The Amgen Tour of California is a multiday race featuring professional cyclists and was started to put the sport on the map in the U.S.

It's a stage race like the Tour de France. The winner has the fastest combined time over several stages.

Now in its eighth year, the Tour of California will cover 750 miles over eight days from May 12 to 19, starting in Escondido and finishing in Santa Rosa.

For the first time, the race will be staged south to north. That means the legs that are the most critical and most watched on television around the world will be on Northern California soil -- including a May 17 time trial in San Jose and a May 18 segment from Livermore to the top of Mount Diablo.

Over the eight years of the race, many Olympic medalists, world champions and top finishers in the Tour de France have competed in the Tour of California. This gives fans a chance to see them up close on the course even if it's just for a few seconds as the pack, called a peleton, whizzes by.

For details, go to www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.

Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff.