Tour of California 2011 update. Baldy, Tahoe, Zinfandel.

WIll Levi win in 2011? Photo: Twisted Spoke

The boys running the Amgen Tour of California announced the host cities for the 2011 edition. Twisted Spoke is lightly hyperventilating just thinking about the three exciting changes.

Stage one and two will be in the Lake Tahoe in Northern California, just three hours from Twisted Spoke world headquarters. Tahoe is a knockout location and the climb up to the Northstar ski area should be a thrilling one for the climbers and fans and anyone who hopes to find skis and poles lost over the winter.

The second menu addition is a alpine, Tour de France type suffer-fest up Mount Baldy in Southern California. 2500 feet of anaerobic hell and 18 switchbacks and plenty of riders dropped. It will be a decisive stage for riders like Dave Zabriskie, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rogers or anyone looking to take the overall.

Last but never least, the Cali Tour will hit Paso Robles if for no other reason than a few glasses of wine. No Tour is complete without a race through the vineyards. Out with last years’ Santa Rosa Sonoma grapes and in with some award winning Zinfandel. Wine Spectator and Twisted Spoke say dump the Accelerade out of the water bottle and get the decanter ready.

Also back in the line-up, the Solvang time trial only this time stretched out in distance and longer than the downtown LA contre le montre that sealed Michael Rogers’ victory in 2010. More climbs, longer clock.

Is the Tour of California — and not the Giro — now the ideal preperation for the Tour de France? AEG president Andrew Messick sounds pretty confident that’s the case.“We did have a lot of success last year in that regard. Nine stages in the Tour de France were won by guys that did our race and we had three guys in the top ten. We certainly demonstrated that you can be successful here in May and then repeat that in July,’ said Messick. “We think we’re a great alternative to the Giro for people that want to have a great July.”

The Tour of California was our first stage race, live and in person and our first paid writing assignments for Cyclesport and Pez Cycling News. You can bet we’ll be looking for those gigs again. And we’ll be buying the fancy telephoto lens this time for those perfect action shots.

And Spaniard Alberto Contador is hereby invited to ride in the Twisted Spokemobile because he certainly won’t be doing the race, any race.

• Stage 1: Sunday, May 15 – South Lake Tahoe to North Lake Tahoe-Northstar at Tahoe Resort

• Stage 2: Monday, May 16 – North Lake Tahoe-Squaw Valley USA to Sacramento

• Stage 3: Tuesday, May 17 – Auburn to Modesto

• Stage 4: Wednesday, May 18 – Livermore to San Jose

• Stage 5: Thursday, May 19 – Seaside to Paso Robles

• Stage 6: Friday, May 20 – Solvang Individual Time Trial

• Stage 7: Saturday, May 21 – Claremont to Mt. Baldy

• Stage 8: Sunday, May 22 – Santa Clarita to Thousand Oaks

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