Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Tour of California Part 1

Like most American cycling fans, I'll probably never have a chance to see one of the three European, grand tours. While I'd love to join the caravan and follow the Tour de France, seeing all the action, in person, it's unlikely that I'll ever get both the time and money to do so. My only hope, is for there to be a fourth grand tour added, and that it be run in North America.

As a Californian, I think that the best bet for such a race, would be an expansion of the present Tour of California, but as an alternative, a Tour of North America, moved to a different region of the continent every year, would also work. California has the deserts, sea coast, and the Sierras. It also has some pretty large urban areas, media outlets, as well as cities and large communities, just over the state border in Nevada, Oregon, and Arizona. As the three European grand tours often cross borders into neighboring countries, there is no reason why a future grand tour of California couldn't go through Las Vegas. Other possibilities for a Tour of North America could include the Rockies, and the Cascades, straddling the U.S./Canadian border. And while the mountains of the east aren't as challenging as those of the west, a grand tour that finishes in New York City would work. Even the flat sections of the mid west could work, substituting distance for elevation gains. Why not a 21 day, 3,500 mile race that includes, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Chicago.

One of the few advantages of being semi-unemployed, is that I can stay at home and follow live updates of the Tour de France. I've also got the time to think about a fourth grand tour. And so, with nothing better to do, I sat down, used Mapquest and have worked out a future, grand Tour of California. I've used some of the routes from the past couple of years, sometimes with minor variations, and I've also moved my fictional race to the fall, to ensure that the high mountains are snow free and the deserts have cooled enough so that no riders die of heat stroke. In some of my stages, I've used a specific start point, and a specific end point, and when I have, I'll give those locations. If not, I've just fed the town name into Mapquest, and let the web site choose a central location. I've also set things to avoid highways, and use the shortest route. I won't write all of the road numbers and street names. If anyone is so taken by my idea that they have to have more deatils, they can go to Mapquest and look it up themselves. I've tried to include as many of the large urban areas as I could and also took into consideration that television money and sponsorships are important, so I did my best to include as much spectacular scenery as possible. All distances listed are in miles. My math isn't good enough to do all the conversions to kilometers. At the end of each stage I'll put down the mileage for that day, as well as cumulative distances to date. When I've used the same route as the 2009 Tour of California, maps can be viewed by going to

1. I've started my Tour of California with a true prologue. Any Tour of California has to include the state capital, and the quick 2.4 mile ride through downtown Sacramento is as good as any other way to have a Bear Flag Jersey awarded for the first real stage of the race. 2.4/2.4

2. Stage two also follows the same route as the 2009 Tour of California. Starting at the intersection of C St. and 3rd St. in Davis, it ends at 3rd St. and Santa Rosa Ave. in Santa Rosa, ending with three circuit laps. It goes through the Napa Valley and Calistoga. 107.6/110.

3. If you're going to run a grand tour in the United States, it can't be as lily white, or middle class and above as the Euro tours. My stage 3, is a semi loop of the San Fransisco Bay area, passing through both upscale neighborhoods, and some of the poorer areas in Oakland. It starts at the same place that the 2009 stage 3 started, in Sausalito, 100 Spinnaker Dr., goes over the Golden Gate Bridge, and heads south to San Jose, at the intersection of San Fernando St. and Almaden Blvd. then turns north to Jack London Square in Oakland, and then on to it's finish in downtown Berkeley. 106.9/216.9.

4. There are going to be some drives between start and end points for this imaginary Tour of California, and I've tried to keep them as reasonable as possible. Stage 4 starts in Ukiah and heads over the coastal mountains to Chico, a college town north of Sacramento. The climbs shouldn't be all the hard for pro cyclists, there is a long bit along Clear Lake, and then a descent towards Williams and then onto the college town of Chico. 143.3/360.2.

5. Moving up the I-5, the next start point is in Redding, a small city near the Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area. The route heads east, going over Hatcher Mountain Summit (4368 ft.) and Adin Summit (5188 ft.) and ends in Alturas. This is as far north as this tour gets. I've checked the numbers twice. It's the same distance as stage 4. 143.3/503.5.

6. Moving south, the next start point is at Susanville, a smallish town in the southern Cascades. This is volcanic country, not far from Lassen Volcanic National Park. Expect flats from riding over pumice. Avoiding the four lane 395, takes the route through Quincy, another smallish community , but ends in Reno, Nevada. The first day outside of California. A casino sponsorship is a good bet to help pay for the tour. 147.2/650.7

7. It's time for a team time trail, before any of the teams get down to less than five riders. From Nevada's capital city to the old mining town of Virginia City is only 15.2 miles, but it does end with a steep, though short climb. Virginia City is where Mark Twain got his literary start. 15.2/665.9.

8. This stage starts with another day in Nevada, but then returns to California. With a start in the casino and resort town of Stateline, Nevada, on Lake Tahoe, crosses into Stateline, California, and then starts to climb over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, over Carson Pass (8573 ft.) and then has a very long series of climbs and descents, eventually nearing sea level at Stockton. 128.5/794.4

I've put a rest day after stage 8, and will continue this in another post in a day or two.

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