"More…more…more!" yelled cycling fans after the finish atop Gibraltar Road in 2016. The 2018 Amgen Tour of California brings this fan favorite back to the race. Two years ago, the peloton only bid adieu to the City of Ventura on its way to Gibraltar. This year, Ventura will host the start on the queen stage. The riders starting at the Ventura Pier, just a few feet from the Pacific Ocean, but contenders and sprinters alike will not be taking in the laid back and sun-soaked vibe of Ventura with 98 miles and 7,700 feet of elevation gain in front of them.
After a neutral parade through downtown, the peloton heads south along the majestic Pacific on Harbor Boulevard. Six miles later, riders pass two highlights of Ventura, its harbor and the Olivas Adobe. Less than one mile from the race route, the latter is a must-see historic landmark and easily accessible by bike. Amazingly, the property is a direct descendent of California's early Mexican rancho period. Here, Don Raimundo Olivas built a humble home that grew with each generation. Thanks to continued use, the stately 1837 Olivas Adobe is the county's oldest architectural treasure and its only authentic Monterey Colonial-style structure. Today, the home is owned and operated by the City of Ventura as a museum and a great excursion to see Ventura from a different era.
Next, the race heads further south, turning inland and through the plains towns of Oxnard and Camarillo before beginning the Tour's ascent up Balcom Canyon Road. A short respite in Santa Paula prefixes the first of three KOMs in the beautiful Topatopa Mountains. In adjacent Ojai, art takes center stage and brings the community together. At the heart of this serene mountain town are more than one dozen art galleries that line the arcaded Spanish-tiled plazas. The most authentic representation of this tradition, however, is the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts - just outside town at the top of the first KOM in Happy Valley. When the surrounding hills were ablaze in late 2017, the Center suffered major damage, but it did survive. Remarkably, it took only weeks to recover. The surrounding community donated time, money, and endless hands to help with repairs because this museum and educational complex is reflective of the community. Beatrice Wood was an accomplished Avant Garde artist and potter who rejected formal society in her youth and turned to art. She studied in France and then acted in New York before becoming fascinated with Indian Theosophy and following this passion to Los Angeles. With her career fully established, she moved to Ojai in 1947 to be more centered with the area's spiritual practice. It was in Ojai that Wood fully embraced a mixture of artistic expression and spiritual practice until her death in 1995 at the age of 105.
From Ojai, the peloton slowly descends to Foothill Road and the seaside towns of Carpinteria and Montecito. Nearly 90 miles into Stage 2, riders get their first colossal challenge - one that will take them up more than 3,000 feet in less than eight miles. This is the famed Gibraltar Road climb. With maximum inclines of 12%, it is arguably one of the hardest in Santa Barbara County and the state. For those looking for an iconic stage race experience, Gibraltar Road will reward spectators with competitive fireworks, breathtaking views, and a sporting atmosphere on par with some of the Tour de France's legendary ascents. Yet only from the heights of Gibraltar Road and La Cumbre Peak can one float in the clouds while peering down onto America's Riviera. In the distance, the Channel Islands blend together into one contiguous landmass. The climb itself is lined with boulders and coastal sage and chaparral, an understated part of the beauty of California. Together with the heat of this semi-arid Mediterranean climate, it becomes a truly unique place to view a showdown amongst heroes. There are plenty of curves and switchbacks on which to stake out your spot - but get here early for it surely will not disappoint.