When the Tour of California returns to Marin in May, it seems likely they'll follow the same route they have in the past — heading up Highway 1 from Sausalito to Point Reyes, then hitting Marshall and Tomales before turning inland to Santa Rosa. But, locals are hoping this time the race will add some of the classic climbs every Marin cyclist rides.
"They missed out by not incorporating Mt. Tam (in the past) and I'd like to see them include it in the route," said Matt Adams, a Fairfax resident and the president of Mike's Bikes, which has two Marin stores.
"Selfishly, I'd like to see them go over Panoramic," said Chris Hobbs, a Corte Madera resident, bike racer and board director of the Marin County Bike Coalition.
Hobbs acknowledged, though, that there are multiple perspectives the race organizers have to consider. From a spectators' point-of-view, it's best to watch the cyclists on a big hill, where the steep climbs slow the riders down enough to actually be seen. For the racers, a mix of stages is important. Every day can't end with a mountaintop finish. For the organizers, it's important to consider the logistics and sponsors.
A large sponsor of the Tour of California is the California Travel and Tourism Commission, which hopes to show off the state with TV shots of bike racers rolling through vineyards and along the coast. Marin certainly can provide some of that. A route that goes up Mt. Tam, along Ridegcrest and descends to Stinson Beach before going out Highway 1 would serve up plenty of breath-taking landscapes, Hobbs said.
"This will be the most beautiful stage of the Tour of California and will dramatically showcase a great part of California," said Alison Tetrick, a Mill Valley-based professional cyclist. Tetrick would also like to see the route climb up Mt. Tam.
The Tour of California, which will run from May 12-19, hasn't yet finalized its exact route. What has been announced are the host cities where each day will start and stop, as well as the general direction of the race. This year, for the first time ever, the tour will go from south to north, ending in Santa Rosa.
That means Marin will be featured in the last stage, when the cyclists travel from San Francisco to Santa Rosa. The last time the riders came through Marin was in 2009 when the race left Sausalito and headed over the bridge into the city. The three years before that, the peloton traveled down Highway 1 through Marin.
In 2013, race organizers have confirmed the riders will go over the Golden Gate Bridge (obviously) and through Sausalito. Other than that, a spokesperson said, they have people on the ground right now looking at different routes.
The day before the race comes through Marin, it will finish the stage on top of Mt. Diablo in the East Bay. Because that climb will probably determine the final race standings, it's likely that the last day through Marin won't be too hilly and will culminate with a sprint around Santa Rosa.
Hobbs has one other crazy idea, though: the riders could use the Marin bike infrastructure, like the Mill Valley-Sausalito bike path and the Cal Park Tunnel.
"That would be kind of cool if they went through the tunnel," Hobbs said.
Though that's probably not going to happen, using popular routes would help connect with local cyclists. And, riding through some Marin towns would not only bring out crowds, but would also be a nod to the county's passionate biking community.
"Recognizing Fairfax as the cycling mecca it is would be very cool. And then the route north from there has the riders using roads that we all ride every day and that's one of the great things about our sport," Adams said.
Marin has gotten another junior development team, headed by some well-known local coaches and riders. Julia Violich, who has coached the Redwood, Branson, and Marin Academy high school mountain bike teams and previously served as the assistant director for the Whole Athlete development team, has started her own squad. Violich joined up with Stu Bone this fall to expand the Bear development team and add a girls team.
The Bear team is made up of 15 junior male riders and five female juniors, mostly from Marin, who will ride cyclocross, mountain and road year-round. The team recently signed a deal with Trek bikes and with local sponsors, like City Cycles.
Ride Inside for Charity
A number of Marin cyclists and triathletes will participate in the second annual Challenged Athletes Foundation Bay Area Cycle Challenge on Feb. 2 from 2 to 6 p.m. The challenge is a four-hour indoor cycle-thon at VeloSF to raise money for the foundation. The Challenged Athletes Foundations helps disabled athletes achieve their athletic goals.
Tour of California
(Exact route to be determined)
Stage 1: May 12 — Escondido
Stage 2: May 13 — Murrieta to Greater Palm Springs
Stage 3: May 14 — Palmdale to Santa Clarita
Stage 4: May 15 — Santa Clarita to Santa Barbara
Stage 5: May 16 — Santa Barbara to Avila Beach
Stage 6: May 17 — San Jose (Individual Time Trial)
Stage 7: May 18 — Livermore to Mt. Diablo
Stage 8: May 19 — San Francisco to Santa Rosa (route goes through Marin)
TV coverage: NBC Sports Network
On the web: www.amgentourofcalifornia.com