The world’s fastest cyclists will zip through San Francisco’s hills May 18 in the third leg of the Amgen Tour of California, arguably America’s most important and prestigious bike race.
The 16 host cities were announced Thursday morning through a Twitter exchange between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and cyclists Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Dave Zabriskie and George Hincapie.
“The governor essentially put out a challenge directly to Lance Armstrong via tweet,” said Michael Roth, spokesman for the tour.
Organizers have made two major changes to the five-year-old race — moving its start from February to May 16, and including the Sierras and Sequoia National Forest along the 750-mile route.
“It was a big decision for us. To continue to grow, we really needed to be able to showcase the whole of California,” said AEG Sports President Andrew Messick in a Thursday morning conference call.
The switch to a more temperate mid-season race allows cyclists to ride along a more varied backdrop. It also offers increased conditioning for cyclists who plan to go on to the Tour de France in July, Messick said. The first leg of the race will be Nevada City to Sacramento; then Davis to Santa Rosa. Cyclists will arrive in San Francisco on day three of the eight-day race, starting at the Embarcadero and following the Bay-to-Breakers course to the Great Highway, where they will ride on to the finish line near the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The tour’s San Francisco stop comes two days after Bay to Breakers.
Cities new to the race include Nevada City, Bakersfield, Big Bear Lake, Los Angeles and the final stop at Thousand Oaks/Westlake Village/Agoura Hills.
The seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong and three-time defending Amgen Tour of California champ Leipheimer are expected to draw throngs of fans. Armstrong will ride with his newly formed Team RadioShack.