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‘America's Greatest Race’
Cycles back through 209BY SABRA STAFFORD

For the first time in several years some of the world’s best cyclists will be pedaling through the scenery of the 209 area when the Amgen Tour of California rides into the region.

Modesto will be serving as the start of the second stage of AEG’s Amgen Tour of California on May 14. The stage will see the cyclists take two neutral circuits through Modesto before heading south to Patterson. As the riders depart Patterson they also will be leaving the flatlands behind and heading into six King of the Mountain climbs, with the first in Del Puerto Canyon. The day’s stage will end with two sprints before an uphill battle to the finish line in San Jose.

“It is great to be returning to Modesto,” said AEG spokesman Cassandra Zebisch. “This will be a difficult mountain stage with six climbs and an uphill finish. Fans can expect all of the race favorites to be in the top 10 on the leader board after the conclusion of this stage.”

The Amgen Tour of California is a Tour de France-style cycling road race that covers 600 miles through some of the most scenic and challenging routes through the state. The race features both men and women’s competitions and brings in some of the most elite cyclists to race in the team challenges.

“For more than a decade, the Amgen Tour of California has played a vital role to Golden State travel, both in driving visitation and in focusing the eyes of the international cycling community on diverse destinations beyond the gateways,” says Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California. “Since 2006, Visit California has been thrilled to partner with AEG on this one-of-a-kind event, which takes riders, spectators and viewers alike on a whirlwind tour that spans sun-soaked beaches, evergreen mountains, and everything in between, further showcasing the immense scope of all that California has to offer.”

The race is promoted by sports and live entertainment company AEG and is named after the main sponsor biotechnology firm Amgen.

“The Amgen Tour of California is America's Greatest Race, and this year more than ever, the world will be watching,” said Kristin Klein, race president and executive vice president of AEG Sports. “As the sport of cycling continues to bloom in America, the Amgen Tour of California men’s and women’s events are both part of the UCI World Tour for the first time, a privilege and designation reserved for the world’s premier races. This means the competition will reach an all-time high, with the best racers and best teams in the world lining up to take part.”

Millions of fans are expected to once again line the racecourse in May to cheer on the elite, international fields that will include Olympians, Tour de France contenders and World Champions. Fans will also have opportunities to meet and hear from cycling legends Jens Voigt and Freddie Rodriguez, who will reprise their roles as Race Ambassadors. Kristin Armstrong, the most decorated woman in U.S. cycling history, will join as a first-time Amgen Tour of California Race Ambassador, on the heels of her incredible performance to win her third Olympic gold medal at the Rio Olympic Games last summer.

“I’ve applauded and supported the Amgen Tour of California over the past decade, and seen firsthand how much this important race has done to raise the profile of American cycling,” said Armstrong, who in addition to claiming gold medals from three Olympic Games and multiple national championships is also an Amgen Tour of California women’s time trial champion (2011). “The Amgen Tour of California showcases the best of cycling, and inspires the next generation of cyclists here. I’m so thrilled to come aboard as part of the race in a capacity where I can help continue to spread excitement about the sport, women’s cycling and this world-class race.”

Amgen Tour of California veteran Mark Cavendish will return with Team Dimension Data, after earning his tenth Amgen Tour of California career stage win last year before going on to win a silver Olympic medal and the opening stage plus three others in the 2016 Tour de France. The Amgen Tour of California has become known for epic sprinter showdowns, and Cavendish will face off with star sprinter Alexander Kristoff and all-time Amgen Tour of California stage win record holder Peter Sagan.

“Racing in California is a challenge and a joy every time. I hope to continue building on the success I've had at the Amgen Tour of California, and know all the riders will do our best to give the incredible fans another good show this year,” said Sagan, who holds the record for the most Amgen Tour of California stage wins (15) and capped off last season by wearing the yellow jersey for the first time at the Tour de France then winning his second World Championship title.

The Amgen Tour of California has also become a race where young riders can make their mark. Last year at age 23, France’s Julian Alaphilippe became the youngest rider in race history to claim overall victory. This year could hold more of the same. Following his breakthrough 2016 season, 23-year-old Columbian rider Miguel Ángel López will make his California debut with Astana Pro Team, and Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team will bring 25-year-old phenom Lawson Craddock, who has racked up strong California results in recent years and was one of only five U.S. riders to start in the Tour de France last season.

The 2017 Amgen Breakaway from Heart DiseaseTM Women’s Race empowered with SRAM is a four-day road race in Northern California from May 11 to 14. A victor will be decided in Sacramento on the same day the men begin racing. Over the course of the last decade, the women’s race has grown from a one-day race to a world tour stage race, earning a designation as one of the top women’s races in the world.