A stage from San Francisco to Santa Rosa will be the finale for the Amgen Tour of California, with picture-postcard images of the peloton crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and skirting the Pacific Coast.
"It is going to look very good on television," said Raissa de la Rosa, chairwoman of the tour's organizing committee in Santa Rosa. "We tried for another epic stage all within Sonoma County. That would have been better, but it will still be beautiful."
The eight-day race will take the riders 750 miles from Escondido to the finish line in downtown Santa Rosa on Sunday, May 19.
For the first time, the tour will start in Southern California before heading to Northern California, said officials for AEG Sports in Los Angeles, owner of the tour.
AEG announced the cities Tuesday afternoon, although the exact routes will not be released until early next year.
The first stage will be run entirely in Escondido. Subsequent stages unveiled Tuesday include: Murrieta to greater Palm Springs; Santa Clarita to Santa Barbara; Santa Barbara to Avila Beach; a time trial in San Jose; Livermore to the summit of Mt. Diablo; and the marina in San Francisco to downtown Santa Rosa.
AEG officials said the San Francisco-Santa Rosa route would be similar to the one used in 2008, which began in Sausalito and took riders up the coast and inland over Coleman Valley Road before arriving in Santa Rosa.
That would make for a challenging stage, said Glen Mitchell, manager of the Santa Rosa-based Bissell Pro Cycling Team, which has participated in the tour since 2007.
"They can make it as difficult as they want," Mitchell said. "We have the terrain outside of Santa Rosa to make an impact on the race. I would think they would want to incorporate one or two of the known climbs to keep everyone on their toes. That is what makes the race exciting."
The Amgen tour has grown since it started in 2006, inviting eight international pro teams and eight of the U.S.-based Continental and Pro Continental teams.
"The word spread quickly how good this race was and you can see that by the caliber of riders and the caliber of teams that have come over from Europe," Mitchell said. "Every team tries to get an invitation to this race."
Peter Stetina, 25, of Santa Rosa, who rides for the Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda team, said he hopes his team picks him to ride in the Tour of California.
"Being on an American team, this is one of the most important races on the calendar, along with the Tour de France, and at a critical time, in May," Stetina said. "It serves as an ideal buildup for the Tour de France."
Santa Rosa has hosted starts and finishes in six of the seven tours that have been held. Last May, the city staged the prestigious overall start.
During that stage, the riders started downtown, rode to Windsor, returned to downtown, then rode to Occidental, Cazadero, south on Highway 1 and turned back east over Coleman Valley Road.
Santa Rosa had asked for a similar stage all within Sonoma County, but was given a San Francisco-Santa Rosa route instead, de la Rosa said.
However, the overall finish of the race is still considered a preferred stage.