The 2018 Amgen Tour of California's Individual Time Trial returns for the third time to San Jose and the outskirts of Silicon Valley. The start and finish, however, will feature the new host city of Morgan Hill. This year's "Race of Truth" is a scenic 21-mile route that includes one sizeable climb followed by two precipitous descents. Contested in the backcountry, wind could be a factor on the route, but one thing is for certain, the rider coming in with the best condition, position, and handling skills will prevail. With the riders parading through one by one, Stage 4 is the best opportunity to see each individual rider in their element. So where to see the day's events?
Out of the gate, riders head uphill. After an immediate right turn, they are under the watchful gaze of El Toro hill looming ahead. Lucky for them, they make a slight left at Dewitt Avenue to circumnavigate this menacing foe. While El Toro is not hike-able, there are several points along the race route for the energetic spectator who wants a truly unique experience and vantage point. For those willing to make the effort, the Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve rewards spectators with a 180-degree bird's eye view of the race course and the lush Santa Cruz Mountains to the west. The preserve essentially lies in the middle of the time trial loop. From the entrance on Palm Avenue, the Arrowhead Loop Trail is 3.75-miles in total, but the highest overlook is a mere 1.65-miles and 500-feet uphill. Along the way, keep an eye out for red-tailed hawks and golden eagles among the buckeye trees and blue oaks. The combination of unique flora and fauna with spectacular vistas will have you wanting more.
Skirting El Toro, the race continues to climb into the foothills. Past Chesbro Reservoir, the peloton rapidly approaches the high point of the stage at the 10-mile mark. While the ascents are another strategic place to watch the riders process through, they also offer unparalleled hiking opportunities into the hinterland. Especially tempting at this location is the Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve. Opened by the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority in 2004, Rancho Cañada del Oro and other local preserves are meant to connect people with nature through interconnecting trails, education, and sustainable programs. Rancho Cañada del Oro, for one, is an extensive ten-mile network of trails. Unlike El Toro, however, these hikes are meant to fit any skill level. A short drive off the race route, Rancho Cañada del Oro is a portal to another world of rushing creeks, emerald hillsides, and uninhibited wildlife. Make your trek through this 3,800-acre playground as long or short as you want but be sure to slow down and smell the wildflowers.
Once riders pass the turnoff to Rancho Cañada del Oro, they begin their short climb to the Stage's pinnacle at 758 feet. This is followed by three miles of steep downhills. Short but sweet, this drop gives riders a chance to rest their tired legs in preparation for the final eight miles of false flat. On the run-in to the finish, the caravan of riders may begin to notice the increasing charm of Morgan Hill. At exactly the "1-kilometer" banner sits the jewel of Morgan Hill, the stately Villa Mira Monte. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this 1½ story, almost southern rendition of a Victorian literally tells the history of this community. As it was, prominent businessman Hiram Morgan Hill and his landed wife Diana Murphy constructed this Villa as a summer retreat in 1884. With the railroad's arrival, the town boomed and Hill's catchy name, not to mention reputation as its most popular resident, stuck. The Morgan Hill Historical Society keeps this landmark open to the public and features rotating exhibits that tell the story of Morgan Hill, the person and place.