Enjoy the AMGEN Tour of California Time Trials in Historic Folsom

Enjoy the AMGEN Tour of California Time Trials in Historic Folsom

By Roberta Long

It’s no surprise that Folsom is a host city for the AMGEN Tour of California for the second time. The Tour de France-style cycling road race travels for eight days along California’s gloriously changing landscape. Folsom is a favorite of the professional riders on the tour. When Sir Bradley Wiggins won the 2014 Time Trials in Folsom, he exclaimed about the beauty of the ride and the friendliness of everyone in the city.

Folsom is a bicycle town. It has 45 miles of Class I bike/pedestrian trails, soon to be 50, all within the city. With mild weather year-round, on any given day bicycles are the preferred mode of transportation for many who travel to work or enjoy a ride with family and friends. On Friday, May 20, the fastest bike riders on the planet will be competing in Folsom this year, circling Folsom’s Historic District in the Men’s and Women’s time trials.

The topography of the course has enough rolling terrain and changes of scenery to keep it interesting for the riders, and provide good viewing sites from different vantage points. This year the riders will have an additional iconic treat as they pedal under the Johnny Cash Trail Overcrossing, which opened six months after they last rode the course.

DATE: May 20, 2016
MEN’S START TIME: 12:30 p.m.
START LINE: Sutter Street near Riley
FINISH LINE: Leidesdorff Street near Riley
MILES: 12.6
ELEVATION: 800 ft.
LIFESTYLE FESTIVAL: 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
CEREMONIES: Historic Folsom Station Amphitheater,
between Sutter and Leidesdorff streets

What to look for in Time Trials

Time trials are a completely different spectator experience than road racing. No leaders whizz by in a turn of the head. No pelotons deploy their strategy to protect their leader until the leader can break out and gain time and place. No pacers conserve their leader’s strength. There are no breathtaking dramatic closing seconds as the leaders go all out for the yellow jersey. Finally, there are next to nil crashes.

The time trials allow hours of competition as the riders compete against the clock to surpass their personal or team’s best. The experience is akin to the Olympic Games, when the cheers and moans come in response to the postings on the leader board.

As in the 2014 AMGEN Tour, this year Folsom is hosting the only Men’s Time Trials. In 2014, the tour started in Sacramento and Stage 2 was held in Folsom. In 2016, the tour will start in San Diego, and Folsom will host Stage 6. By then, the riders’ standings will be established, with only Santa Rosa and Sacramento to finish. The expert time trial riders will have their golden opportunity to make up time gained by the Kings and Queens of the Mountain, the sprinters and distance riders.

Success in time trial racing is all about aerodynamics. The goal is not to go a fast as possible, as in sprint racing, but to find the optimum speed that can be maintained for the distance.

The Bikes

Time trial bikes look weird, but they are designed specifically for this competition.

The handlebars, for example, are lowered and the arms grip closer together. One or both wheels often may have a large disc instead of spokes. The rule-making body, Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), has strict regulations about where to place the saddle, the angle of the handlebars and other details.

The Speedsuits

Even the speedsuits are pared down in weight.

The practice. Racers spend hours training in wind tunnels checking their positions and observing the aerodynamic drag they generate. The tiniest gain could make the difference. Bradley Wiggins shaved off his beard for his successful World Hour Record. Famously, Greg Lamond won the 1989 Tour de France when he came from 50 seconds behind in the final stage time trial from Versailles to Paris and won the tour by only 8 seconds.

The Lingo

Float day – good conditions allow riders to set a new personal best.
A catch – overtaking the rider who started a minute before.
Minute man – the rider who starts a minute before the next rider.
Negative split – riding the second half faster than the first half.

The Men Leaders

The top three winners at Folsom in 2014 are returning this year.

Sir Bradley Wiggins – Yes, Bradley Wiggins was knighted in 2013 by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace after he became Britain’s first Tour de France winner in 2012, followed by his first Olympic title on the road with victory in the time trial in London later that year. He has four Olympic gold medals, one silver and two bronze. Bradley Wiggins was the 2014 World time trial champion. Riding for Team Sky, he placed first in the Folsom time trial with a blazing 23:18 time and went on to win the AMGEN Tour of California.

This will probably be the last time we see Bradley Wiggins compete in Folsom. In January 2015 he formed his own team, Team Wiggins, to go for the gold in the Rio Olympics. After that, he says he will wind down his biking days.

Rohan Dennis – Rohan Dennis rides for Santa Rosa-based BMC Racing Team as their time trial specialist. He followed the leader in Folsom’s 2014 time trials by 44 seconds, won the next stage, and continued to challenge, finishing second in the tour. That year he was also first in the UCI Team Time Trials World Championship. In 2015 he repeated the TTT World Championship with BMC. Rohan Dennis opened the prestigious Tour de France with a Stage 1 win, and the team finished in first place for the Team Time Trial. In 2016 he won the National Championships Australia Individual Time Trials.

Lawson Craddock – As an outstanding all-rounder, Lawson Craddock followed Rohan Dennis to third place in Folsom and at the tour finish line. He was named Best Young Rider in 2013 and again in 2014. He rides with the Cannondale Pro Cycling team. After recovering from a serious crash in early 2015, he finished 9th in a formidable General Classification race in Pais Vasco, Spain’s Basque country, this April.

Peter Sagan – Peter Sagan is often seen riding in the green jersey for Best Sprinter. He won the Tour de France Best Sprinter in 2012, 2013 and 2014. But that isn’t all he does. In 2015 he won the AMGEN Tour of California and the UCI Road World Championships. As of May 1 this year, Peter Sagan is leading the UCI World ranking. He races with Team Tinkoff.

The Women leaders

This year’s women’s race will be part of the first UCI Women’s World Tour. California’s AMGEN is one of two of the UCI inaugural events held in America, the other is in Philadelphia. The women will compete in the last four days of the tour. Before coming to Folsom on the second day, they will vie for Queen of the Mountain at Lake Tahoe. In Folsom, team time trials will determine which of the 18 teams is fastest. Seven of the top UCI-ranked teams are in the contest.

Of the top three finishers in 2014, only second-place Brianna Walle is returning. She is riding with a new team, Tibco-SVB. In 2015 she finished first in the Team Time Trial Nationals.
Besides Brianna Walle, keep an eye on these dynamos and see who gets podium honors this year:

Trixi Worrack – In her 13th year of racing, Trixi Worrack is riding with Canyon/SRAM Racing in the team’s debut season. She will be arriving for the AMGEN fresh from a General Classification win in the Ladies Tour of Qatar. Her team won the team’s class. In 2015 she was UCI Team Trials champion, and also the German National Road Champion.

Evelyn Stevens – Evelyn Stevens, from San Francisco, is an expert climber and time trial specialist. She is going for the TTT World Championship this year with her Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team. In 2013 she won the AMGEN Tour women’s time trial. Evelyn Stevens is the current hour record holder, which she nailed in February at Colorado Springs.

Megan Guarnier – Megan Guarnier, from San Mateo, is also on the Boels-Dolmans team. She is the reigning National Championships United States-Road Race, which she won in 2015 and 2012. Last year she also won the Ladies Tour of Norway, and took bronze in the World Road Race. This April she won the Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria 113-mile road race in the Basque country.

The Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team started the 2016 season in second place in the UCI rankings.

Allie Dragoo – An all-around cyclist, Allie Dragoo rides with Twenty16 Professional Cycling Team. In 2015 she was No. 5 in the World Championships Team Time Trials. Now the team is on the road to the Rio Olympics.

Where to watch

The center of the action will be in the block between the start line on Sutter Street and the finish line on Leidesdorff Street where the Lifestyle Festival will take place. The light rail station is at the site. Less crowded sites are along the route and at the turnaround at Sophia Parkway. They are marked on the map. The route will be closed from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., so if possible ride your bike or drive the route before the race and pick your viewing spot. Race day traffic information is posted on the city website, www.folsom.ca.us.

click below to view course map