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Tour of California sendoff draws crowd to Newhall

Stage 7 to launch from Valencia on Saturday

Posted: May 16, 2014 6:40 p.m.
Updated: May 16, 2014 6:40 p.m.

Bradley Wiggins, the leader of the Amgen Tour of California, starts Stage 6 of the race in downtown Newhall on Friday. Signal photo by Katharine Lotze

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Ray and Sandy Cook of Mission Viejo settled onto a bench outside the Repertory East Playhouse in Newhall to people-watch.

They had plenty of passersby to scan as they sat only about 100 feet from the starting point of the Amgen Tour of California’s Stage 6 start Friday in Newhall.

On that bench they met Dennis Bansmer of Canyon Country, who unlike the couple isn’t a cyclist. But the trio shared a love of the sport and an excitement to be at a race that featured some of the world’s best cyclists.

“(For Newhall) to host something like this is huge,” said Bansmer, who took the day off work to attend.

The Cooks have followed the Tour de France-style cycling road race around California all nine years of its existence. So they’ve already been to Santa Clarita, which hosted parts of the race in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2013.

Hundreds of people joined the Cooks on downtown Newhall’s Main Street, which was blocked off to traffic for the 11:35 a.m. start.

Tour of California cyclists’ RVs and cars began to line the street as race time neared, allowing attendees a close look at racers and their bikes. Multiple fans agreed the riders are more accessible at the start of stages than at their end.

For two such fans, Mike Gurley and his son Griffin, the tour was an opportunity to celebrate Griffin’s recent graduation from Texas A&M University. The two drove from Dallas, Texas, and started following the tour in Cambria, where Stage 4 finished Wednesday.

As the 11:35 a.m. sendoff neared, crowds began to congregate around a large blue arch that stood near a stage on the south end of Main Street.

Commentators paced the stage, talking race strategy and interviewing racers over the PA system.

About 11:20 a.m., the more than 100 competing cyclists moved to the starting line, with an announcer identifying some of the more prominent. One such star was Bradley Wiggins, whom the announcer referred to as the Michael Phelps of England.

The Signal’s own Alesia Humphries sang the national anthem, and with the crack of a starting pistol the bikers were off toward the Newhall roundabout and the 94.4-mile route ending at Mountain High.

Minutes later the crowd dispersed. The Cooks headed off to Mountain High for the finish. But for others race day, and the accompanying battle with high temperatures, was over.

“It has been hard,” Sandy Cook said of the heat — temperatures were in the high 90s by noon. “I don’t know how riders ... do it.”

The shaded patio at El Trocadero Mesquite Steakhouse and Cantina on Main Street proved irresistible to some. Raul Bojorquez, the restaurant’s owner, Friday’s lunch crowd had the restaurant staff busier than normal.

Bojorquez’s request to anyone who would listen: “Bring more events to Newhall.”

Other businesses along Main Street, like Brake Masters, continued operating during the race festivities by way of access to an ally off Lyons Avenue.

The Tour of California Stage 7 starts from Westfield Valencia Town Center at 11:40 a.m. Saturday and ends in Pasadena. The 2014 race concludes Sunday in Thousand Oaks.




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