The 12th annual Amgen Tour of California men’s bicycle race returns to San Luis Obispo County on Tuesday for the third of seven stages throughout the state.
Two-time host city Pismo Beach will be the jumping-off point for a loaded field that includes 17 teams of eight cyclists representing 30 countries. The peloton features eight world champions, national champions, Olympians and Tour de France stage winners.
Tuesday’s nearly 120-mile stage — the longest on this year’s tour — is scheduled to begin at 11:05 a.m. at Pismo Beach Pier, and cyclists will travel south through Oceano and into northern Santa Barbara County, riding through Guadalupe and Orcutt before looping back up into San Luis Obispo County through Nipomo.
The race will continue up through the Edna Valley and into San Luis Obispo along South Higuera Street into downtown. After San Luis Obispo, the race will loop up toward Morro Bay via back roads and Highway 1, run through Morro Bay State Park and along the Embarcadero before ending in a final push up Harbor Street.
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Racers are expected to cross the finish line about 3:45 p.m. Tuesday.
See below for the best spots to watch the race and road closures in SLO County:
Best places to watch the race
1. Pismo Pier: Watch as riders kick off the longest stage of the tour in downtown Pismo Beach.
2. Block Party in downtown SLO: Hosted by the city and downtown SLO, the Block Party begins at 2 p.m. and will feature live music with a beer garden and local cider available for purchase until 6 p.m.
3. Edna Valley: Watch the race roll through the valley and check out local wineries.
4. Buckley-Vachell intersection: Riders will slow at this near 90-degree turn, offering spectators a better view before the push into downtown San Luis Obispo.
5. The finish line: Take in the view as racers take on a challenging climb to finish the stage in downtown Morro Bay.
Roads along the Tour route will be closed for portions of Tuesday afternoon. Here’s a look at many of those closures:
Pismo Beach: The Tour starts at the Pismo Pier at Pomeroy Avenue and heads south on Highway 1 toward Oceano about 11 a.m.
Dolliver Street/Highway 1 will be closed for about 20 minutes for the start of the race, according to a news release from the city.
The 100 and 200 blocks of Pomeroy and 600 and 700 blocks of Cypress Street will be closed starting at 2 a.m. Tuesday and will remain closed until after the race begins. The pier parking lot will also close at 2 a.m., and it will remain closed for most of the day.
Arroyo Grande: The following roads in Arroyo Grande will be shut down from about 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday during the race:
▪ Valley Road from Los Berros Road to Fair Oaks Avenue.
▪ Fair Oaks Avenue from Valley Road to Traffic Way.
▪ Traffic Way from Fair Oaks Avenue to Branch Street.
▪ Branch Street from Traffic Way to Corbett Canyon Road.
▪ Corbett Canyon Road from Branch Street to Gularte Road.
Additionally, there will be no parking along Branch Street from 11 a.m. until the conclusion of the event.
San Luis Obispo: Downtown San Luis Obispo will be closed for an extended period between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Tuesday, according to a news release from tourism manager Molly Cano. The downtown closure for the Block Party celebration (which will run from 2 to 6 p.m.) will resemble the one that occurs weekly for the Downtown SLO Farmers Market. The mid-race sprint line is at Mission Plaza.
Other road closures in San Luis Obispo in the afternoon include Buckley Road, South Higuera Street, Chorro Street and Foothill Boulevard.
Leaving San Luis Obispo for Morro Bay, the Tour will take Foothill to O’Connor Way to Highway 1.
A detailed map of the course with road closures specific to San Luis Obispo can be found on the city’s website.
Morro Bay: At the finish line in Morro Bay, there will be no parking along the race route — which includes the Embarcadero, Marina Street, Main Street — and cars will be towed beginning at 10 a.m. Streets will reopen immediately after the race procession passes.
Riders to watch
“There is so much to celebrate this year,” said Kristin Klein, president of Amgen Tour of California, during a pre-race press conference Friday in Sacramento. “We started as a small but determined team with a big dream in 2006. This year all of us are very proud of what we have accomplished.”
“Now we’re celebrating what we’ve all worked so hard to build.”
Slovakian Peter Sagan, who has won a record 15 stages during the Amgen Tour of California and finished first overall at the event in 2015, will be among the racers to watch.
Colorado native Taylor Phinney returns as a fan favorite and one of 25 American riders in the field.
“As we’ve seen at the Amgen Tour of California in years past, the race can turn on its head just about any day,” Bookwalter said, “and I think they did a great job with the route this year, got some dynamic stages in the first few days.”
The men’s race visits 12 host cities from Sacramento to Pasadena. As for what to expect with Tuesday’s route, course marshal and San Luis Obispo native Paul Reinhardt said it is relatively flat so “there will probably be only two packs, the main peloton and breakaway.”
“The peloton will stay bunched together, unlike some of the more mountainous stages,” said Reinhardt, who is part of eight teams of 10 marshals for the weeklong event.
“Spending a lot of time in a 10-person van lets you get to know everyone,” Reinhardt said, adding that most of the marshals he works closely with have become friends over the years.
Tribune reporter Scott Middlecamp contributed to this report.