The opening stage for the Amgen Tour of California Women's Race empowered with SRAM returns to the City of Elk Grove. The race will start and finish in front of the new Aquatic Center and Commons on Civic Center Drive. This is just a half mile from where the men will finish their Stage 5. The women's race winds through one of Elk Grove's newer residential areas before turning south onto Franklin Boulevard and into the San Joaquin Valley and the rural California Delta region. The stage will tour several of the area's beautiful riverbank and wetlands such that it will surely be a visual odyssey for the spectators and riders alike. Hugging the Sacramento River and several of its larger sloughs, this will be a flat and fast 80-mile route that should guarantee a day for the sprinters and an exciting finish back in Elk Grove.
Only thirteen miles into the stage, the peloton passes the historical site of Benson's Ferry and the pristine, erratic, and unpredictable Cosumnes, the last free-flowing river of California's fruitful Central Valley. Amid this unspoiled landscape is the Cosumnes River Preserve, which the riders will get to see up-close as they breeze past the safari-looking Visitor Center. You will have the opportunity to spend more time exploring the Preserve's many trails, some of which are beautifully elevated boardwalks. Bring your bike because only three miles away, the men's race will make their final turn before entering Elk Grove. This ideal proximity to both race's makes the Preserve a force of nature that deserves look. It is a vast 50,000-acre conservation area comprised of the river, its maze of sloughs, and the surrounding floodplain. Fed by the melting snow of the nearby Sierras, the river's waters form a broad watershed filled with a diversity of birds and plants. Anymore, this is a scene rarely observed in other portions of California. Why not take a soothing stroll on one of the Preserve's eleven miles of trails or paddle through this watery paradise?
Passing the Cosumnes River Preserve, the race continues south another five miles before crossing Interstate 5, turning around to head north and then west towards the small town of Walnut Grove. As the peloton approaches a place called Dead Horse Island, they pass an establishment that is too good to be true. This is Giusti's, a fourth-generation eatery that's gotten national attention and rave reviews. Begun by Italian immigrants in 1900, it is the oldest restaurant in the California Delta. Still specializing in family-style Italian fares, the familiar family feel extends beyond the food and into the setting. The interior could be home - with checkered tablecloths, wood-paneling, mom's cooking, and a jukebox playing old standards. Outside, the patio overlooks the Delta and small dock. If the food doesn't cause one to ignore disbelief, the fact that you found a slice of authentic, down home Italy on the Delta will.
With their palates salivating, the race continues past Walnut Grove and traverses up and down the banks of the Sacramento River. Heading north on the river's west bank, the women pass Clarksburg and its Old Sugar Mill, a landmark that is more than meets the eye. This massive five-acre complex contains the half-preserved beet sugar refinery, constructed in 1934. Its combination of brick, industrial windows, exposed pipes, and cantilevered walkways harken back to earlier days of the Industrial Revolution in an oddly beautiful way. The complex today, though, is a thriving showcase for the little-known Clarksburg Appellation, where 7,000 acres of grapes are planted - many along the Tour's route. For its part, the Mill is a collection of thirteen tasting rooms in one place. It's a perfect place to sample the region's extensive red and white varietals while soaking up the local history in a completely unique space.