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Find a roadside seat for the Tour of California

Sacramento vantage points.<br><a href="http:/binary/b091/downtown_map.pdf">Larger map</a>

Sacramento vantage points.
Larger map

Watching bicycle racing may be the best bargain in sports. Whether you want to witness the Tour de France or the Tour of California in person, the cost is the same. It’s free.

During the Tour de France, some fans travel to mountaintops days in advance to await the riders’ arrival. That won’t be necessary during the Tour of California, but advance planning is recommended.

Stage two of the race begins at 10 a.m. in Santa Rosa on Tuesday, February 20, and finishes at the state Capitol around 2:30 p.m. on the same day. The event’s Web site, www.amgentourofcalifornia.com, has a detailed map of each of stage. The routes will be closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic well before the starting and finishing times. An enterprising cycling fan could follow the entire route from San Francisco to Long Beach, but that would require arriving at starting cities early and leaving just before the stage starts.

Just like golf and motor sports, the best place to watch a bicycle race is subjective. The most important advice? Get to your designated area early and prepare to wait. Fans could opt not to see the finish of stage two and drive to a remote location in the wine country, set up a picnic and watch the field pedal past in a flash. For those who choose to stay in town, here are vantage points the race organizers suggest:

Tower Bridge: Have lunch in Old Sacramento, then watch as the riders cross the Sacramento River.

Capitol Mall: Perch yourself on the open, grassy areas and watch the riders approach the ending circuit.

10th and N streets: The Lifestyle Festival on 10th Street between L and N streets offers food and merchandise vendors, displays, and exhibitions before, during, and after the race.

15th and 16th streets at P Street: Riders will make a difficult hard-left turn near Fremont Park. This is likely a corner where crashes could occur. Stake out a spot in the park or at one of this intersection’s many coffee shops.

16th and L streets: Riders will likely begin their finish sprints nearby. Locate here and visit various eateries while waiting for “real” racing to begin.

The finish line: Viewing stands, covered areas, restaurants and the Capitol will provide the backdrop for this prime location at 11th and L streets. A solo rider could ride into town on a breakaway or a massive group of riders could approach the line at nearly 50 mph. There’ll be plenty of things to do at the finish area, but if you want to see the winner cross the line from a good vantage point, arrive early, stake your territory and wait it out.

Of course, if you can’t make it to the second stage—or any other stage of the Tour of California—the race will be shown at least twice daily on Versus (formerly the Outdoor Life Network). Visit www.versus.com for broadcast times.