SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) -- Cities and residents across five Bay Area counties are gearing up for one of the largest cycling races in America to make its way through their hometowns.
Professional cyclists from across the world will kick off this year's Amgen Tour of California in the Bay Area, starting in Santa Rosa on May 13 and heading through San Francisco, the Peninsula, Santa Cruz County, San Jose, Danville and Walnut Creek before crossing the Stage 3 finish line in Livermore on May 15.
Of the nearly hundred cities statewide that applied to host a portion of the eight-stage race this year, Bay Area cites were chosen as the backdrop for more than a third of the event, according to race organizers.
Although this year's Tour-de-France-style race will feature many of the same cities to host the event over the past six years, new challenges await the 16 pro cycling teams taking part this year, tour organizers said.
"Especially this year, this is a route that is going to challenge the riders up until the finish," said Kristin Bachochin, executive director and senior vice president of AEG Sports, which presents the tour. "Nobody wants a race that's decided in the early stages."
One long-anticipated obstacle race participants will face for the first time this year is a climb up Mount Diablo in unincorporated Walnut Creek, Bachocin said.
In recent months, Contra Costa County and state lawmakers worked with local residents to temporarily repair a stretch of Mount Diablo Scenic Boulevard, which has long been riddled with potholes.
That portion of the roadway, while still in need of long-term repairs, is now race-ready, according to state Senator Mark DeSaulnier's office.
Another change expected this year, according to organizers, is even more spectators than the more than 2 million people who lined the race route statewide last year, Bachochin said.
Host cities throughout the Bay Area are reminding residents to expect traffic delays during the race kicking off Sunday in Santa Rosa, home to three-time Tour of California champion Levi Leipheimer.
Cyclists will begin this year's tour at 10:50 a.m. Sunday at Third Street and Santa Rosa Avenue before zipping along Sonoma County roads to state Highway 1 and back to the starting line in Santa Rosa around 3:50 p.m.
Stage 2 of the race will begin at 11:05 a.m. at San Francisco's Marina Green on Marina Boulevard, where cyclists will set out for the finish line at Cabrillo College on Cabrillo Drive in Aptos in Santa Cruz County, which the teams are estimated to reach at about 3:53 p.m. During this stage, the cyclists are set to travel through the Presidio and the Golden Gate Bridge before winding along Highway 1 through Daly City, Pacifica and Half Moon Bay on the way to Santa Cruz County.
On Tuesday, racers will crisscross three Bay Area counties, kicking off Stage 3 at 11:15 a.m. at the Berryessa Community Center on Berryessa Road in San Jose.
From there, the race will continue through central Contra Costa County – traveling through towns including Walnut Creek, Danville, Clayton, and Byron, and on to the Stage 3 finish line in Livermore, where the estimated finish time is 3:54 p.m.
Law enforcement in these areas are advising motorists to expect delays for roughly two hours in each city where the race is taking place, although most individual roads will only be closed for up to about 20 minutes, according to authorities.
For specific road closures, where to find the best spectator spot along each stage of the race, race updates and other information, the public is encouraged to visit www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.
(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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