Tour of Downtown: Race sets Modesto course

Amgen Tour of California technical director Chuck Hodge said cyclists have complained that some tour stages aren't difficult enough, so three new stages will be in place for next year's event in February.

One begins in Modesto, and Hodge believes it could be the biggest challenge.

Following two loops through downtown Modesto, Stage 3 of the third annual Tour of California will head west, across Mount Hamilton to San Jose, tour officials said Tuesday at a news conference at Tenth Street Place.

The seven-stage, 670-mile tour begins Feb. 17 with the prologue at Stanford University. Stage 1 runs from Sausalito to Santa Rosa and Stage 2 from Santa Rosa to Sacramento. Stage 3 starts in Modesto on Feb. 20.

"We have an additional two mountains," said Chris Murphy, who helped organize last year's stage from Stockton up Patterson Pass. "Last year, we went up Sierra Road (near San Jose). This year, you have to go up Mount Hamilton before you go up Sierra Road. This will be a grueling stage."

The peloton will climb the backside of Mount Hamilton, which has an elevation of 4,360 feet.

Riders will bike through downtown Modesto before taking on the treacherous grades and hills.

The event will begin in front of the Gallo Center for the Arts on 10th Street, and the course will move by Tenth Street Place, the McHenry Mansion at 15th and I streets and the McHenry Museum at 14th and I before going under the arch and heading west on I Street, onto Paradise Avenue past Modesto High School and out of town. The peloton will pedal through Patterson and then onto Del Puerto Canyon Road en route to San Jose.

"Our thought process was to highlight all of the icons downtown," said Bob Quintella, the local organizing committee technical director.

Quintella said race officials liked the Gallo Center for the Arts as a starting point because of how well the building stands out and the width of I Street. With 16 teams and nearly 130 cyclists, the width of the start is crucial to rider safety. The area also can accommodate two stages for the opening ceremony.

Quintella said the two loops through downtown will take the peloton about 10 minutes to complete.

The race clock starts after riders cross Paradise and Carpenter roads.

Quintella said it took organizers about three weeks to determine the downtown route.

The mountain portion of the route was assembled with the help of Santa Rosa resident and Tour de France competitor Levi Leipheimer, who won the Tour of California last year.