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Amgen Storms out of SCV

Posted: February 25, 2008 4:02 a.m.
Updated: April 27, 2008 5:03 a.m.

The lead groups of riders race down Vasquez Canyon Road as the Amgen Tour of California leaves Santa Clarita during its last day of racing.

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The rain-soaked roads of the Westfield Valencia Town Center did not discourage cycling fans from lining up alongside Town Center Drive on Sunday to cheer on cyclists as they gathered at the starting line for Stage 7 of the 2008 Amgen Tour of California.

When the pistol sounded at noon on Sunday, blue skies briefly shone as riders raced of the Santa Clarita Valley, heading for the Angeles National Forest and the Pasadena Rose Bowl to complete the final stage of the eight-day, 650-mile tour.

As the riders left town, the city of Santa Clarita left its mark on the bicycle tour as one of two host cities that served as the end point of one stage and the start point of another.

"Santa Clarita got a stage finish and a stage start," said Jeff Roake, host announcer for the Amgen Tour. "The only other community to have that is Santa Rosa. That says a lot about the crowd here. There are stages of the Tour de France that do not get crowds as large as they were out here."

Saturday night's rain storm seemed not to have dampened spirits.

While the crowd for Sunday's stage start was not as large as Saturday's stage finish, the energy was just as electric, with fans ringing their cow bells and banging their thundersticks alongside Town Center Drive, cheering on the riders as they started pedaling toward McBean Parkway.

In its third year overall, the annual Amgen Tour made its way through Santa Clarita for the second time this weekend. As thousands of fans filled local streets within Westfield Town Center's outdoor mall, the city made every effort to highlight itself as a family-friendly and healthy city.

"This is just a tremendous event for the city and it is evident by the crowd that turned out," said Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar. "It puts us on the map for all of the right reasons. Santa Clarita will always be at the forefront of taking care of our families."

City spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said the city was "very excited" to be part of the Amgen Tour.

She said that by participating in cycling competition, Santa Clarita showcased its healthy lifestyle; she noted the city has 32 miles of bike trails, many linking parks.

The city used its experience from the 2007 Amgen Tour when it came time to plan this year's event, Ortiz said.

Because of last year's problems with traffic and road closures in parts of Valencia, Ortiz said the city tripled its outreach efforts to inform residents about changes in traffic patterns. Street signs were posted and mailers sent to all Santa Clarita homes, she said.

And since last year, she said, residents have become more familiar with the internationally recognized cycling competition, which may have helped with traffic patterns.

Enthusiasm was apparently on the streets of Valencia Sunday, and not just among the spectators.

At the Coffee Bean on Town Center Drive, a supervisor said the event was definitely good for business.

"We had twice as many customers on Sunday morning, and even more than that on Saturday," said Beth Schmidtberger. "We definitely had more people in here because of the race."

Early estimates from Amgen officials have Saturday's attendance as the largest through the first six stages of the tour and among the largest turnouts ever for a competitive bicycling race in California.

"In the cycling world, the Tour of California is the buzz," said host announcer Roake. "We have eight of the last 10 road champions participating in this tour. It's the best cycling tour to ever come to America; it just does not get any better than this."

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