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Like Lance in France (but easier)

Get on your bike and ride



Starting Feb. 19, more than 15 world-class cycling teams will compete in the first-ever Tour de California, an eight-day, 700-mile race loosely modeled after the Tour de France. Beginning in the Bay Area and traveling all the way to Los Angeles, these professional athletes will pedal through some of the state’s most stunning landscapes, though sightseeing will be the last thing on these riders’ minds as they travel at lightning speed to be the first to finish the race. But they won’t be the only ones participating in this inaugural event.

Just like the French race made so popular in the U.S. by three-time winner Lance Armstrong, the Tour de California is also open to recreational cyclists, who have the opportunity to experience all the glory of the race without ever having to suffer the agony of defeat. And with guidance from groups like Central Coast Outdoors, the weekend warrior, the bicycle enthusiast, and the ardent adventurer can ride along with the pros in style.

The expert guides at Central Coast Outdoors will take three different “teams� along the race path, with chances to watch the real racers compete in daily time trials. Plus, they’ll get to ride parts of the route, and take in the sights of California’s majestic redwoods, seductive wine country, and crashing coastline. Riders can travel the entire length of the race, or choose five- or three-day courses, where they’ll pick up the race as it rolls down south to the finish.

Each package includes lodging, gourmet meals, and luggage transportation, plus maps and route support from enthusiastic naturalist/guides. These “Tour tours� are designed to showcase the best riding along the route, and can be tailored to accommodate varying fitness levels. And if you don’t have a suitable bike for the event, they’ll even arrange a rental for you.

“We want to make it easy for anyone who loves to cycle to be able to do this,� says company founder John Flaherty, who along with his wife Virginia has been leading outdoor adventures for over 15 years. “Our version of the race will be for people who love bikes, not necessarily for the best cyclists. But the great thing is, they’ll get to see the best.�

And maybe the best thing about the race is that the riders will roll into SLO on Feb. 23, just in time for the downtown Farmers’ Market. Tour followers can ride into town just like winners, knowing that this stop along the way is where they call home. As John Flaherty puts it, “This adventure will be like taking a vacation in your own backyard.�

Space is limited for the Central Coast Outdoors guided tour of the race, so make your reservation today by calling 528-1080. You can also check out other adventure opportunities at www.centralcoastout

New Times staff writer Alice Moss compiled this week’s Strokes and Plugs. What’s the biz buzz? Email her at [email protected]

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