THE TOUR REALLY begins on Saturday, Feb. 14, with a cyclocross competition in Santa Rosa's Doyle Park. An intense race that often finds riders carrying their bikes and running with them, cyclocross is muddy and dirty, and therefore very fun to watch. And such two-wheeled raging naturally prompts after-parties. Look to the Sweet Spot Lounge (614 Fourth St., Santa Rosa; from 5pm; 707.528.7566) and the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition (655 First St. at D Street; 707.545.0153) to host beer-drenched wind-downs. The SCBC affair begins at 6:30pm and features a downtown Santa Rosa scavenger hunt, drinks, music and a chill lounge. It's for members only, but memberships are available at the door. $5–$10 donation; 21 and over.
A more elegant affair, Wine and Wheels, raises fund for Bicycle for Humanity's Santa Rosa Chapter, aiming to send bicycles to Namibia, Africa. Cellars of Sonoma hosts this sold-out event from 6pm. A waiting list has been established. Call 707.578.1826 to hop on.
The Tour literally races through Calistoga and Napa County and no special events other than cowbell-ringing are planned. But even before the peloton comes over the hill and into Santa Rosa on Sunday, Feb. 15, the celebration kicks off at noon in both Railroad Square and in Courthouse Square. The downtown bash hosts fun kids' events (little ones are encouraged to decorate their bikes) with the professional Women's Criterium vying for a $1,500 purse from 1pm in a downtown circuit lap that is hugely exciting to see whiz past.
Over in Railroad Square, the first annual Velove Winter Bike Festival promises all kinds of fun, including the West Coast Gold Sprints, friendly competition on stationary bikes until 4pm, and a beer garden complete with a Jumbotron TV. Stout Brothers (527 Fourth St., Santa Rosa; 707.636.0240) hosts the TOC after-party from 5pm for a mere $5, which includes your first pint and a raffle ticket for biking gear. Get those tix in advance.
"Athletes are always subject to change," warns the city of Sausalito's website in advertising an opportunity for amateur riders to pay $500 to ride over the Golden Gate Bridge with the ToC peloton on Monday, Feb. 16. This little city is brimming with the huge excitement of hosting a stage launch on Monday and is erecting a Big Bike Tent on Spinnaker Drive downtown where tour enthusiasts can enjoy a brunch ($50) and watch the entire stage on big screen TVs all the way to Santa Cruz. The day ends with the fourth annual Tour de Cuisine in the Big Bike Tent in which 25 restaurants purvey and the Sun Kings Beatles tribute play. From 5pm; $75. www.tourofcalifornia-sausalito.com.