It won't just be the cyclists testing their endurance during the Amgen Tour of California.
Admission is free, but there is a price to pay for fans who want prime viewing spots near steep finish lines next week in San Jose and on Mount Diablo near Danville. With no shuttle vans to haul them to high points, fans of America's most prestigious pro cycling race will need to hike or bike to get to hill or mountain finishes.
In San Jose, visitors need to make their way to the top of a 1,000-foot hill on Metcalf Road for the finish of a 19.6-mile-long individual time trial on May 17, the sixth of eight days in the Amgen Tour.
Fans face an even tougher challenge on May 18 to see a mountaintop finish on the 3,849-foot Mount Diablo at the end of a 91-mile race that starts in Livermore.
With the upper park road to be closed to private vehicles on race day, fans must hike or bike at least five miles to reach the summit finish. The trek could be much longer if the state park runs out of parking spaces and shuts all roads and both park entrances to vehicles earlier than a now-scheduled 2 p.m. closure.
On both days, race organizers expect thousands of people to bring food and drinks and hang out for hours, much as Tour de France fans do to watch that epic race through Europe. Last year, when racing on Mount Diablo was on a weekday, park officials estimated that 7,000 to 10,000 people came to watch.
"We're telling people to come early because we expect big crowds," said Dan Stefanesko, chief ranger at Mt. Diablo State Park. "We're also telling them to bring plenty of water, snacks and sunscreen, but no alcohol."
Unlike the Tour de France, where wine is a staple of fans, Mt. Diablo State Park bans alcoholic beverages.
One group of East Bay riders that has seen the Tour de France in person will camp on Mount Diablo before and after the race, to beat the crowds.
"We wanted to get a jump-start. ... The steep sections are a good place to see the riders going by more slowly. You can see the sweat and anguish on their faces," said Bill Bergman, of Martinez, a leader of the Old Farts Cycling Team.
Campground reservations were snapped up months ago. In addition, park officials have since canceled reservations for the highest campground to help limit car traffic.
In both San Jose and Danville, race organizers advise fans to arrive early to scout out good spots. Higher spots near the finish line are popular, but leaving after the race can be slower and more hazardous as hordes of fans descend down steep roads.
In San Jose, a Tour of California host city for eight years, this time trial follows a course nearly identical to one used for a leg of the 2006 tour. Parking is banned along much of the course.
The start near the IBM Santa Teresa Research Facility at 555 Bailey Ave. is the most accessible point on the course. It's a good place to get photos and racers' autographs, said Eric Smith, the tour's course director.
The start is easily reachable on foot for those who park on Santa Teresa Boulevard.
"It's a really good place to watch because the riders do a counterclockwise loop, then come back almost to the start, before making a right-hand turn and heading toward the finish," he said.
Racers in the San Jose time trial start in 30-second intervals at 1 p.m. May 17. The Silicon Valley Time Trial Charity Challenge starts at 10:30 a.m. on the same course.
On May 18 in Livermore there will be big-screen TVs downtown so fans can watch all day. The cyclists start the day on Third Street at 11:35 a.m. A loop course returns them downtown for a 2 p.m. sprint. Racers then continue to Danville to enter Mt. Diablo State Park about 3 p.m.
Fans are expected to congregate near the park's south entrance by the community of Diablo, along long road stretches before the entry kiosk, and near the top.
The park will set up a valet station for fans to check in bicycles a half-mile from the top.
Fan Brian Kelly, of Danville, plans to get a good viewing spot by riding his mountain bike on dirt trails. "It's a good way to avoid the traffic," he said.
The Amgen Tour of California is a 750-mile professional bicycle race that begins Sunday and runs to May 19, from Escondido to Santa Rosa.
The Bay Area gets the three final legs this year: a May 17 time trial in San Jose, a May 18 segment from Livermore to the Mount Diablo summit, and a May 19 final leg from San Francisco to Santa Rosa.
Tour details: For information on how to see Bay Area segments in person, go to www.amgentourofcalifornia.com and click on "route," "spectator guide," and then "stages 6, 7, or 8."
When: May 17. Tour of California Stage 6: Individual time trial
Start: 12:30 p.m. near the IBM Santa Teresa Research Facility, 555 Bailey Ave.
End: About 4 p.m.
Distance: 19.6 miles
Best views: At the starting line and the finish at the Santa Clara County Motorcycle Park, 300 Metcalf Road, San Jose
Street closures: Metcalf Road from Malech Road to Shingle Valley Road will be closed from 9 p.m. May 16 until 10 p.m. May 17. All course roads will be closed noon to 4 p.m. May 17. For details, go to www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.
TV coverage: 2 p.m. NBC Sports Network
When: May 18, Tour of California Stage 7: Livermore to Mount Diablo summit
Start: 11:35 a.m. on Third Street, downtown Livermore
End: About 3:45 p.m., Mount Diablo
Distance: 91.4 miles
Total elevation gain: 10,384 feet
Best views: Downtown Livermore at start, southern entrance to Mt. Diablo State Park, up the hill just before entry kiosk, Junction Ranger Station and summit
Access challenges: Summit Road will be closed to cars. To see the finish, you must walk or bike the last 4.6 miles. Motorists may enter the park at 8 a.m., but they will be barred after 2 p.m. -- or earlier if parking fills up.
Park: North Gate Road, Walnut Creek side; South Gate Road, Danville side between entry kiosk and Junction Ranger Station. Walkers aren't allowed along Diablo Road; pedestrians entering on the south side are advised to use Blackhawk Road.
Park admission: $10 per car; no fee for bikers or walkers
TV coverage: 4 p.m. NBC Sports Network