The Amgen Tour of California won’t have to worry about a snowstorm shutting down the first stage of America’s biggest cycling race this year.

Instead of Tahoe, organizers have chosen a much safer kickoff city for the race’s seventh year — Santa Rosa, which will host the start and finish of the 116-mile first stage. No doubt it pleases three-time race champ Levi Leipheimer, a Santa Rosa native.

“In my opinion Santa Rosa is at the center of the greatest place on earth — Sonoma County,” Leipheimer says in the stage promo video. “We have everything here: Great weather all year, mountainous coastal geography, the Pacific Ocean, locally grown produce, and an endless supply of sparsely populated roads that have been my training grounds for years.”

The rest of the race route, the longest stage race ever held in the U.S., will be just as spectacular and diverse.

Stage 2 (117 miles) runs from San Francisco to Santa Cruz County down Highway 1 to Bonny Doon Road, and then up and down the Santa Cruz Mountains to finish in Aptos.

The race jogs north for Stage 3 (115 miles) from San Jose to Livermore, and then east to the Sierra foothills for Stage 4 (130 miles), from Sonora to Clovis, the longest and possibly most difficult stage.
Stage 5 will be in Bakersfield, an 18.4-mile time trial.

Stage 6 runs 116 miles from Palmdale to Big Bear Lake, which will feature a couple big climbs before the finish at the Snow Summit ski area.

Stage 7 (78 miles), from Ontario to Mt. Baldy, will be a make-or-break stage. The winner of the tour could very well be decided on the final 15 switchbacks to the finish.

Stage 8 will be all about showmanship and exposure, a 45-mile peloton parade from Beverly Hills to Los Angeles, via Hollywood of course, finishing at L.A. LIVE.

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