The lead group begins the descent of the Laureles Grade, Sea Otter Road Race 2003
With the Alder Creek Slide unlikely to be cleared anytime soon, it’s been obvious for a while now that the Tour of California bike race was going to have to find a new way of getting from Seaside to Paso Robles – and today the new route was announced.
While the route won’t treat the international TV audience to scenes of grandeur from the Big Sur coast, mountain points on offer at Laureles Grade, Ardeas Grade (Dumb Dodo) and Cahoon, as well as sprint points in Carmel Valley Village and Greenfield, will give locals more opportunities to enjoy the race than in the past.
Although the talk on the cycling sites has been all about how additional climbing is going to make the stage harder, we’re guessing that the less challenging northern approach into Paso Robles (with nothing equivalent to the steep grades on Santa Rosa Rd.) will actually make a mass sprint finish a little more likely. Still, this stage will definitely tempt breakaway riders to try their luck – and the contenders for overall victory will probably be more than happy to call a truce and let them go.
The race starts in Seaside at 9:30 on Thursday, May 19th. The climbing begins immediately as the race heads out of town on Canyon Del Rey Blvd., turns left on Gen. Jim Moore Blvd., then right on South Boundary Rd. and climbs the “stair steps” behind York School (familiar to anyone who tackled the Sea Otter Road Race in days of yore). The route then passes through Laguna Seca, makes the insanely steep drop to Highway 68, and hits the short, punchy climb up Laureles Grade to the day’s first “King of the Mountains” sprint.
Climbing the final hill between the “stair steps” and Laguna Seca
With the whole road at their disposal, the pros will be sure to rail the descent into Carmel Valley at well over 50mph. After competing for cash and points at the sprint line in the Carmel Valley Village, they’ll finally get a chance to settle down as they make a tailwind assisted ride up the false flats along Tularcitos Creek. But the rest will be brief, as more mountain points will be awarded at the top of short, steep Ardeas Grade (just before the Tassajara Rd. intersection) and at Cahoon Summit (a longer, but much more gradual climb).
There’ll be some white knuckles on the first mile or two of the descent from Cahoon, but it quickly turns into a gently descending high speed run (Memo to Tour of California organizers: the stream along this section is Paloma Creek, not “The Carmel Valley River”). After speeding through the rollers on the Arroyo Seco Rd. and crossing the Arroyo Seco River, it’ll be a flat crosswind run into Greenfield for the day’s second intermediate sprint.
Crossing the Arroyo Seco River – these cyclists are headed in the wrong direction, but you get the idea
After the sprint, the route crosses the Salinas River on Elm Ave., then turns right on Metz Rd. to begin a largely flat, and likely massively tailwind assisted, leg through King City to San Lucas. There the race re-crosses the Salinas River and swings onto narrow Lockwood/San Lucas Rd. for a climb over the hill to Lockwood. While it’s an easy climb, this is where, if it’s a warm day, the thermometer may really begin to soar. Triple digit temperatures are far from rare along the rest of the route and, if it’s hot, more than one rider will undoubtedly be tempted by the cold beer at the Lockwood store.
The Lockwood/San Lucas Rd.
From Lockwood, the race will begin an up and down (but mostly up) journey along Interlake Rd. (following the bike course of the Wildflower Triathlon in reverse), culminating in the day’s final mountain points at the high point between lakes San Antonio and Nacimiento. On paper, this short, power climb should be easier than Laureles or Cahoon, but after hours in the saddle, and if the day is a scorcher, it could be a deal breaker for sprinters hoping to recapture a breakaway.
Lots of Mariposa Lilies (Calochortus venustus) grow along the side of the road at the Interlake Rd. summit (where this picture was taken in May 2010). Try not to trample them if you go there to watch the day’s final KOM sprint.
The route then descends to Lake Nacimiento, tackles a few final hills along Nacimiento Lake Dr. and reaches the finish line in Paso Robles. Total distance: 135.1 miles.
Click here for the new official Stage 5 map.