Written by Ry Glover for RootsRated Media
Originally published on April 27, 2018
As one of the world’s greatest bike races—not to mention one of America’s most important cycling stage races—the Amgen Tour of California is an event that needs no introduction. Known for attracting some of the sport’s most elite athletes and for showcasing some of California’s most spectacular scenery and challenging terrain—all packed into distinct daily stages—the event has become downright legendary in cycling circles since its debut in 2006. Viewing a leg of the tour is an opportunity you won’t want to miss, and Stage 6 of the event—the one that begins in Folsom—will be right up there with the best of them. Here’s how to make the most of your day.
This year, the Amgen Tour of California will feature a 7-day, 645-mile course that travels from Long Beach to Sacramento May 13-19. Stage 6 of the event—which travels from Folsom to South Lake Tahoe—will be one of its most punishing portions. From the flat-to-rolling terrain and pristine bike paths of Folsom, the peloton will climb a grueling 15,453 vertical feet over the course of 122 miles, as it snakes up through the Sierra Foothills and eventually into the high elevations of South Lake Tahoe and Heavenly Mountain Resort. (See the route map here.)
In Folsom, riders will start out on the newly completed Johnny Cash Trail—a scenic pedestrian path, which crosses over wood-arched bridges, through prairie and oak woodlands, and under a tunnel at the entrance to Folsom State Prison (where Johnny Cash famously played two live shows in 1968). It will be a fairly flat first few miles, as riders jockey for space along this path for three miles before veering right at Legacy Park and beginning the immediate uphill ride into California’s Gold Country and beyond.
Where to Watch in Folsom
Folsom is a place that already knows a thing or two about hosting fast-paced portions of the tour, as it was the site for the Individual Time Trial in both 2014 and 2016. This year, the layout will be a little different, but the high energy will be just as evident.
In terms of where to go to make the most of your time, don’t miss the start from Digger and Sharon Williams Rodeo Park. To witness hundreds of pro cyclists take off out of the gates—hearing the clicks as their bike shoes clip in and feeling the waves of wind as they rush by—is special. The start gun will fire at 9:40 a.m., so be sure to arrive about an hour early to claim a good viewing spot. From here, the electricity continues down the entire Johnny Cash Trail, so you really can’t go wrong with filing along the side of this trail at any point.
Catch the cyclists as they cross the Robbers’ Ravine Bridge. This 160-foot long wooden bridge, located behind Folsom’s Lions Park, is not only an impressive engineering feat, but it’s also an incredibly scenic bridge that spans a ravine and offers expansive views of the American River and surrounding landscape.
Finally, watching the cyclists from the Shopping Center at the corner of East Natoma Street and Blue Ravine Road will be a great place to bid adieu to the riders before they set off down Green Valley Road to eventually begin their grueling climb into the Sierras.
Where to Dine & Drink
Start your day with coffee and a pastry from Karen’s Bakery & Cafe, located at the corner of Gold Leaf Drive and Leidesdorff Street in historic Old Folsom. Or hit the Sutter Street Grill, just a few blocks from there, and enjoy its breakfast menu filled with homemade options that will fuel you for the day.
Because watching a bike race is basically an endurance event all its own, you’ll likely be ready to eat once the riders go by. Luckily, Folsom is home to a wide array of excellent places to dine and drink. Historic downtown is an ideal spot to go and window-shop a variety of different gastronomic experiences—from wine bars, to gastropubs, to pizza parlors, to taquerias, and everything in between.
In the Folsom historic district, Marly and Moo is a local favorite, specializing in craft food with fresh, locally sourced ingredients, seasonal craft brews, and inventive, artisan cocktails. Escape Folsom specializes in small bites and creative, shareable dishes. It features an extensive wine list as well as a dozen craft beers on tap. The Heckle Alehouse is a great option for sandwiches and burgers (and of course, beer). Another option for beer lovers is the recently opened Red Bus Brewing Company, which features an off-the-beaten-path atmosphere and outstanding locally brewed beer.
For authentic Mexican cuisine, three options should be on your radar: Q’Bolé, Hacienda Del Rio, and Sutter Street Taqueria. Hisui Sushi is a can’t miss spot for fresh Asian cuisine. If you’re watching the race from the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area, the Folsom Tap House is just down the street. The neighborhood sports bar offers plenty of tasty lunch options.
What to Do After the Riders Go By (and Other Tips)
So, have the pro cyclists zooming along the Johnny Cash Trail inspired you to go for a ride yourself? A visit to Folsom wouldn’t be complete without hitting the pavement with some two-wheeled touring yourself, and there are a lot of great options. One of the most popular options is the world-class American River Bike Trail—a 32-mile path that starts at Folsom Lake and meanders its way completely paved all the way to Sacramento.
For a longer ride, the 50-mile route around Folsom Lake—known affectionately to locals as the “Around the Lake” route—is an iconic ride where amateurs can test their mettle and emulate their Amgen Tour heroes in the Gold Country foothills. If you’re traveling without your bike, there are a number of excellent bike shops in the city that can set you up with streamlined and easy rentals, including: Folsom Bike, Folsom Cyclery, and Practical Cycle. (Pro Tip: Renting a bike and cycling to different points of the race will offer an efficient way to spectate at various points of the course in Folsom…if you can keep up.)
If you’re interested in non-cycling activities, Folsom is also an incredible place to get on the water. Rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard from Adventure Sports Rentalsat Lake Natoma—a scenic spread of water on the American River located within the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area.
Where to Stay
The best way to stay in Folsom is to partake in the Ride Folsom Package, which highlights nine hotels in town. Book a stay with any of these hotels, and expect to receive a very welcoming package, including a backpack, water bottle, custom dining offer, one-hour kayak or paddleboard rental, and more.
Folsom is the region’s #1 cycling destination featuring 56+ miles of paved trails for recreational and experienced riders. With our Sierra foothills location, Folsom is also the start of epic mountain biking experiences. Post-ride activities include kayaking/stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Natoma, immediately adjacent to the trails. One of the standout cycling circuits is the 32-mile American River Bike Trail from Folsom to Sacramento. Raise a glass to your fabulous riding experience at one of the brew pubs or wine lounges in the Historic District. Folsom loves cyclists! Plan your cycling itinerary at VisitFolsom.com.
Visit Folsom is the brand of the Folsom Tourism Bureau and is dedicated to the marketing of Folsom as a destination for visitors. Our website is full of resources including maps, restaurants and other cycling friendly amenities at VisitFolsom.com.