Tour of California route announced. Thrills, excitement, repetition.

Back to the California Sierra mountains. photo twisted spoke

Back to the California Sierra mountains. photo twisted spoke

Organizers of the Amgen Tour of California have just announced the route for the 2017 race.

It’s the Tour of California and we live in California and we’ve attended pretty much every stage for the last six editions so we’re pretty excited … and yet … a little underwhelmed?

On first impression and memory, the new route offers few new excitements or twists in the show. It’s the hot fudge Sunday with the same flavor ice cream, same nuts, whip cream and cherry. In other words, tasty and enticing but predictable.

We start stage 1 with the oft-used flat stage around Sacramento with a sure bunch sprint finish. Been there, seen that a few times.

Stage 2 brings us back for another visit to Modesto, which is kinda sweet and amusing because Modesto is this sleepy AG town — Modesto being Spanish for modest — and then we climb up Mount Hamilton and then down into San Jose, a regular start or finish town for the TOC. Again, no new revelations.

Stage 3 is a sprint/breakaway stage from Pismo Beach to Morro Bay and a nice final short uphill finish, if memory serves. Been to Pismo, which was the start town on stage 5 of the 2015 TOC and Morro Bay was a start town for the 2016 edition. Deja-vu all over again.

Twisted Spoke at 2016 TOC

Twisted Spoke at 2016 TOC

Stage 4 brings us on yet another visit to beautiful Santa Barbara (no complaints there) where the peloton will have a quick glass of chardonnay and before racing to not-so-beautiful Santa Clarita — a town that seems to have locked in at least three appearances for the Tour.

Santa Clarita is one of those pretend cities which is really just a sprawling suburban subdivision with no actual city in sight. The surrounding area is bleak, dry and barren. While Santa Clarita is a step up from the ancient oil derrick fields of Bakersfield, it’s not exactly postcard material. We’ve been very tempted to catch the Santa Barbara start and then head right to Ontario for the next day’s mountain stage.

Stage 5 is the queen stage and once again it’s the Mt. Baldy show. We love Baldy:  the climbs are brutal, the crowds are huge and excitement is high. You can’t argue with Baldy — it’s a cracker, as the Brits would say. Love to park ourselves on that climb and enjoy the fireworks. Is this the third or fourth time Baldy has the spotlight?

Stage 6 is a stage we’ve seen and not seen if that makes sense. It was on the books for the 2015 edition but snow forced a cancellation and so we watched a shorted time trial at the parking lot of the Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park, in beautiful, wait for it, Santa Clarita. We remember the riders did the chrono in the shadow of a huge roller coaster. So yes, we’re looking forward to Big Bear — we’ve had massive snows in Northern California this January but hopefully Big Bear won’t get hit again with snow in mid-May.

Last but not least, we finish with the stage 7 procession and sprint finish in Pasadena. The crowds in Pasadena are big and appreciate and there’s a party-carinal atmosphere but Pasadena was just in the Tour of California in 2015.

Now, there is something to be said for a stage race finding it’s groove and settling into a comfortable pattern with fairly set towns and race routes. The Tour de France isn’t getting rid of Mont Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez. There are certain givens, expectations and iconic mountains and that a tour will revisit again and again and again. We’re happy that the TOC is solvent (we miss you, USPCC) and successful.

Perhaps we’re just greedy in hoping for a few new surprises. California has a endless supply of beautiful places and part of the fun of chasing the race is exploring the state along the way. And that’s not to say that doesn’t happen along the race route, as we drive past new locales.

So chapeau Tour of California for keeping the ball rolling in 2017. Can we just put in an early vote for some fresh creativity for 2018?

 

Stage 1: Sacramento, 167.5km
Stage 2: Modesto to San Jose, 143km
Stage 3: Pismo Beach to Morro Bay, 183km
Stage 4: Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita, 161.5km
Stage 5: Ontario to Mt. Baldy, 125.5km
Stage 6: Big Bear Lake time trial, 23km
Stage 7: Mountain High to Pasadena, 124km

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