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UPDATE: Tour of California races through SCV

Popular cycling race draws large crowd

Posted: May 14, 2013 8:23 p.m.
Updated: May 14, 2013 8:23 p.m.

Karen Carroll of Valencia, center, and daughter Hannah Smith, 12, far right, cheer on Lieuwe Westra of the Netherlands, background left, and American Gavin Mannion as they ride in the breakaway group from San Francisquito Canyon Road to Copper Hill Drive during the Amgen Tour of California on Tuesday. Signal photo by Jonathan Pobre

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Hundreds of cycling fans crowded along Magic Mountain Parkway Tuesday to watch some of the world’s fastest cyclists cross the finish line for Day 3 of the Amgen Tour of California.

They banged crowd barriers with plastic bats, they waved the body-less cardboard heads of cycling star Peter Sagan, screamed when they watched him on the big screen monitor race down the final stretch and sighed collectively when one of the cyclists crashed.

It was a couple of hours waiting curb side to see a blur of men in skin-tight, multi-colored body suits race across the finish line.

“We had good results today,” said Australian competitor Michael Matthews, cycling with the Orica-GreenEdge Cycling Team, one of last year’s top three teams at TOC 2012.

“I think the team did really well. I think we got the result we deserved,” he said. “Sagan, obviously, was a bit fast at the end. We’ll try again tomorrow.”

Sagan, known for his sprinting ability, is considered by cyclists around the world and by TOC organizers, to be one of the world’s top sprinters.

At 4:20 p.m., Matthews followed the leading pack of cyclists across the finish line near the Westfield Valencia Town Center mall.

“We only arrived two days before the race so we’re still getting used to the time change,” he said. “It’s taken us three days to get into the racing and get used to the heat so it should just get better from here.”

Cyclists endured record triple-digit temperatures on Stage 2 of the race through Palm Springs Monday.

On Tuesday, with temperatures cooler by at least 10 degrees, they encountered head winds logged at 20 miles per hour.

“We saw on the radar it was going to be a little cooler today as giving a good chance to do well,” Matthews said.

The Amgen Tour of California is the nation’s most successful annual cycling race — taking eight days to complete and attracting cyclists from around the world.

This year’s Stage 3 event was ushered in by heroic cancer survivor Nancy Eckels of Canyon Country.

Eckels led a flag-waving troupe of supporters across the TOC finish line as part of a cancer-awareness campaign called the Breakaway Mile.

Shortly after 2:30 p.m., about 90 minutes ahead of cyclists making their way to the finish line from Elizabeth Lake, Eckels and her Breakaway Mile supporters crossed the finish line.

Four Amgen Tour of California host cities, including Santa Clarita, were scheduled to hold a “Breakaway Mile” half to full mile walk to honor the nearly 12 million cancer survivors in the United States.

Eckels and her group walked from the Mercedes-Benz of Valencia dealership to the finish line near Citrus and Magic Mountain Parkway.

“I was nominated for this,” she said before her walk. “Because I started writing a newsletter about my experience.”

Eckels, who went for her daily radiation cancer treatment before Tuesday’s walk and race, was chosen by the Breakaway from Cancer Champions — a program that recognizes people who make a difference in the community.

“I want to tell women how little time they have between mammograms,” she said, stressing the need for early detection.

Eckels, diagnosed last year endured chemotherapy, mastectomy, breast reconstruction surgery and radiation.

She turned her ordeal into a mission of advocacy defined by a simple slogan: “Get that mammogram.”

Eckels closed her day at the TOC on Tuesday giving flowers on stage to some of the competitors.

Scores of cycling enthusiasts arriving at the finish line found a circus-like atmosphere of booths and attractions set up in the mall’s parking lot, featuring bungee jumping and businesses selling cycling related products.

There were information booths for interested cyclists and furry mascots for the kids.

Several attractions under “big top” type tents erected in the parking lot drew hundreds of visitors.

Vendors weaved through the crowds selling food and small toys.

The annual race — watched around the world — is considered a boon for Santa Clarita Valley’s economy.

Not everyone was pleased, however.

The race saw the closure of several roads, prompting several calls from motorists to the local sheriff’s station complaining about delays.

“We’ve had complaints all day about this,” said Lt. Tom Bryski of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.

Fortunately, there were no reports of injury or race-related traffic collisions, he said at 5 p.m.

City officials said Tuesday they worked diligently to prepare local motorists for the road closures.

“The Amgen Tour of California is an international event that selected Santa Clarita for Stage 3,” said Gail Ortiz, spokeswoman for the City of Santa Clarita.

“Starting in January, the City has been working with the Tour staff to craft a race route that would have the least impact to our community, while still meeting the needs and challenges of this world-class bike race,” she said.

City staff went to great efforts to “make sure the community was aware of the race and the temporary road closures,” she said.

Efforts included 20,000 door hangers to residences in the areas of direct impact, more than 3,500 direct letters to businesses and others were mailed to the areas of impact. “Outdoor messaging” such as hanging banners over bridges, paseos and at bus stops also alerted residents.

“The City made sure there were numerous advertisements, press releases, articles, social media, which all included traffic impacts and maps,” Ortiz said.

City officials set up and maintained a website providing maps and information “to help people know about the event” and when to avoid certain areas.  

“We worked very hard to minimize impacts of the event by working with the Saugus Union School District, who graciously agreed to a minimum day today to avoid traffic impacts,” she said.

Cyclists are scheduled to leave Santa Clarita at 12:35 p.m. today, as they make their way to Santa Barbara in Stage 4 of the event.




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