exploring biking in San Diego. 

Tour of California Kicks Off in San Diego

Tour of California is starting in San Diego for the first time. | Photo courtesy of the Amgen Tour of California

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