Tour of California 2014 guide
Preview of the eight-day race
Last Updated: 13/05/14 5:30am
Sir Bradley Wiggins is set to mount a challenge in the general classification, while Mark Cavendish will be chasing stage wins.
They will be joined on the start line by a group of young Britons all keen to make their mark, not least Adam Yates, who is back in action following his superb overall victory at the Tour of Turkey.
Meanwhile, Peter Sagan is also in attendance and will be looking to add to his impressive haul of ten Tour of California stage wins.
The eight-day race has grown exponentially since its inception in 2006, and the 2014 edition promises to be as tough and testing as ever.
Rather than a slow-burning build up, the general classification battle should quickly take shape with a time trial and summit finish both featuring in the first three stages.
Here's how the race will pan out...
Sunday 11 May - Stage one: Sacramento to Sacramento, 193.1km
The state capital hosts the opening salvo and offers a chance for the sprinters to lay claim to the leader's jersey. The route heads out of the city and climbs up to Auburn in a lumpy middle section, before dropping back down for a fan-lined finale and three laps of the flat finishing circuit.
Monday 12 May - Stage two: Folsom (individual time trial), 20.1km
A significant test so early in the race, Folsom plays host to the time trial and a major chance for the overall contenders to put time into one another. The largely flat out-and-back course takes the riders past the infamous prison, before a dead turn and a run back into Folsom's downtown district.
Tuesday 13 May - Stage three: San Jose to Mount Diablo State Park, 174.5km
Business continues to pick up with the queen stage, the first summit finish of the race and a date with Mount Diablo. Kicking off in San Jose, the riders are immediately thrust on to the south face of Mount Hamilton. The switchback climb is a tough test so early into the stage, and will wear on the riders ahead of the finale. Significant time gaps should begin to open out on the final climb as the GC really takes shape.
Wednesday 14 May - Stage four: Monterey to Cambria, 165.1km
Stage four sees the riders hug the coastline with the backdrop of Monterey Bay before taking Highway 1 en route to Big Sur. The stage features constant undulations but the peloton should stay together for a sprint, unless the sea breeze has other ideas.
Thursday 15 May - Stage five: Pismo Beach to Santa Barbara, 172.9km
With significant time gaps now separating the riders, there's no reason why a motivated band of attackers couldn't stay clear on day five. A hors-categorie climb of the San Marcos Pass is the toughest test of the day, before a fast descent into Santa Barbara.
Friday 16 May - Stage six: Santa Clarita to Mountain High, 151.8km
This is another stage that should have a major bearing on the overall standings. The long, steep climb to Bouquet Canyon, which continues over the Spunky Canyon, should see a sizeable selection made before the bunch thins out even further on Mount Emma. It is the final climb that will separate the men from the boys, however, with the aptly titled Mountain High topping out at well over 2,000 metres. The front-runners here should also stake a claim in the general classification.
Saturday 17 May - Stage seven: Santa Clarita to Pasadena, 142.8km
The action starts in Santa Clarita for the second day in succession, but this time heads into the Angeles National Forest, which serves up two categorised climbs. Once the riders passed over those, they will tackle a long, steep and technical descent into Pasadena, before they commence three laps of a fast city circuit. Any sprinters that have stayed in contention over the climbs will fancy their chances in what should be a bunch sprint finish.
Sunday 18 May - Stage eight: Thousand Oaks circuit race, 122.4km
The action concludes with four laps of an undulating 39.2km circuit that includes four ascents up the Rock Store climb and then a technical descent back down the Westlake Boulevard. After a tough week in the saddle, a bunch-sprint finish is not guaranteed, and the GC contenders will have to have their wits about them as the battle for overall honours could go right down to the wire.
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step)
Josh Edmondson (Team Sky)
Tao Geoghegan Hart (Bissell Development Team)
Luke Rowe (Team Sky)
Scott Thwaites (NetApp-Endura)
Sir Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky)
Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge)