EIGHT STAGES: When you put "AMERICA'S GREATEST RACE" all in capital letters at the top of your web site, you are not messing around. You're ready to take on any doubters who might challenge you on that assertion, but doubters are pretty few when it comes to the AMGEN Tour of California. That's because it is one of the majors on the American athletic calendar, and one of the star events of the bicycling world. There are a lot of reasons for the hyperbole, but here's a few highlights: It attracts the biggest names in cycling. It's run in eight stages over eight days throughout a good chunk of the Golden State. And throngs of cycle-happy fans line roads and gather for after-parties to raise a glass, or perhaps one of those squirt-top water bottles, to the race. And now, here it is: The 2012 AMGEN Tour of California is set to lift the kickstand on Sunday, May 13.
START AND END: Stage 1 begins and ends in Santa Rosa; Stage 2, which is on Monday, May 13, flies from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. The stages'll slowly begin to wend south before that last stop on Sunday, May 20 which is all about Beverly Hills and LA Live and the city cycle. While a lot of Angelenos are hanging on to watch then, note that a lot of places just a short drive from Los Angeles will be welcoming the riders and doing it up in different ways (we've been hearing about a lot of haps going down in Big Bear Lake, which falls under Stage 6 on Friday, May 18). Wherever you go to see those fast athletes blur past, be sure to check out the Lifestyle Festival and what's going down around the race for spectators. It is, after all, "one of the nation's largest and most recognized annual sporting events," says AMGEN. Doubters, grab some route and see it in action.