The Amgen Tour of California has seen cycling luminaries of the like of Peter Sagan and Sir Bradley on the top step of the podium in recent years. 

The 2017 version kicking off on 11 May has 12 WorldTour teams in the field. On 18 May's Stage 5 the pros will race up the 15 hairpins to Mt Baldy following in the path of the amateurs of L'Etape California.

Josh Mott, formerly of this parish and now living in Northern California, was there to rack up his fourth different Etape location.

"As a recreational riders there are not too many times when you experience this feeling on the bike; the feeling of true exhaustion. After the final feed station, where riders gulped down coke and water as they lay in the shade, it was time for the final ramp up to Mt Baldy."

Read his report of the day.

Suffering on the First Climb. Credit: Josh Mott
Suffering on the First Climb. Credit: Josh Mott
L'Etape California has run since 2011. This year was the first edition organised by Tour de France giants ASO, which created the original L'Etape in 1993. With California on the roster there are now 11 L'Etape rides around the globe.

Officially branded the L'Étape California By Le Tour De France, the Californian event saw 600 riders tackle the challenge. That was considerably less than the 1,500 maximum and there is a clear intention to grow far beyond that and towards the 15,000 or so participants at the original L'Etape du Tour each year.

It certainly set a challenge with 3,350 metres of climbing in just 129km. This year's Étape du Tour from Briancon to the Col d'Izoard in the Alps is almost the same amount of climbing (3,500m) in 178km.

"The Mt Baldy course is worthy of the Étape du Tour Series label since it is very challenging and beautiful," said Ride Director Ryan Ung. "In future years we hope to expose riders to other mountainous regions of California that make people dream of riding in the Alps or Pyrenees."

Ryan, a keen cyclist, has first-hand experience of L'Étape from riding the 2015 edition in France.

"I have participated in over 100 running, triathlon, and cycling races throughout my life and riding in Étape du Tour 2015 was a unique experience different than all the rest. Never before have I ridden with so many riders spread across the full width of the road - all of which were very motived to make it to the finish despite the wide range in abilities and age.

"I was smiling throughout the entire day and there was a sense of relief and satisfaction for making it over three large climbs ending at the ski area of La Toussuire," he added.

"Watching Nibali fly up the climbs later in the week to a solo victory was the icing on the cake - the fact that he shaved off two hours on my time made me realise that I should keep my job as an event organiser."

The Peloton Snakes Upwards. Credit: L'Etape California
The Peloton Snakes Upwards. Credit: L'Etape California
Joining California in the Étape du Tour Ride Series are rides in Korea, South Africa, Costa Rica, Wales, Mexico, Brazil, London, Paraguay and Australia. 

Men's Amgen Tour of California 2017 route

Stage 1: Sacramento, 167.5km

Stage 2: Modesto to San Jose, 143km

Stage 3: Pismo Beach to Morro Bay, 183km

Stage 4: Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita, 161.5km

Stage 5: Ontario to Mt. Baldy, 125.5km

Stage 6: Big Bear Lake time trial, 23km

Stage 7: Mountain High to Pasadena, 124km