Bissell's Ben Jacques-Maynes knows the local roads intimately and is an inveterate Santa Cruz-area booster (he helped with the area organizing committee's bid for a ToC stage). A strong climber and time-trialist, Jacques-Maynes plans to leverage his hometown know-how. "I don't see this stage coming down to a sprint," he says, noting the climb up Bonny Doon Road near the finish. While a group of 30 or so could hit the finish intact, "it's a fast descent with some tight corners," he says. "You're not going to be able to organize a chase of a guy who's even 20 to 30 seconds up the road."
Departing from Sausalito, the neutral start will see Tour of California pros cruise across the Golden Gate Bridge (a first for bike racers) before kicking it into gear on Highway 1. If the coastal winds are friendly, the peloton might stay intact until the first climb up Tunitas Creek Road. After a tight, twisting descent, the route jogs south again on Highway 1, before tackling Bonny Doon Road (a 7-mile, 2,000-foot climb) and another daredevil descent towards the Santa Cruz finish line.
WATCH: Plan for some race chasing. Snap a pic of the pack crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, then take Highway 1 to I-280 and over SH 22 to Half Moon Bay. Cruise south on the One to the Tunitas Creek climb, a steep, broken-pavement trench. "You have to pick your line," says Jacques-Maynes. South again on Highway 1, hit Bonny Doon Road. A mile up, the pitch kicks up to 12 percent. "That's where you'll see the fireworks," he predicts.
SLEEP: The Sea and Sand Inn is the most affordable hotel near the city's historic boardwalk; all rooms have ocean views.
EAT: Jacques-Maynes recommends Mobo Sushi on Front Street in Santa Cruz; the local favorite opens for dinner at 5:00.
GEAR: Before turning pro, Jacques-Maynes turned wrenches at Santa Cruz's Spokesman.
RIDE: A favorite road ride is a 40-mile climber's "lollipop" up Highway 9 to Boulder Creek, then a loop of 236, which bisects Big Basin State Park and "a massive redwood forest," says Jacques-Maynes.
Location: 37.857088, -122.479459
The peloton will roll out on a neutral warm-up through Sausalito from the Spinnaker Restaurant in historic Sausalito. If you're riding the stage yourself and looking for a pre-ride caffeine boost, check out Caffe Trieste, just a quarter-mile west at 1000 Bridgeway.
Location: 37.181655, -122.394090
One of the tallest light houses in the U.S., Pigeon Point Light Station is well worth a short detour off the main route. The lighthouse keeper's housing has been restored as a hostel, so Pigeon Point is a great alternative for those riding a longer chunk of Highway 1 and looking to break up the trip.
Bonnie Doon Road
Location: 37.001182, -122.180243
Climbing north into the California redwoods, Bonny Doon is the last test of the day. It's got a modest bite to it (relative to other TOC climbs at least), and is placed far enough from the finish that whether the peloton will catch the break before Santa Cruz is a bit up in the air.
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