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Amgen Cycling Race Spins Back to SCV

Santa Clarita hosts Tour of California Stage 6 finish and Stage 7 start Feb. 23-24.

Posted: February 12, 2008 9:33 p.m.
Updated: April 11, 2008 2:02 a.m.

Kids jammed an array of jumpers at the Kids Zone during the 2007 Amgen Tour of California's spin through Santa Clarita.

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The cacophony of 50,000-plus cheering cycling fans and clanging cowbells returns to the Santa Clarita Valley for a second year the weekend of Feb. 23-24, when the eight-day, seven-stage, internationally sanctioned Amgen Tour of California race spins in from Santa Barbara for the finish of Stage 6 on Saturday afternoon.

This year, the city of Santa Clarita will also host the official start of the race’s final Stage 7 to Pasadena on Sunday morning, which means many of the traveling city of riders, support crews, family members and media people will be staying over in the SCV Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday morning.

Organizers AEG Sports, more than a dozen SCV-based sponsors and the city have put together an action-packed slate of related activities and events for the Stage 6-Stage 7 layover, designed to re-create an Olympic-style village for the enjoyment of visitors and SCV residents alike. The race and all events are open to the public with no charge for admission.

Modeled after the world-famous Tour de France, the challenging 650-mile Amgen Tour of California will this year feature 17 of the world’s elite pro cycling teams and 136 athletes — including top Tour de France competitors, world champions and Olympic medalists — as they race from Palo Alto-Stanford University to Pasadena Feb. 17-24.

Cycling enthusiasts consider the Tour of California the most significant and popular cycle race held on U.S. soil. Teams and racers will compete for what organizers promise will be the highest purse of any cycling race in North America.

This year’s Tour of California has already received an upgraded rating from the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the international governing body of cycling, to a 2.Hors Classe (2.HC), the highest rating a professional stage race outside of Europe can receive. The Tour of California is also one of the races that help determine who will compete in the next Tour de France, during the first three weeks of July.

From north to south, start to finish, the 2008 Amgen Tour of California host cities are Palo Alto (new for 2008), Sausalito, Santa Rosa, Sacramento, Modesto (new for 2008), San Jose, Seaside, San Luis Obispo, Solvang, Santa Barbara, Santa Clarita and Pasadena (new for 2008).

According to AEG Sports, the eight-day “rolling festival” has in its first two years already become one of the nation’s largest, most recognized and successful annual sports events. The 2007 race drew more than 1.8 million spectators, surpassing the inaugural year’s turnout and setting records in attendance for any single sporting event in California, as well as for any cycling event ever held in the United States.

The Tour and host cities including Santa Clarita scored massive media coverage, and in 2008, fans and enthusiasts from across the U.S. and around the world will again be able to get the latest race results nightly via television on the VERSUS cable channel and online at www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.

“Santa Clarita will again have exposure literally all over the world,” said Bob Kellar, the city’s mayor. “I want to extend a warm welcome to all our visitors. We’re really gearing up for them, there’s going to be a lot of celebration, and everyone’s going to have a great time.”

Economic Impact

The 2007 race pumped an estimated $100 million into the economies of the seven host cities, including at least $2 million in Santa Clarita for the single-day Stage 6 event, according to an economic impact study conducted by the city’s Economic Development Division (EDD). The city considered it a milestone in its effort to brand Santa Clarita as a sports-event tourist destination equally friendly to organizers, participants and spectators.

AEG Sports agreed by not only approving Santa Clarita’s application to host Stage 6 again in 2008, but also designating the city as host of the Stage 7 start.

“We’re thrilled to welcome the Amgen Tour of California back to Santa Clarita this year,” said Jason Crawford, EDD manager. “It’s a huge thing for the community, not only from the direct economic impact of all these visitors coming to town and spending money at local restaurants, hotels, shopping, but also from the positive recognition Santa Clarita gets during the race on TV, in magazines and newspapers. That all helps spread the word about Santa Clarita to the world, and specifically to decision-makers in businesses that may be looking at wanting to relocate or expand their business. Those are the benefits we try to take the most advantage of when we get an event like this to take place here.”

This year, with two event days and a weekend night of fun in between, the city is going all-out to increase the incoming cashflow. Along with the Stage 6 finish and Stage 7 start, Crawford said, “We’re producing an event we’re calling ‘Rock the Bike’ on Saturday night to help attract and keep all those visitors, so they stay overnight in Santa Clarita instead of leaving town.”

Last year, almost all the approximately 1,700 available hotel rooms in the SCV were booked. “Since then, with the new Courtyard by Marriott and Embassy Suites hotels opening, we have another 300 rooms available, a total of about 2,000 now,” Crawford said. “Still, it’s already tough to find a room for race weekend, and we’re two weeks away, so I expect we’ll see almost all of those rooms booked, especially Saturday night.”

The racing teams

“This year, we designed an even more challenging course and secured an incredible lineup of teams that promise to keep the level of excitement high for the fans and riders alike,” said Kristin Bachochin, AEG Sports senior director.

Denmark’s Team CSC, the world’s No. 1 cycling team, leads the field of 17 teams competing this year. Last year’s overall Tour of California winner, Levi Leipheimer (from Santa Rosa, Calif.), will defend his title as head of a new team, Luxembourg-based Astana, making its first entry in a U.S. race. Also featured is the Health Net presented by Maxxis team (U.S.A.), winner of USA Cycling’s 2007 National Race.

Split between teams that compete on the UCI Pro Tour and those that race predominately in the United States, the Tour of California field also features the Bissell Pro Cycling Team (U.S.A.), BMC Racing Team (U.S.A.), Bouygues Telecom (France), Crédit Agricole (France), Gerolsteiner (Germany), High Road Sports (Germany), Jelly Belly Cycling Team (U.S.A.), Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast (U.S.A.), Quick Step (Belgium), Rabobank Cycling Team (Netherlands), Rock Racing (U.S.A.), Saunier Duval-Scott (Spain), Team Slipstream Powered by Chipotle (U.S.A.) and Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team (U.S.A.).

The race course

Racing from the Stage 6 starting point in Santa Barbara, the cyclists will spin east down Highway 126/Henry Mayo Drive and onto the cross-valley connector where the highway becomes Newhall Ranch Road. At McBean Parkway, cyclists will turn right (south) to Valencia Boulevard, turn right (west) to Tourney Road, turn right (north) to Magic Mountain Parkway, and right (east) back to McBean Parkway. The racers will make three laps around this 3.1-mile circuit, ending at the finish line on McBean in front of the Westfield Valencia Town Center.

Stage 7 is being referred to as “a tale of two cities” because of the key roles Santa Clarita and Pasadena are likely to play in the final outcome of the race.

“Because of the challenge of this new course between Santa Clarita and Pasadena, there’s a great possibility of a lead change during Stage 7 — one which could change the outcome of the race,” said Michael Roth, AEG’s vice president of communications. “To have this as a possibility on the final day adds another really exciting element to the race.”

Stage 7 will start approximately 11 a.m. Sunday at Town Center Drive and Circle Drive. Riders will turn right onto northbound McBean, travel to Newhall Ranch Road and turn right, heading east to Bouquet Canyon Road. At Bouquet, riders will turn left and head north to Vasquez Canyon Road, turn right to Sierra Highway, and right/south on Sierra Highway to Sand Canyon Road. Turning left, the riders will take Sand Canyon south to Soledad Canyon Road, then turn left/east on Soledad to Aliso Canyon, and right/south on Aliso Canyon. From there, the route will wind onto Angeles Forest Highway, and follow Highway 2 south into Pasadena and the Rose Bowl for the big finish and awards ceremony Sunday afternoon.

Family-friendly fun

Race organizers and the city have put together a full slate of family-friendly activities tied in with the Stage 6 finish and Stage 7 start. The Health Net Lifestyle Festival, beginning at noon Saturday, will feature cycling-related exhibitors, exciting demonstrations by trick bike riders, and live music by local bands. A Kids Zone sponsored by Providence-Holy Cross Medical Center will be set up on McBean between Magic Mountain Parkway and Town Center Drive, with kid-friendly bouncers, bungees, “mountain”-climbing and more.

A couple hours prior to the arrival of the racers, parents and kids of all ages will get to ride their bicycles and even tricycles on part of the official course, including over the finish line, on the Health Net-sponsored Family Ride. Riders must register in advance; sign up online at www.santa-clarita.com/tourofca or fill out the entry form published in today’s Signal.

“Rock the Bike” Saturday night street party

When the racing stops Saturday afternoon after the Stage 6 finish, the party starts in Santa Clarita. The free “Rock the Bike” cycling industry expo and music festival from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. will feature a live performance by well-known alternative power-pop band the Gin Blossoms.

From Tempe, Ariz., the group first scored at college radio with their 1991 debut EP, “Up & Crumbling,” then hit the big time with smash hits “Hey Jealousy” and “Found Out About You,” from their million-selling Top 10 1993 debut album “New Miserable Experience.” They kept the momentum going with “Till I Hear it From You,” a radio hit from the 1995 “Empire Records” soundtrack and hit single from the GBs’ second album, “Congratulations...I’m Sorry” (1996).

The band split up in 1997, reunited New Year’s Eve 2001/2002, toured in summer 2002, released the live DVD “Just South of Nowhere” that fall, and followed with the album “Dusted.” In 2006 the Gin Blossoms recorded their fourth and most recent album, “Major Lodge Victory,” which musically picked up where the band had left off in the ’90s.

Along with such top musical entertainment, more than 30 major cycling manufacturers will showcase the latest innovations in road and mountain cycling. Manufacturers including Specialized, Trek, Giant Bicycles, Shimano and Kenda will be exhibiting bicycles and merchandise throughout the event, presented by the city, Westfield Valencia Town Center and H3 Publications (publishers of Road and decline magazines).

Traffic control

Last year, more than a few Santa Clarita drivers were torqued about disruptions to the regular traffic flow along the race route and adjacent throughways. Rick Gould, the city’s director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services, called 2007 “a learning experience.”

“We had had a really good traffic plan last year, but some unexpected things happened during the race and elsewhere in the city that complicated it,” Gould said. “There were two major accidents on San Fernando Road that were unrelated to the race, and they clogged San Fernando. Also, there was a group of riders — I’m not sure if you’d call them bandit riders or what — who rode onto the course early, and the reaction was, ‘Here they come!’ So we shut down some intersections earlier than anticipated, which started to back up traffic much earlier.”

Because the race this year spends two days in Santa Clarita instead of one, “It’s doubly difficult,” Gould said. “But we’ve made some significant changes in how we’re going to manage the traffic this time, and I expect it to be much better.”

Fundraising

A major component of the Amgen Tour of California is awareness-boosting and fund-raising in the fight against cancer. Thousand Oaks-based Amgen engages in race sponsorship to raise awareness of its mission to serve patients, and the promise of medical breakthroughs made possible through biotechnology.

In line with that mission, Amgen further supports cancer patients and their families nationwide through its Breakaway from Cancer education and fundraising initiative. The company reports it raised more than $1 million In 2007 through Breakaway from Cancer to support vital non-profit services and programs for millions of Americans affected by the disease.

The city of Santa Clarita and H3 Publications have teamed up to present the “Road to the Cure” raffle, benefiting both the Santa Clarita-based Michael Hoefflin Foundation and Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer. Raffle prizes will range from premium sporting equipment, such as bicycles from Cannondale, to top-name sports memorabilia. Tickets will be on sale during Rock the Bike and other events, and the drawing will be held Sunday morning, prior to the Stage 7 start.

Bus to the Rose Bowl

After watching the start of the final Stage 7 Sunday morning, cycle fans can board charter buses and head to the Rose Bowl to catch the race’s finish and awards ceremony. At the Lifestyle Festival there, fans will be able to watch big-screen TVs as the riders wind through the mountains en route from Santa Clarita to Pasadena.

At 11 a.m., excursion participants will check in at Valencia Town Center behind Rosie’s BBQ. The buses will leave for Pasadena 15 minutes after the Stage 7 start and return to Santa Clarita around 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 per person and are available online at www.santa-clarita.com/tourofca/events or at the Santa Clarita Aquatic Center, 20850 Centre Pointe Parkway in Canyon Country.

To get on board, contact Jennifer Lindstrom, the city’s recreation coordinator, at (661) 284-1465 or visit the city’s event Web site.

Media coverage: TV

As a major event in the cycling universe, the Amgen Tour of California attracts international media coverage, and numerous photographers, reporters and news crews are part of the event’s entourage traveling from first stage to last. As it did last year, the VERSUS cable channel will feature exclusive TV coverage throughout the tour.

VERSUS will cablecast race highlights daily starting Sunday, Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. (PT). On Monday through Friday, Feb. 18-22, coverage will begin at 8 p.m. (PT). Stage 6 coverage from Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita starts 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, and Stage 7 coverage will begin 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24 as well.

“The coverage we’re going to get from VERSUS is really terrific and is one of the elements that will help to continue to grow this race,” AEG’s Roth said. “We’re creating a video travelogue for the state of California and the cities that participate, and what we’re creating in Santa Clarita is terrific for the city, both nationally and internationally.”

Media coverage: online

Up-to-the-minute race coverage will be posted on the official Tour Web site, www.amgentourofcalifornia.com, and on the city’s Tour event page, www.santa-clarita.com/news/tourofca/.

This year’s race will also beta-test a revolutionary new Location Object Field Tracking (LOFT) system developed by CSC, the Fortune 500 information technology services company that also sponsors the world’s top-ranked cycling team. CSC designed LOFT to help companies and governments track and protect remote workers and other assets.

In the Amgen beta test, the system will make it possible for cycling fans who log onto the official Web site at www.tourofcalifornia.com to choose and follow any of the teams or riders with a click of the mouse. Online fans can see direction and speed details by simply clicking on one of the moving avatars. Users can also click on any rider’s name and pull up a picture, bio, or anything else posted about the rider on the team’s Web site. Check it out at www.cscomnilocation.com.

Volunteers

Local organizers are finalizing a crew of up to 350 volunteers to serve primarily as course marshals, providing support for the 75 professional course marshals that travel with the tour and support the local law enforcement authorities. Course marshal volunteers have an opportunity to be on the race route, close to the cyclists, with responsibility for monitoring pedestrian traffic, barricades and street closures.

Other volunteers are needed for the Health Net Lifestyle Festival Expo, media relations, medical control, security, site decoration/restoration, sweepstakes surveyor and volunteer check-in.

“Volunteering is a great way to experience the race and volunteers will be essential to making Santa Clarita a successful stop for the Amgen Tour of California,” Gould said.

Volunteers must be 18 or older or accompanied by an adult. For more info, call Susana Coronel, city volunteer coordinator at (661) 286-4165 or visit www.santa-clarita.com/tourofca, where you may also apply online.

Sponsors, vendors, more info

With Amgen the title sponsor of the entire Tour of California, gold sponsors in Santa Clarita are College of the Canyons, Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, Pardee Homes and Westfield Town Center. Media sponsors include KHTS-AM 1220 radio and Time-Warner Cable, while The Signal is print media sponsor. The Magazine of Santa Clarita is the magazine sponsor.

Mann Biomedical Park is the tourism sponsor, Providence-Holy Cross Medical Center is providing the Kids Zone, and Sam’s Club is the Partner in Education. Silver sponsors include AV Rentals, Andy Gump, Fast Signs, Salt Creek Grille, SCV-TV, Sisley Italian Kitchen, SunCal Companies, Wolf Creek Restaurant & Brewing Co. and Veolia Transportation. Burke, Williams & Sorensen LLP is the VIP hospitality sponsor, and the Hyatt Valencia is the hotel sponsor. Bronze sponsors include JSB Development, Wilshire Home Entertainment and MV Transportation.

Title sponsorship and vendor spaces for “Rock the Bike” and other events during the Santa Clarita stages are still available; contact the city’s Janet Zaldua at (661) 286-4079 or jzaldua@santa-clarita.com for details.

For more information about the Amgen Tour of California race, the teams, riders, sponsors, and all the related activities in Santa Clarita, visit Amgen’s official event Web site at www.amgentourofcalifornia.com/ and the city’s Stage 6/7 site at www.santa-clarita.com/news/tourofca/. Visit www.amgen.com to find out more about Amgen, and www.aegworldwide.com for more about AEG Sports.

 

speeples@the-signal.com Copyright: The Signal

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