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Recap: Amgen Tour's Stage 7 start brought pro cyclists, $$$ to Santa Clarita

Posted: March 7, 2009 3:18 a.m.
Updated: February 27, 2009 6:00 a.m.
 
This year, the Amgen Tour of California once again raced through Santa Clarita's streets, electrifying the thousands of race fans who joined the estimated more than 2 million spectators who viewed the event this year. Town Center Drive, at the Westfield Valencia Town Center, was lined with fans as riders, including Lance Armstrong, prepared to battle their way from Santa Clarita to Pasadena in Stage 7 of the race.

After nine challenging days of cycling through more than 750 miles of scenic California roads, including a thrilling fight to the finish, Levi Leipheimer of Astana was crowned champion of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California, solidifying a three-peat for the California resident.

Although race veteran Leipheimer won the Amgen Tour of California for the third consecutive year, the community's attention was largely focused on cancer survivor and seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, who graciously answered questions and expressed his enthusiasm about supporting Leipheimer and Astana at the Santa Clarita Stage 7 start.

Armstrong has been a huge inspiration for many in attendance and used his involvement in the Amgen Tour of California to raise awareness for the disease.

On the morning of Saturday, Feb. 21, local residents poured into the Westfield Valencia Town Center to view the Stage 7 start, as well as its exciting accompanying activities. Kids participated in tricycle races, and race fans of all ages browsed the vendor booths that lined Town Center Drive in anticipation of the Amgen Tour of California's blast out of Santa Clarita toward Pasadena.

As the cyclists began to flood Town Center Drive, spectators watched Lance Armstrong and some of the world's top athletes take the announcer's stage and answer race-related interview questions for the crowd, as well as those tuning in via radio or television. After signing in, Armstrong, Leipheimer and more of the Amgen Tour of California cyclists walked autograph alley to sign memorabilia for waiting fans.

The exciting event not only brings more than $1 million in local economic benefit to the city each year, it also positively impacts the city's youth. Kids from schools across the city rallied to collect ‘Spirit Points' for their school to win prizes and this year, Charles Helmers Elementary School students took home the overall win, earning them new sports equipment for their school.

"There is no possible way to overestimate the effect that a world-class event such as the Amgen Tour of California can have on a community," said Mayor Frank Ferry. "Here in Santa Clarita, residents and race fans came out in droves with their families and friends to watch the event, people shopped in our stores, stayed in our hotels and ate in our restaurants with the race's arrival. You cannot ignore the enormous positive impact on our local economy and community."

As emcees counted down the minutes to the crack of the starter pistol from two announcer stages constructed on Town Center Drive, local student Anne Digiorgio performed an awe-inspiring rendition of the national anthem that displayed talent far beyond her 15 years. Finally, a local cancer survivor pulled the trigger on the starter pistol and Armstrong, Leipheimer and more of the world's top athletes began to make their way through the City of Santa Clarita.

The cyclists raced through city streets and toward Acton, climbed Millcreek Summit and sped toward Pasadena, leaving Santa Clarita abuzz with excitement. The race left some with autographs, photos and sights to remember for years to come. The city as a whole enjoyed another successful event that provided world-wide coverage of Santa Clarita and fever-pitch excitement for its residents.

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