Grand Prix 2001 Comes to SF by Gernot Huber

On Sunday, September 9, the Pro Cycling Tour will come to San Francisco for the first time ever, putting on the 12th race of its 14-race season on a course running through North Beach, the Marina, and Russian Hill. A race of anywhere near this caliber hasn't taken place in San Francisco since the Coors Classic of the late '80s.

Along with major U.S. teams - including Saturn, the U.S. Postal Service, and Mercury Viatel - professional teams from Italy, France, Holland, Germany, and Belgium will be competing, fielding over 100 of the world's best cyclists. Two-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong will be here to compete in the Grand Prix, making San Francisco his only U.S. race appearance this season. While the men will be racing in San Francisco on Sunday, September 9, the women's field of the Pro Cycling Tour will compete in San Rafael on Saturday, September 8.

The San Francisco race starts at 9am. The course will be closed to traffic from 7am until 2pm. The course begins on the Embarcadero near the Ferry Building, and winds through North Beach and along Fisherman's Wharf and the Marina. Halfway through the 10-mile circuit, a steep (18 percent) climb up Fillmore Street marks the beginning of the hilly part of the course. Following the three-block climb, the riders will make their way through Russian Hill and North Beach and then back to the Embarcadero.

The total race distance is 125 miles, and the challenging and technical course will make this a great race to watch. The riders will round the 10-mile course 10 times, and then finish by racing five laps on the five-mile eastern half of the course, allowing spectators to see more of the final hour of the five-hour race. While the racecourse will be closed for the duration, it will be possible to cross the course between laps. The race will also be televised on KGO-TV (channel 7), with the last two hours covered live.

We encourage you to ride your bike down to watch the admission-free race, and check out various sections of the course throughout the race, while taking advantage of free valet parking courtesy of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Valet bike parking will be available near the Start/Finish line at Justin Hermann Plaza.

The Bay Area, with its large number of cyclists and strong bike tradition, is a great place to hold a race event such as the Grand Prix. Tailwind Sports, the organizers of the race, say they are committed to making this an annual event in the city. City Hall is also in full support of the Grand Prix, and KGO-TV has signed on to broadcast at least the first three years of the race. While the race is promising to be an exciting event in its own right, it will also help raise bike visibility in the Bay Area, which should aid the SFBC in implementing its bicycle transportation agenda.