The final stage of the Amgen Tour of California will start in San Francisco and end with two laps around downtown Santa Rosa, a route that will take riders through some of the most beautiful scenery the North Coast has to offer.
Although not the most challenging stage, the beauty of the Pacific Coast Highway, the likelihood of a sprint finish and the fact it will be the last chance for riders and teams to get TV coverage should make it a fitting finale.
"When you have a medium-category day, it means all 120-odd riders will be racing," said Glen Mitchell, manager of the Santa Rosa-based Bissell Pro Cycling Team, which has participated in the tour since 2007.
The route of the eight-day Tour of California, starting for the first time in Southern California and working north to end in Santa Rosa, was announced Tuesday.
The race begins May 12 with a stage within Escondido and follows with stages from Murrieta to Greater Palm Springs, Palmdale to Santa Clarita, Santa Clarita to Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara to Avila Beach, a San Jose time trial and then a stage that starts in Livermore and has a mountaintop finish on Mount Diablo.
The last stage, on May 19, starts at the Marina Green in San Francisco, crosses the Golden Gate Bridge, goes through Sausalito and Mill Valley and then follows Highway 1 to Valley Ford, where the route turns inland to Freestone, Occidental and Sebastopol and finishes in Santa Rosa.
The route doesn't include the steep coastal roads, such as Coleman Valley or Kings Ridge, that have defined past Sonoma County stages, but it is an appropriate route following the tough Mount Diablo climb one day earlier, Mitchell said.
"You have to have a balance," Mitchell said. "It is a day that whoever is in the lead will have to defend it, but it looks like a sprint finish for the sprinting stars."
The finish line is on Third Street at Santa Rosa Avenue, following two laps around the downtown core.
"It would have been far better had they done it all in Sonoma County. They would have gotten an epic stage like last year," said Raissa de la Rosa, Santa Rosa economic development specialist who is in charge of the local tour organizing committee.
"But coming from San Francisco, an iconic city, to Santa Rosa, which in the cycling world is becoming iconic, the route will be easy and fast, which is fun too," de la Rosa said.
The Santa Rosa organizing committee has already begun raising funds to pay for the cost of hosting the event, and is three-quarters toward the goal of $325,000, de la Rosa said.
After holding the overall start last year and hosting stage starts and finishes five times, it will be the first time Santa Rosa will get the overall finish.
The stage starts at 8:15 a.m. at the Marina Green and will finish between 11:10 a.m. and 12:20 p.m., depending on how fast the ride is.