Olympic Cyclist Tests Palm Springs’ “Insane Climb” Before Amgen Tour of California

timmy-duggan-01The Amgen Tour of California is just around the corner, and this year, America’s Greatest Race is coming right through Greater Palm Springs for the first time in the tour’s history.

It won’t be an easy ride to the Palm Springs finish line, though.

Stage 2 of the Tour of California will begin on Monday, May 13 in Murrieta. Cyclists will ride through Hemet and climb Highway 74 through the Santa Rosa Mountains, then they’ll zip down the Palms to Pines Highway at speeds of up to 50 MPH.

The stage ends with a 6-km, 1910-foot climb up Tramway Road to the finish line at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

Olympic cyclist Timmy Duggan trained along 140-km of the nearly 200-km route in March, starting in Hemet and riding down Highway 74. He finished with two sprints up the Tramway Road climb, which he called “brutal.”

“It’s kind of incredible. It’s only about three miles and it takes almost half an hour,” Duggan said. “It’s going to be an insane climb.”

Duggan, who was on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Cycling Team, said he was “sweating like crazy” coming up in the 85-degree heat. He imagines the climb will be noticeably tougher in May, when temperatures typically reach the mid to high 90s.

“I don’t think you could have paid me to ride it a third time,” Duggan joked. “As far as finishing climbs in bike races, that’s right up there with the hardest that I’ve done.”

Because of the heat, Duggan expects to go through about 12 bottles of water during the race. On an average 5-hour race, Duggan said he goes through 5-6 bottles.

“There’s nowhere to hide on this final climb,” Duggan said. “If you haven’t been hydrating well enough earlier in the stage, you’re going to feel it in this climb.”

The steep final climb should keep cyclists and spectators on their toes until the final moments, as it could be anyone’s race as the cyclists make their way up Tramway Road.

“The previous stage in Escondido doesn’t have a final climb, so the crux moment of that race could happen elsewhere – not necessarily in the last mile of the race,” Duggan said. “In this stage, it’s definitely all going to happen in the finale.”

Duggan will be riding for Team Saxo-Tinkoff in the Tour of California, which takes cyclists on a 750-mile, south-to-north tour from May 12-19. This is the first time Greater Palm Springs has partnered as a host destination.

While the desert heat might pose a challenge for some riders, Duggan said he’s looking forward to warm weather on race day.

“I like the heat,” Duggan said, “so I hope it’s a hot day.”