Local enthusiasts of tandem transportation will soon be able to watch professional bike riding at its best, as cyclists from the Amgen Tour of California are set to race through two Santa Barbara County cities this weekend.

Cyclists from the Amgen Tour – a contest that pits the world’s top professional bicycle teams against each other in an eight-day, 700-mile race down the California coast – are scheduled to pass through Solvang this Friday and through Santa Barbara the following day. This year’s tour is the first time Solvang has been selected to host a portion of the annual race.

The Tour of California kicked off in Santa Rosa, Calif., this past Sunday. A different city will host its own separate leg of the tour for every day of the race: Cyclists will pass through Sacramento, Stockton and San Jose before reaching Solvang for a 14.5-mile race through the town on Friday.

According to an Amgen press release, the tour – which is the longest bicycle race in America – has seen substantial growth in its spectatorship each year it has been held. The tour draws large crowds of bike lovers and sporting enthusiasts to each of its stops. The throngs of onlookers at last year’s local stops were no exceptions.

According to the competition’s website, Solvang was selected to host a portion of the race this year because of the city’s superior spectator viewing spots – the start and finish lines are a mere two blocks apart. Bikers are scheduled to leave the starting line at Mission Santa Ynez at 11 a.m., and will cycle down Grand Avenue about 10 minutes later.

Sam Marmorstein, owner of Solvang eatery Los Olivos CafŽ, said he plans to host a viewing party for the cycling enthusiasts at his restaurant, which is located near the race’s course. He said many locals are eagerly anticipating the Solvang portion of the Amgen tour.

“We are very excited and looking forward to the event,” Marmorstein said. “Its a great thing for Santa Ynez Valley and Los Olivos CafŽ.”

When the cyclists leave Solvang and arrive in Santa Barbara, they will enter Stage 6 of the race, which covers the 105 miles of coastline between downtown Santa Barbara and Santa Clarita. Competitors will kick off this leg of the tour on Cabrillo Boulevard at 11 a.m. Saturday and are expected to start arriving at their final destination at 2:52 p.m.

According to the competition’s website, the Santa Barbara leg of the tour may prove to be the pivotal point in the race for all of the tour’s competitors.

“There could be several riders separated by just a few seconds,” the website said. “After a start in view of the Santa Barbara shoreline, this will be the last chance for a solid favorite to emerge before the circuit race finale in Long Beach.”

The Tour of California is sponsored by Amgen, a biotechnology company that produces pharmaceutical products.