Tens of thousands of bike racing fans are expected to flock to the open roads Tuesday to see the Amgen Tour of California stage starting in the eastern San Jose lowlands and finishing at the summit of Mount Diablo.
Cycling fans who want to get near the mountaintop finish face a strenuous workout of their own. They must hike or pedal at least 4.7 miles to reach the 3,849-foot summit of Mount Diablo. Private cars will not be allowed that day on the upper mountain's narrow, winding road.
Adding to the viewing challenge, there will be no public shuttles up the mountain, limited parking on the lower mountain, and few working water faucets or fountains in the state park because of the drought.
Despite that, thousands of people are expected to pedal up the mountain for a free roadside view of some the world's best professional riders dueling on a scenic, grueling course with panoramic views.
"Mount Diablo is a great place to see a bike race," said Dave Matthews, the district public safety coordinator for California State Parks. "We're telling the public to come early, bring plenty of water and snacks, and take time to enjoy the park as well as the race."
Meanwhile, at a lower elevation in San Jose, fans can see the 10:45 a.m. start of the 108-mile race at Raging Waters in Lake Cunningham Park -- a place with far more parking and places to buy food and drink.
Fans are invited to come as early as 9 a.m. to Raging Waters, attend a lifestyle festival, and try to get racers' autographs as they line up for the start.
After the race begins, Raging Waters will open some of its water slides for free to the public, and hold a race viewing party on big-screen televisions from 1 to 4 p.m.
After heading eastward out of San Jose, the pro racers will pedal up and down 4,216-foot Mount Hamilton before riding along the east side of Livermore and Danville to begin the tortuous climb up Mount Diablo.
On race day, spectators can drive into Mt. Diablo State Park for a $10 car fee from 8 a.m. until about 2 p.m. There is limited parking in the Rock City area and along North Gate Road. There is no parking on South Gate Road below Rock City.
Cyclists and hikers enter the park for free. On race day, though, recreational cyclists riding up Mount Diablo will be required to dismount and leave their two-wheelers in a valet bike check area about a mile from the top.
As a result, organizers said, cyclists should bring shoes they can walk in if they want to reach the summit.
Matthews estimated that some 4,600 recreational cyclists rode into Mt. Diablo State Park for the Amgen race last year, the first time it finished at the Diablo summit.
It's hard to predict crowds this year, he said, because the mountain finish is on a weekday while last year's finish fell on a Saturday.
On the other hand, this year's San Jose-to-Mount Diablo leg is the only Bay Area stage of the eight-day race, which lasts from Sunday to May 18.
Park rangers' worst fear is that recreational cyclists will crash descending the steep mountain road after the race.
To bolster safety, park rangers and other law enforcement officers will have spectators leave in a series of waves led by police vehicles, with those lowest down the mountain leaving first.
"It's a steep, narrow road," Matthews said, "and we want everyone to get home safely."
Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff.
Best places to view the Tuesday race stage from San Jose to Mount Diablo are the start at Raging Waters in San Jose, the climb up Mount Hamilton and the finishing climb 11 miles up Mt. Diablo State Park.
Raging Waters, in the Lake Cunningham Park in San Jose, opens at 9 a.m.; the race starts there at 10:45 a.m.
Mount Hamilton, between San Jose and Livermore, offers great views of the race, but this part of the course is best reached on a bicycle because it lacks car parking.
Racers are expected to reach the southern entrance of Mt. Diablo State Park near Danville about 2:30 p.m. Spectators are advised to find a viewing place along the mountain road hours before then. The park opens at 8 a.m.
For details about the race, go to www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.
For details about the race segment on Mount Diablo, go to http://ottertrail38.wix.com/friendsofmountdiablo.
For details about the San Jose race start, go to http://amgentourofcaliforniasanjose.wordpress.com.