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Lance rides through SCV: Still hopes of a future finish

Posted: February 22, 2009 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 22, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Lance Armstrong rides down Town Center Drive at the start of the seventh stage of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California on Saturday in Santa Clarita.

He came. He rode. And he was gone.

Just like that.

Lance Armstrong, beginning on the edge, took off from the starting line of the Amgen Tour of California on Town Center Drive in Valencia Saturday, and that was the most that anybody saw of the cycling superstar.

The last two years saw the Amgen Tour of California finish in Santa Clarita, which meant a couple of loops through the streets of the valley, the pomp and circumstance of street vendors, jersey presentations, athlete interviews and a very large crowd.

In contrast, a start means riders arrive on a bus, hop on stage quickly, then take off.

There was still a crowd Saturday, yet it was a stark difference compared to 2007 and 2008.

City officials say patience is the word for cycling fans and the general public who have a curiosity for the event.

According to Rick Gould, director of parks, recreation and community services for the city, Santa Clarita had the opportunity to host a finish of this year’s Tour of California, but it would have been on a Friday. Due to traffic concerns, the city chose instead to hold the start on a Saturday.

“We have such a strong relationship with the people of the tour,” Gould said. “Taking a start won’t hurt us in the long run.”

Gould mentioned that some differences in the tour this year also gave reason for Santa Clarita to host a start.

Last year the race ended in Pasadena. This year, it ends farther south in Escondido.

Gould said there is talk that the race may switch routes next year and begin in Southern California, ending in Northern California.

If that’s the case, Santa Clarita could get a finish that would take place on Presidents’ Day 2010.“Absolutely we’re going to try and get it here,” said City Councilman Bob Kellar.

Kellar said the city makes sure AEG, which produces the event, know it’s welcome in the Santa Clarita Valley by the celebration it gives the race.

Though Saturday’s celebration was less grand than in years past, hoards of people still came out to see the race’s start.

People waited 45 minutes outside of Team Astana’s bus to catch a glimpse of Armstrong.

There were other big names in the event as well, including two-time defending champion Levi Leipheimer and disgraced former Tour de France winner Floyd Landis.

Gould said there is growing competition from other cities to get starts and finishes of the Tour of California.

In the spring, the city could begin negotiations for a return.

The other professional sports event in the Santa Clarita Valley arrives March 9, and it also has a bigger question attached to it.

This is the final year that AT&T is sponsoring golf’s Champions Tour’s AT&T Champions Classic.

Valencia Country Club has hosted the event since 2001, but with AT&T bowing out after this year’s tournament, the event’s future is up in the air.

Ultimately it’s up to the sponsor to OK the location.

“From the city’s perspective, we’ve talked with the PGA Tour and we actively support keeping the event here,” Gould said.


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