Amgen Tour of California
Brian Hodes

MAY

How to Watch the 2017 Amgen Tour of California

The multistage Amgen Tour of California is the largest cycling event in North America, and every May the course brings new challenges—grueling mountain passes, epic coastline views, and dramatic sprint finishes—as well as the opportunity to explore California during the week of the event.

“I encourage everybody to come catch a glimpse of what a professional, world-class bike race looks like,” says Kristin Klein, race president and executive vice president of AEG Sports. “But in addition to that, there’s so much to see and do throughout all the host cities—from enjoying the local flavor within these communities to taking part in the festivities and ancillary events.”

The comprehensive Amgen Tour of California website has every resource you need to learn more about the race (such as detailed stage info, live updates, explanation of the colored jerseys, and daily race results), as well as exclusive opportunities to go behind the scenes with a ride in a peloton car or a front-row VIP spot at the finish line. 

Combined, the 2017 men's and women's courses bring the pelotons to 14 host cities from May 11–20, 2017 (583 miles for the men; 257 miles for the women). For the first time, both the men’s Amgen Tour of California and the women’s Amgen Breakaway from Heart Disease Women's Race empowered with SRAM races will be a part of the UCI WorldTour, the highest distinction in cycling, which means competition will be at an all-time high. If you want to watch the race—which will include Olympic medalists, World Champions, and Tour de France competitors—use this handy guide to plot your viewing plan.

AMGEN Women's Stages 1 & 2 in South Lake Tahoe
Brian Hodes

WOMEN’S STAGES 1 & 2

WOMEN’S STAGES 1 & 2
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE

The women will kick it off on Thursday, May 11, with a 72.7-mile route around South Lake Tahoe. This is the second year the women’s race is part of the UCI WorldTour, the highest level of racing in the world. “For us to receive this high honor is amazing from a competition side,” Klein says. “These are the best riders in the world—both men and women.”

During Stage 1, the women will ride clockwise around Lake Tahoe, passing through Emerald Bay and Tahoe City before finishing with a tough ascent up to Heavenly Mountain Resort.

Klein describes the women’s Stage 2 as a “very, very difficult stage” that starts where it finished the day before at Heavenly. The challenging 67.1-mile route features one of the hardest climbs in the entire race—including the men’s. The monster Kinsbury Grade climb, known as “The Grade,” ascends 2,700 feet over eight miles. The Grade is the second QOM of the day (that is Queen of the Mountain, a segmented section that counts toward earning the coveted polka-dotted jersey)—the final one is the push back up to Heavenly.

Where to watch

For the opening stage, head to the first climb in Emerald Bay on Highway 89. “Many people consider this to be the best vantage point,” Klein says, “and you’ll have time to get back to Heavenly for the finish.” Expect a select group to fight their way to the finish, where a steep climb back up to Heavenly will separate the pack.

On day two, watch the race start and head to the Kinsbury Grade. “This is one of the most difficult climbs in the women’s or men’s stage,” she says. “It’s really, really unique and significant.”

Details

Women’s Stage 1

May 11 start at 10:40 a.m., finish at 2 p.m.; 72.7 mi/117 km

Women’s Stage 2

May 12 at 10:25 a.m., finish at 1:57 p.m.; 67.1 mi/108 km

Where to stop

Sample the limited-release local beers with a wood-fired burger at Tahoe Brewing in Tahoe City. Sit on the patio for views of the lake, and step outside to watch the race roll by as it continues north. If you stick around South Lake Tahoe, take a ride in Heavenly Mountain’s year-round gondola—the panoramic views of the lake will not disappoint. Or for a unique viewpoint, hop aboard a paddleboard or kayak and watch riders from the crystal-blue waters of Lake Tahoe.

Amgen Tour, Elk Grove
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

WOMEN’S STAGE 3

WOMEN’S STAGE 3
Elk Grove to Sacramento

As a first-time host city, Elk Grove has embraced the race and the women’s teams who will start their third day there, says Klein. “It is an amazing cycling city, and they have a strong sense of community,” she adds. With a neutral start—meaning everyone must stay together until a designated mile—the women will pass through Elk Grove Regional Park twice before they take off en route to Sacramento. The mostly flat course will traverse the California Delta region and is likely to highlight the strong sprinters with two sprint segments along the way.

Where to watch

Snap photos or get autographs from the cyclists in Elk Grove Regional Park (the city even designed a downloadable coloring and autograph sheet for kids). Sample from the food trucks or watch kids (ages 2–5) race Strider bikes during the 9 a.m.–11:30 a.m. festival. (Have a budding future cyclist in the family? The first 25 kids can reigster here.) Drive to Sacramento (15 miles away) to catch the exciting sprint to the finish on L Street.

Details

Women’s Stage 3

May 13 at 10:35 a.m., finish at 1:56 p.m.; 73.3 mi/118 km

Where to stop

After hanging out at the start, head to Sacramento to explore trendy Midtown while waiting for the finish (estimated to be around 2 p.m.). Stop by Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates for macaron ice-cream sandwiches, savor decadent mac & cheese at The Rind, or sip a stein of local beer with a house-made sausage at LowBrau.

WOMEN’S STAGE 4/ MEN’S STAGE 1
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

WOMEN’S STAGE 4 AND MEN’S STAGE 1

WOMEN’S STAGE 4 AND MEN’S STAGE 1
Sacramento

If you want to witness a lot of cycling excitement in one day, head to Sacramento on May 14. Not only will you see the fourth and final day of the women’s race, but it’s also the opening day for the world-class men’s field.

The women’s race will be a traditional 43.5-mile circuit around the State Capitol, which presents the opportunity to see the peloton multiple times as they ride 20 laps around a 2.2-mile loop. The women’s race will start shortly after the men take off on their 104-mile route into the California Delta Region. The women’s race champion will be crowned, followed by the men's return, where they'll circle three times around the Capitol before a sprint finish to conclude day one of seven.

Where to watch

Check out the start of both races before enjoying the local festivities, and pick a corner on one of the six turns to see the women go by multiple times. “If you’re just focusing on the men, watch the start of the race, go across the bridge, explore Old Sacramento and come back for the finish,” Klein suggests. “They’ll do circuits around the Capitol, so regardless, you can go explore, or you could stay put around the Capitol.” 

Details

Men’s Stage 1

May 14 at 11:25 a.m., finish at 3:28 p.m.; 103.8 mi/167 km

Women’s Stage 4

May 14 at 12:30 p.m., finish at 2 p.m.; 43.5 mi/70 km

Where to stop

Explore Old Town Sacramento to catch a glimpse of the early Gold Rush years. Take a historic walking tour with a docent dressed in 1850s-era costumes, or learn about the city’s underground passageways and chambers on a tour that departs from the Sacramento History Museum. Sample the surprising flavors of candy from the barrels at Munchies Salt Water Taffy or treat yourself to a few donuts from Danny’s Mini Donuts.  

Tracy Barbutes/Alamy

STAGE 2

STAGE 2
Modesto to San Jose

Modesto has immense city pride, which shows in its Amgen Tour of California festivities. “It’s always been a really supportive city,” Klein says of the five-time host. “I always chuckle a bit because their start line festival is the same size as a finish festival.”

Although the Central Valley region boasts an abundance of flat roads that make the area ideal for farming, the riders will leave the flatlands behind as they head for San Jose on the 89.5-mile route that features six KOM (King of the Mountain) segments and nearly 9,000 feet of climbing. San Jose has been a dedicated race location, playing host city all years but one since the race began in 2006.

Where to watch

Klein suggests leaving an hour before the start to watch the KOM climb on Mount Hamilton. “It’s going to be a highly difficult stage, but it’s going to be really exciting to watch,” she says. “It depends on what you would like to see that day—you’ll have six KOMs, and you can go watch any one of them.” Prefer to just see the finish? Go straight to the Santa Clara Motorcycle Park in San Jose.

Details

Men’s Stage 2

May 15 at 12:10 p.m., finish at 4:13 p.m.; 89.8 mi/144.5 km

Where to stop

For breakfast or lunch made from local, organic food, head to San Jose bistro Our House. Or find one of the city’s hidden indulgences at the small warehouse location of Treat Ice Cream Company (check the limited hours). Look for the sign above the green door, and bring cash to buy small containers of flavors like banana nut, strawberry cheesecake, and green tea.  

AMGEN TOUR STAGE 3
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

STAGE 3

STAGE 3
Pismo Beach to Morro Bay

During what promises to be one of the most scenic stages on the tour, riders will start in two-time host city Pismo Beach, a funky Central Coast surf town. Heading south and inland on Highway 1, the peloton will pass the beaches and vineyards of Guadalupe and Orcutt before looping back north to Nipomo and San Luis Obispo to make their way to the short, steep final climb up to the seaside Morro Bay. The 119.6-mile route is mostly flat with an uphill finish, so you’ll see the sprinters battling to the end.

Where to watch

“With the start and finish 30 minutes apart you can really go explore the sights of beautiful SLO County,” Klein says. “You’ll then have time to get to Morro Bay, explore the harbor and make it to the finish.”

Details

Men’s Stage 3

May 15 at 11 a.m., finish at 3:45 p.m.; 119.6 miles/192.5 kilometers

Where to stop

Start the morning with a drool-worthy donut—Peanut Butter Oreo, anyone?—and a Stumptown coffee at Surfside Donuts, then head down to the Pismo Beach Pier to watch surfers after the cyclists take off to head north. Grab farm-fresh salads and baked goods to go at SLO Provisions in San Luis Obispo, or spend a full day in Morro Bay, where you can rent a kayak to paddle the calm waters near the famous Morro Rock.

AMGEN STAGE 4 Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita
Panoramic Images/Getty Images

STAGE 4

STAGE 4
Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita

With two sprints, four KOMs, and 7,700 feet of climbing, Stage 4 will be a grueling ride east from Santa Barbara, inland through Montecito and Carpinteria, and downhill on a fast descent to Ojai before ending in Santa Clarita, which has hosted the most stages in race history (13). Fan-favorite Balcom Canyon—a climb so steep it intimidates many local riders—will be a popular spot for fans, with an estimated crowd size of 5,000 people in years past. 

Where to watch

“I recommend enjoying the beach and sunshine at the start in Santa Barbara—it’s always beautiful,” Klein says. Then, make your way to the steep Balcom Canyon to enjoy the party-crowd atmosphere. “Hang out there or go right to Santa Clarita, where there’s a phenomenal cycling community and they always host a fantastic finish.” 

Details

Men’s Stage 4

May 17 at 11:30 a.m., finish at 3:45 p.m.; 99.1 mi/159.5 km

Where to stop

Get your caffeine fix at Handlebar Coffee Roasters in downtown Santa Barbara, a coffee shop owned by two former professional cyclists who discovered the area while competing in the Amgen Tour of California. Snag a branded colorful water bottle for your next ride. If you have kids in tow, make time to visit MOXI: The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation. The new museum features three floors of hands-on, interactive exhibits that teach kids how to do things such as create movie sound effects and build marble roller coasters.

Once you arrive in Santa Clarita, refuel with brisket-topped Refiners Fries and one of 20-plus craft beers on tap at Newhall Refinery on Main Street.  

AMGEN TOUR STAGE 5
Harry How/Getty Images

STAGE 5

STAGE 5
STAGE 5 Ontario to Mount Baldy

What’s more exciting than a mountaintop finish? The highly anticipated Stage 5 boasts 12,000 feet of elevation gain, the most for any one stage of the race. Mt. Baldy’s 15 switchbacks—which appeared in the 2011, 2012, and 2015 races—create a finish so punishing and dramatic that it has been compared with various stages in the Tour de France.

The peloton will start by climbing up to the Village of Mount Baldy, where they’ll turn left to tackle the technical and twisting roads leading them to the first of three challenging KOMs. The second KOM will be the nine-mile grind on Glendora Mountain Road, aka GMR to local cyclists. At Ice House Canyon, the monster climbing begins on the steep switchbacks to the top of Mount Baldy, where the rider with the most fatigue-resistant legs will cross the finish in front of a screaming crowd. 

Where to watch

Stage 5 starts at the Ontario Convention Center, where you can get up close and personal with the riders in autograph alley and hear the start line interviews before they take on the 77.9-mile route. “If you can, go see the race start in Ontario, then head to the final three miles, where the fans will be lining the switchbacks,” Klein says. “There’s a good chance the race will stay together until the final three miles of the summit, so this finish will be one to watch.”

Details

Men’s Stage 5

May 18 at 12 p.m., finish at 3:45 p.m.; 78 mi/125.5 km

Where to stop

If nothing makes you happier than finding a good deal on clothing, fit in a quick shopping trip to California’s largest outlet center, Ontario Mills. You’ll find more than 200 stores, including the Coach Factory Store, Nordstrom Rack, and The North Face, as well as the perfect California travel resource—the Ontario California Welcome Center.

Restaurant options get slim near the top of Mount Baldy, but for a casual American meal, sit on the patio of the rustic Mt. Baldy Lodge to enjoy pub grub like potato skins or a grilled chicken sandwich. Play a round of pool before heading up to claim a spot on the switchbacks.

AMGEN TOUR STAGE 6
Kenny Hung/Getty Images

STAGE 6

STAGE 6
Big Bear Lake

An exciting mountain stage is followed by another fan favorite—the individual time trial in Big Bear Lake, where the 7,000 feet of altitude will take its toll on unacclimated riders. Each rider will race only the clock, set off one at a time, on a flat and fast 14.9-mile course through the Southern California mountain town, where skiing and snowboarding is popular in the winter and pretty much every outdoor activity is doable during the warmer months. 

Big Bear offers a jam-packed calendar of festivities throughout Amgen Tour of California weekend, including Q&As with celebrity cyclists such as Jens Voigt and Kristin Armstrong, as well as free organized rides and viewing parties.

Where to watch

“The course is going to begin right in the heart of the village,” Klein says. “It’s a great day because the start and finish are all within walking distance.” Every mile of the out-and-back course provides ample viewing opportunities to see riders pass on their aerodynamic machines. Crowds will likely gather at the halfway point in Fawnskin, but the most action will take place within a few blocks around downtown Big Bear.

Details

Men’s Stage 6

May 19 at 12:45 p.m., finish at 3:45 p.m.; 145 mi/24.1 km

Where to stop

Start with a breakfast sandwich and latte from Copper Q before packing in a morning of outdoor activity (the later start leaves a little more time to explore). Ride a zipline over the trees, rent a paddleboard to navigate the calm waters, or explore the extensive hiking and cycling trails around the lake.  

AMGEN TOUR STAGE 7
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

STAGE 7

STAGE 7
Mountain High to Pasadena

For the 13th time in race history, the riders will tour Angeles National Forest, commonly referred to as Los Angeles’ beautiful backyard. Starting from L.A.’s closest ski resort, Mountain High, the men will descend into the 700,000-some acres of Angeles National Forest. The yellow (overall general classification) and green (sprinter) jerseys could still be on the line for the day during the 77-mile route with a lot of fast descents, two sprints, and three KOMs. Get ready for nail-biting sprint finish as the men come launching into the final straightaway in Pasadena.

Where to watch

“If you have the opportunity to get to Mountain High first, start there,” Klein says. “You’ll have enough time to get to Pasadena to watch one of the greatest sprints in the history of the Amgen Tour of California.” To see the final awards ceremony, head to Green Street in front of the Convention Center in downtown Pasadena.

Details

Men’s Stage 7

May 20 at 10:45 a.m., finish at 1:40 p.m.; 77.7 mi/125 km

Where to stop

When the snow melts, Mountain High becomes a 27-hole disc golf course. For $8, you can play a round at the highest course in Southern California. If you want to stretch your legs while the men spin theirs, consider a quick hike in Angeles National Forest before heading to the finish line in downtown Pasadena (determine if you need a hiking pass ahead of time).