Lake Tahoe will host largest cycling event in North America this year.

      Lake Tahoe, California & Nevada The 2011 Amgen Tour of California, the largest cycling event in North America, has announced the Stage 1 and Stage 2 race routes for Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe's first-ever involvement in the race as the official Overall Start is Sunday, May 15 and begins at South Lake Tahoe at 6,300 feet, the highest start elevation in the six-year history of the competition. Stage 1 wraps up in North Lake Tahoe at Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort, with the Stage 2 Start taking place nearby at Squaw Valley USA on Monday, May 16.

      Cyclists will begin at MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa on the California/Nevada border in South Lake Tahoe. The peloton will loop past Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course around Heavenly Village, past the starting line again and onto Lake Tahoe Boulevard (Highway 50) through the casino corridor then clockwise around the 72-mile perimeter of Lake Tahoe.

      Riders will gain 700 feet in elevation as they wind up switchbacks on the West Shore. Upon reaching the top of scenic Emerald Bay, one of the most photographed places in the world and the first of three King of the Mountain finishes, they will descend 500 feet while exceeding speeds of 40 miles per hour until the flats of Homewood, home to Lake Tahoe’s oldest marina. Athletes will cruise along the historic West Shore, making their way to North Lake Tahoe and the heart of downtown Tahoe City and then onto Kings Beach.

      Cyclists will leave the California side of the lake and enter Nevada, the first out-of-state course for the Tour, and pass through Incline Village. The group will skirt by spectacular Sand Harbor State Park and the legendary Thunderbird Lodge along the East Shore at lake level before a long and steady 1,000-foot ascent to Spooner Summit at an elevation of 7,150 feet.

      Speeds here will increase to 45 miles per hour as they descend back toward the lake and through the tunnel at Cave Rock. Racers will then pass Zephyr Cove Resort, returning to Stateline, Nevada, the scene of the overall start.

      After crossing the state line and back into California at South Shore, the peloton returns to Emerald Bay with its remarkable views and the second King of the Mountain finish. Here some riders may gain separation from the pack before their second descent onto the West Shore.

      After passing Tahoe City for a second time, there’s a short ascent to Dollar Point before turning left up Brockway Summit (Highway 267) at North Lake Tahoe to 7,000 feet and one last chance for the climbers to dictate the race outcome with the third and final King of the Mountain finish. After cresting the summit, the lead group plunges down a rapid descent into a hard left turn onto Northstar Drive, where both sprinters and climbers will set-up for a high-speed blast to the finish line at Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort.

      The spectator-packed finish line is also home to the Amgen Tour of California Lifestyle Festival, which features a health and fitness expo, cancer awareness education, cycling gear, family activities, bike safety, food and entertainment. Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort will also host a Break Away from Cancer Walk on Sunday, May 15.

      Upon completing Stage 1, competitors will have ridden a lap-and-a-half around Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in the country, conquering 119 miles and three mountains passes in approximately five hours and a total elevation gain of 5,500 feet.

      North Lake Tahoe is hosting the Stage 2 Start of the 2011 Amgen Tour of California at Squaw Valley USA, home of the 1960 Winter Olympics, the following morning, Monday, May 16. The action starts directly under the historic Olympic rings at the center of the Village at Squaw Valley with riders peddling the cobbled corridors before turning onto Squaw Valley Road and then descending to the Olympic Flame entrance and a left-hand turn onto Highway 89.

      The peloton will follow the picturesque Truckee River corridor as they make their way on Highway 89 toward Truckee and through the two roundabouts near the Interstate 80 overpass. Riders will then turn left onto historic Donner Pass Road before riding the ramp over Interstate 80 and past Donner Memorial State Park, home to the infamous Donner Party.

      The pack will continue along the northern shoreline of Donner Lake as they make their approach to the steeps of Old Highway 40 on their way to Donner Summit and the day’s first King of the Mountain finish. With some of the best views of the approaching riders and Donner Lake far below, this spot is sure to jammed-packed with enthusiastic spectators.

      From there, athletes speed pass Sugar Bowl Ski Resort, Donner Ranch Ski Resort and Soda Springs Ski Resort and descend into California’s Gold Country via Highway 20 and the finish line for Stage 2 at the Sacramento State Capitol.

      Lake Tahoe is pulling out all the stops to provide cyclists and spectators with an unforgettable experience, said Tourism Director Andy Chapman of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association. This is our golden opportunity to make our mark on the cycling community, and businesses and organizations are eager to welcome the thousands of visitors who will be traveling to the lake, many for the first-time ever.

      'Hosting the overall start in South Shore will not only provide economic impact this year and beyond, but it will also further brand Lake Tahoe as a 'must ride' biking destination,' said Carol Chaplin, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.

      In previous years, the race has drawn some of the world's most recognizable and respected riders, such as top Tour de France competitors, world champions and Olympic medalists including Lance Armstrong, Tom Boonen, Oscar Freire, Paolo Bettini, Fabian Cancellara, Carlos Sastre, Ivan Basso, George Hincapie, Mark Cavendish and Andy Schleck.

      The 2011 Amgen Tour of California will cover 800 miles and visit 15 Host Cities for official stage starts and finishes, while other cities along the route also will have the opportunity to witness the excitement of elite professional cycling. Stages for the 2011 Amgen Tour of California include:
      • Stage 1: Sunday, May 15 – South Lake Tahoe to North Lake Tahoe-Northstar at Tahoe Resort
      • Stage 2: Monday, May 16 – North Lake Tahoe-Squaw Valley USA to Sacramento
      • Stage 3: Tuesday, May 17 – Auburn to Modesto
      • Stage 4: Wednesday, May 18 – Livermore to San Jose
      • Stage 5: Thursday, May 19 – Seaside toPaso Robles
      • Stage 6: Friday, May 20 – Solvang Individual Time Trial
      • Stage 7: Saturday, May 21 – Claremont to Mt. Baldy
      • Stage 8: Sunday, May 22 – Santa Clarita to Thousand Oaks