By Betsy Malloy
California Travel Expert, about.com
First held in 2006, the Amgen Tour of California is the Golden State's answer to the Tour de France. The 800-mile race follows a route through the California redwoods, across wine country and down the Pacific Coast. The event raises funds for cancer care and treatment.
The 2016 Tour of California will be held May 15-22.
Stages of the Tour of California
Most stages are called road races, starting in one place and ending in another. If you're anywhere along the day's route, you'll be able to see the riders passing. For maximum excitement, try to be at the day's finish line.
Every year since we started covering the Tour of California, the route has changed. Details of the exact route for each stage will help you find out when the Tour may be passing near where you live, and where you can see it. The Tour of California website has maps of each day's route under "Stages" so you can find out exactly where they're going.
Keep in mind that the stages are not continuous.
The race may end the day in one city and start from a different one the following morning. Each stage includes a Lifestyle Festival at the destination, which runs all afternoon. In 2013, the Tour of California started in Escondido, then moves north through the desert (Palm Springs and Palmdale), over the mountains to Santa Barbara and Avila Beach. From there it takes a break in route, starting again in San Jose, then north through Livermore to end in Santa Rosa.
How the Tour of California Works
At first glance, it's simple. The rider with the lowest total time for the Tour of California race wins. It's also much more complex.
[post_ads]Bicycle races like the Tour of California are a team sport with eight people per team. The team leader is the one everyone else tries to help win. Sprinters, climbers, and Domestiques (the French word for servant) are the behind-the-scenes heroes who protect the leader from wind, fetch anything he/she needs and even give up parts of their bicycles if needed.
Teammates help their leader by breaking wind resistance and letting him ride in their slipstream. They may ride in a long paceline in front of the leader if they're riding straight into the wind. If it's a crosswind, they'll be in a staggered "echelon" formation.
A host of support personnel is also involved, following the riders in a van to help them with whatever they need.
Tour of California Jerseys
The Tour of California has only one ultimate winner, but bicycling tradition awards special jerseys and honors along the way.
Sprint: This award favors riders who are fast on flat ground. It's like a race within a race, to be the first to cross designated spots during each day's race. The first three riders across get points, and the ones with the most points each day (and who finish in the top 15 that day) get to wear the green Sprint Jersey.
King of the Mountain: Made for the best hill climbers, King of the Mountain lines are at the top of long inclines. The first three riders to cross get points toward the orange-colored KOM jersey.
Leader: The rider who has the lowest elapsed time when the Tour of California begins each day wears the coveted yellow jersey. The person who wears it can change every day.
Other jerseys include Best Young Rider, given to riders under 23 who do the best at the end of each stage of the Tour of California. The Most Courageous jersey goes to the cyclist who best exemplifies the character of those engaged in the fight against cancer.
Following the Tour of California
Local news outlets of all kinds cover the race. During the race, you can also check up on progress at any time using the Tour of California Tracker on their website, under Watch Live.
If you want to watch in person, check the host cities section of the Tour of California website, which will link you to each city's planned celebrations.