Amgen Tour of California starts in downtown Santa Rosa on May 13
In case you live off the grid and haven’t heard, cycling mania is about to hit Santa Rosa in a big way. The 2012 Amgen Tour of California kicks off May 13, with more than 35,000 spectators expected to visit our part of Wine Country to see the first stage of this prestigious cycling race.
These riders will sweat it out tire-to-tire on a grueling, five-hour road race that covers the arduous, but gorgeous terrain of Sonoma County consisting of thigh-burning mountainous regions, the redwood-canopied Russian River area and the rugged Sonoma County coastline.
Downtown Santa Rosa – spectator central
I learned from past years watching this fun event that it helps to scope out vantage points early because spectators will line the streets, perch in trees (not recommended!), and peer from rooftops, windows and parking garages. It’s an opportunity to see world-class cyclists in action – like previous Tour of California winner Levi Leipheimer, who calls Santa Rosa home.
The fever-pitched race will begin with two neutral laps through the heart of downtown, starting at 10:50 a.m. at Santa Rosa Avenue and Third Street, giving onlookers a thrill before the cyclists head out on their 116-mile quest through Sonoma County. Around 3:49 p.m. (yep, they’re that exact), riders are expected back downtown to hit the breakaway mile, ending in a flurry at Santa Rosa Avenue and Third Street. Expect throngs of people, wild cheers, flashing cameras and a blur of spandex as each rider sprints toward the finish line.
As many times as I’ve cheered for the peloton (for those who don’t know, that’s the pack of riders), it’s still difficult to find words that do justice to how exciting this is. You just have to be there!
Also on race day, swarming crowds will descend upon downtown to enjoy the Amgen Tour of California’s Lifestyle Festival. The all-day bash includes something for everyone: inflatables for kids, a health and fitness expo, an extreme bicycle jump demo by professional rider Andrew Taylor and friends, local food vendors, music throughout the day, snow cones, a beer garden for thirsty adults, race video, an awards ceremony, and too much more to list.
A Kickoff concert, Santa Rosa Soiree, and a cycling charity event
Be part of the hoopla a few days prior, at the free Amgen Tour of California Kickoff Concert at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 10, at Courthouse Square. Critically acclaimed singer/songwriter/musician Carrie Rodriguez will entertain the crowd, along with opening act, The Whiskey Thieves.
Then, Friday, May 11, get dressed up and rub elbows with the professional cyclists by attending the Santa Rosa Soiree at Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards of Windsor. It’s an opportunity to meet the cycling teams, enjoy dinner on a vineyard terrace, dance at a D.J. after-party, and much more. Tickets are limited. Information is available at www.santarosa2012.com.
Saturday May 12, riders of all levels can test their cycling mojo in the Life Time GranFondo California with options of 15-, 31- or 62-mile rides that begin and end at the rustic Cloverleaf Ranch in Santa Rosa. For more information, including registration, visit www.ltgranfondo.com.
Where to stay
If you’re a cycling enthusiast, or simply want to be part of the mix, you may want to make a getaway of it. Santa Rosa has lots of great places to stay overnight, but rooms go fast during this event. To find Santa Rosa hotels, please visit www.visitsantarosa.com/hotels/.
For complete information about the Amgen Tour of California’s stage one in Santa Rosa, please visit www.santarosa2012.com.