October 22, 2015

SAN DIEGO (AP) Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Walton was so stoked to hear that the 2016 Amgen Tour of California will start in his hometown that he rode his custom bike - with a Grateful Dead paint job - from his home near Balboa Park to the news conference on the waterfront.

''I love my bike and I love San Diego,'' Walton said Thursday, when AEG announced Stage 1 will be in San Diego on May 15.

''This is phenomenal,'' Walton said. ''When I heard the news, it was like, `Wow. How great is this.' It's perfect.''

Walton, who at 6-foot-11 is believed to be the world's tallest Deadhead, describes himself as a ''joyrider.''

He said he's been involved with the Amgen Tour for years, sometimes riding for just a few days.

Last year he rode the whole tour, completing as much of each leg as possible before dark. He plans to do the same thing this year, riding with the Chris Carmichael Team.

''I ride all day,'' Walton said. ''I ride every stage, as much as I can. Some I don't finish in time. This is a very difficult, very challenging professional course.''

The Amgen Tour has twice entered northern San Diego County. This will be the first time it'll hit the heart of the city, with the leg starting and finishing near the water.

The race, which attracts world champions, Olympic medalists and top Tour de France competitors and other elite cyclists, will go south to north for just the second time since it began in 2006.

The rest of the race is:

Stage 2, May 16, South Pasadena to Santa Clarita.

Stage 3, May 17, Thousand Oaks to Santa Barbara County.

Stage 4, May 18, Morro Bay to Monterey County.

Stage 5, May 19, Lodi to South Lake Tahoe.

Stage 6, May 20, Folsom Individual Time Trial and Women's Team Time Trial.

Stage 7, May 21, Santa Rosa.

Stage 8, May 22, Sacramento.

''Everything that I love is encompassed in the world of cycling - technology, science, engineering, teamwork, discipline, sacrifice, training, repetition, fitness, health, nutrition,'' Walton said. ''What my bike really means to me is freedom and independence, because my bike allows me to do things and go places that I can't do and get to on my own. It is the ultimate tool. It is the greatest invention in the history of the world.''

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Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

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