New Tour course has tougher look

Course planners for the Amgen Tour of California released the details of the 2007 cycling event Wednesday, revealing a route that is 150 miles longer than this year’s inaugural race.

The 650-mile Tour again begins with the prologue in San Francisco on Feb. 18 and will roll through 12 cities before finishing in Long Beach on Feb. 25. Sixteen eight-member teams will participate in the event and the new course has already drawn rave reviews from prospective riders.

“I’m two days into my training here and I’ve had two of the better days I can remember,” said Scott Nydam, a Colorado resident who relocated to Santa Rosa to prepare for the Tour. “This is like Narnia for cyclists.”

The race will proceed from San Francisco through Sausalito, Santa Rosa before swinging out to new stops in Sacramento and Stockton. It then returns to San Jose and winds its way down the Pacific Ocean coast through Seaside, San Luis Obispo, Solvang, Santa Barbara, Santa Clarita until reaching Long Beach. It will be televised on the Versus Network, a fact organizers said was a motivating force to select the most scenic routes possible. Last year, highlights were on ESPN2.

“It was very important for us — not losing any degree of difficulty — but to look for the most picturesque settings,” said Michael Roth, the vice president of corporate communications for race organizer AEG. “This is a television broadcast … and we want to show off our state in the best possible way.”

The Discovery Pro Cycling Team, Team CSC and Predictor-Lotto have already committed to participating, with others (such as Nydam’s BMC Team) expected to be announced shortly. Once the field is set, each team will decide which eight of its members will ride in the race.

Floyd Landis — last year’s champion — is not expected to be involved due a recent hip replacement surgery and doping allegations stemming from this year’s Tour de France.

According to Roth, several strategic changes have been made in the hopes of creating a close finish and as many lead changes as possible, including moving the individual time trial to Feb. 25.

The City will host the prologue for the second straight year, with the 1.9-mile course beginning at the Ferry Building and continuing along the Embarcadero before turning onto Bay Street and climbing up Telegraph Hill to the finish at Coit Tower.

“You’ve got your classic, winding streets and hills with views of waterways,” Roth said. “The look of [San Francisco] really does show off a lot of what’s great about California.”

melliser@examiner.com

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