From Thursday to Sunday, the 10th annual Amgen Tour of California cycling race makes its way through Southern California for another dramatic finale. The eight day race has become one of the premier cycling events in the United States, attracting an estimated 2 million spectators along the 720 mile course. If you're interest in the sport has waned since the public shaming of Lance Armstrong, now would be a good time to get back into the saddle. Only this time without the widespread use of blood doping agents. Take the time this week to check out world-class sport at these locations:
1. Thursday—Stage 5 (Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita). Arrive early on Thursday to catch the 11:55 AM start of stage five from the beaches of Santa Barbara. Balcom Canyon (between Santa Paula and Moorpark) has also drawn thousands of spectators in the past due to the grueling 10% uphill grade that awaits both the peloton and your feeble transmission. You can expect fans here to be equipped with flags, whistles and cow bells to urge these riders towards the finish line. Or, you'll see this dude with a Pope hat made of FedEx materials.
2. Friday—Stage 6 (Big Bear Lake). Big Bear Lake will be a hub of activity on Friday with a 15.1 mile time trial starting at 12:47 PM. There should be plenty of prime spots for viewing the finish at the jetty, and fans are encouraged to bring their bike with them to follow the action. But really... isn't bringing your bike to a bike race equivalent to wearing a band's shirt to their own show? Bad form man.
3. Saturday—Stage 7 (Ontario to Mt. Baldy). While the Tour de France may have the Alps and the Pyrenees, the Tour of California is quickly gaining notoriety for its epic climb in the Queen Stage. The 80 mile course begins at 11:45 AM and concludes with an 11 mile assent to the Village of Mt. Baldy. If cycling action is what you came for, this is the stage where the race is usually decided. If cycling isn't what you came for, you might want to reconsider what the hell you are doing on top of Mt. Baldy.
4. Sunday—Stage 8 (L.A. Live to Pasadena). The race concludes on Sunday in LA proper with a ride from Downtown LA to the historic Rose Bowl beginning at 9:15 AM. Due to traffic congestion, seeing both the start and the finish of the stage is unlikely. Heading to Pasadena will allow you to see the final jersey presentations along with the introduction of the best team.