Your Guide To The Amgen Tour de California Bike Race

By Marcy Gordon
Forbes Travel Guide Correspondent

  Photos courtesy of AEG

Photos courtesy of AEG

Billed as the West Coast version of the Tour de France, the Amgen Tour de California is an eight-stage race that rolls off on May 12. To see the action, we recommend catching the last leg in downtown Santa Rosa, one of the top cycling destinations in the world. Santa Rosa is home to three-time Tour of California winner Levi Leipheimer and host to training camps for many elite pro-cycling teams, such as the BISSELL Pro Cycling group. Here is a guide to help you make the best of the event.

Best Roadside Viewing Spots in Sonoma

The final stage of the Tour de California starts May 19 in San Francisco and winds along the coast, then inland to end in Santa Rosa. The peloton moves fast, so be sure to stake out your viewing position well in advance and relax with a picnic before the riders approach. Check out the following prime locations:

        Freestone Valley Ford Road and Bodega Highway in Sebastopol
        Bodega Highway and Jonive Road in Sebastopol
        Occidental and High School roads in Sebastopol
        Third Street and Mendocino Avenue in downtown Santa Rosa

Not content to watch from the sidelines? Die-hard fans can get up close and personal with a special VIP Ride package that lets you follow the peloton in an official race vehicle along the route. Package rates start at $1,500 and include a race leader jersey and hat as well as snacks and drinks for the ride. They can be purchased through the race’s site.

Activities

Visit the Lifestyle Festival near the finish line to socialize with sponsors and fans. The daylong festival features live music, educational displays, cycle fashions, gear vendors and a beer garden with outdoor video screens to watch the race live.

Best Bars and Restaurants in The Race Zone

Flip Side Bar and Burger

This open-terrace restaurant is the perfect place to nab a front-row seat to the Third Street finish-line race action while enjoying a burger with prime Black Angus or grass-fed beef.

Third Street Ale Works

This Third Street eatery with its cozy brew-pub atmosphere and Russian River Brewing Company on Fourth Street — home to Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger, two of the top-rated craft brews in the world — are both directly on the race route. They offer the best bets for mingling with the cyclists after the event.

Riviera Ristorante

Located at the edge of the final race loop on Brookwood and Montgomery, Riviera is a favorite hangout for many big names in cycling. The restaurant features authentic Mediterranean fare and is with decorated with race photos and signed jerseys of elite athletes such as Leipheimer, who even has a dish of sautéed prawns, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic olive oil named after him.