Santa Clarita Wins As Host Of 2014 Amgen Tour Of California Cycle Race
Event Pumps Several Hundred Thousand Dollars into Local Economy; Amgen, AEG and City Officials Agree Santa Clarita is a Prime Host City
Hundreds of international cyclists and thousands of fans converged on Santa Clarita Friday, May 16 and Saturday, May 17, for a two-day visit as the city hosted Stage 6 and Stage 7 of the world-class 2014 Amgen Tour of California cycle race.
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It was the sixth time Santa Clarita served as a host city in the Amgen Tour of California’s nine-year history, but the first time Los Angeles County’s third-largest city hosted a pair of back-to-back stage starts.
While it’s too early for a final tally, the 2014 Amgen Tour of California pumped at least several hundred thousand dollars into the Santa Clarita Valley economy, by conservative estimates.
“We haven’t had two starts before, but when we had a finish and a start, the (positive) economic impact was just under $1 million,” said Gail Morgan, City of Santa Clarita spokeswoman.
Sir Bradley Wiggins, British Olympic gold medal champion and the 2012 Tour de France winner, won the overall 2014 Amgen Tour of California with the fastest total time of 28 hours, 22 minutes and 5 seconds on the 720-plus-mile course, which started with Stage 1 in Sacramento May 11 and wrapped with Stage 8 in Thousand Oaks early Sunday afternoon.
Listed on the international professional cycling calendar as a 2.HC (meaning “beyond category”) event, the Amgen Tour of California and awards important, world-ranking points to the top finishers.
The race began in front of the state Capitol Building and traveled through 11 host cities.uring the next eight days. After Sacramento came Folsom (first time host city), San Jose, Mount Diablo State Park, Monterey, Cambria (first time host city), Pismo Beach (first time host city), Santa Barbara, Santa Clarita, Mountain High (first time host city), Pasadena and Thousand Oaks.
Amgen's annual Tour of California "Breakaway from Cancer" awareness initiative includes inviting local cancer "champions" in each host city to start each stage.
In Santa Clarita, local breast cancer survivor Jennifer Schelling fired the ceremonial starter’s pistol at 11:35 Friday morning on Main Street in Old Town Newhall to start Stage 6 (as pictured above) to the Mountain High ski resort, about 95 miles southeast of the Santa Clarita Valley.
Lisa DeLong, who lost a 15-year-old son to leukemia in 2000 and has a 14-year-old son now in remission from the same disease, pulled the trigger Saturday morning at 11:40 to start the Stage 7 racers pedaling off to Pasadena about 89 miles away.
Why the Amgen Tour of California Loves Santa Clarita as a Home Base
Amid the organized chaos in the minutes preceding Friday's Stage 6 start in Newhall, KHTS caught up once again with Michael Roth (pictured in 2013), VP of communications for AEG, the event and entertainment giant that partners with Amgen each year to produce the Tour of California.
We asked what prompted AEG to start two stages from Santa Clarita this year, for the first time.
“It gave us a perfect bridge to bring the race down from Santa Barbara and give us a home base to go on the climb to the mountain-top finish at Mountain High,” Roth said. “We've been doing more mountain-top finishes. The riders like that. It’s great preparation for Tour de France. As you can see, we have so much infrastructure down here, and toward the end of the race it gave us another launching point for tomorrow (from Valencia) to Pasadena.
“We're here for only a short period of time, but this has also been a great area, Santa Clarita and Southern California,” he said. “In Southern California, there's so many cycling fans, but how do you reach them? Any weekend around this area, you see all the riders out there...so you bring the race to where the cyclers are. Either way, (Santa Clarita) gives us a home base and a chance to go expose the race course going two different ways, with two different challenges.”
Why Santa Clarita Loves the Amgen Tour of California: Fresh Tourist Dollars
“We're so excited about hosting again and having the riders out here,” said Phil Lantis, head of Arts & Events for the city of Santa Clarita, on Friday morning before the race. “It's a gorgeous day, a little warm, but not too bad.”
Lantis (pictured on Main Street) said hosting a pair of starts this year provided the city a new opportunity to showcase Newhall and its ongoing redevelopment.
“When we found out we were getting two stage starts, we obviously looked at Valencia Town Center like we've done in the past — it works really well there,” Lantis said. “But we thought, ‘Where else do we want to highlight?’ Old Town Newhall was our immediate first choice.
“With the beautiful street-scaping that's been done down here and the businesses that have really improved their appearances, it just made sense to have it start here,” he said. “There's people all over the world watching this, so it's great to be able to show that we have a wonderful historic district here in Newhall. The exposure and putting Santa Clarita on the world map is really a wonderful thing.”
Lantis said the twin starts also theoretically compound the new, outside money being pumped into the Santa Clarita economy, the primary reason the city hosts events such as these because all local residents benefit from the economic ripple effect, above and beyond the entertainment value.
“Basically it about doubles the new money because everybody's coming back here — and not just the riders and the teams and support, but all the folks that follow the tour all the way along,” Lantis said. “Everyone's coming back here to see the start on the next day, so that maximizes the hotel rooms, the impact on restaurants and gas stations and all that sort of stuff. So it's great that we're able to have the two starts and then really even improve on the economic impact.”
Tour of California Stage 6: Transform Old Town Newhall, Bring in the Bikes & Bucks
Historic Main Street in Old Town Newhall had basically been morphed almost overnight into a different cycle-centric city by Friday morning’s Stage 6 start.
After opening ceremonies including a welcome from Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste and City Council members Bob Kellar, Marsha McLean, TimBen Boydston and Dante Acosta, Jennifer Schelling fired the ceremonial starter’s pistol at 11:35 a.m. to get Stage 6 rolling.
As the temperature approached the century mark with little breeze, the peloton or pack of riders powered into the challenging 94.4-mile course, heading out Newhall Avenue and the roundabout then winding north and east over and through local mountains and deserts to the Mountain High ski resort.
By Friday afternoon, Amgen officials, city crews, cyclist support teams and vendors had already “struck the set” on Main Street (tents, guardrails, barriers) and were reconstructing the entire scene a few miles away to Town Center Drive. Crews “dressed” the street there in plenty of time for Stage 7’s Saturday morning launch to Pasadena.
2014 Amgen Tour of California eventual overall winner Sir Bradley Wiggins, in the yellow jersey, and the peloton roll down Main Street toward the Newhall Avenue roundabout at the start of Stage 6. The Roger Dunn Golf Shop is at the top of the frame.
Rick Gould, head of the city’s Parks & Recreation department, was impressed by the well-oiled machinery and coordination.
“That’s one of the great things about working with AEG and Medalist Sports that put on the race today — they are professionals,” he said. “We'll just pick this whole thing up and move it down to Town Center and do it all over again tomorrow.”
“We have a fabulous relationship with the tour, and work really well together,” he said. “They like coming here. Geographically, we fit well in California. We look forward to having them back next year. It will be the 10th year of the tour, and we've been a part of it for most of those years, so we hope they'll be back.
Newhall businesses were recovering from the stampede of cyclists and fans, and at least one business owner was quite pleased with the day's receipts. .
“We started off really well,” said David Mutschler, owner of the Roger Dunn Golf Shop on Main Street. “We had a lot of people coming in, buying the cooling towels because of the heat, and they were all having a great time.”
Mutschler was happy about the influx of cash to the entire neighborhood.
“I think it's fantastic,” he said. “The more events they have like this, the better. I was thrilled to hear about it.”
Meanwhile, crossing the Stage 6 finish line in Mountain High at about 3:51 p.m. to take first, second and third places were Esteban Chaves (Columbia; ORICA-Green-EDGE, Australia), David de la Cruz (Spain; Team NetApp-Endura, Germany) and Thomas Danielson (USA; Team Garmin-Sharp, USA).
Sir Bradley Wiggins maintained a 30-second lead overall and kept the Tour of California leader’s yellow jersey.
And the hundreds of riders, support crews, media types and fans all turned around and headed back to Santa Clarita for the night.
Stage 7 Pre-Race Fun in Santa Clarita: The Heat was Hot, the Air Was Filled with Sound
The most pressing challenge for the racers in Stage 6 as well as Stages 7 and 8 of the 2014 Amgen Tour of California was staying hydrated in the blazing Southern California heat, which eventually topped 100 degrees F on the course Friday, according to race officials.
Before Stage 7, Dave Towle (left) chats with race leader and eventual winner Sir Bradley Wiggins, as Towle's partner Brad Sohner (right) chats up a volunteer.
Temps cooled just a bit into the 90s Saturday, and moved from the high 80s to the low 90s Sunday. Unlike earlier in the week, winds were slight and offered racers little respite.
Anticipating the extreme heat on this tour, though, race organizers had brought in support crews from Skratch Labs to ride with the racers and provide plenty of water and ice to stave off dehydration.
During the Stage 7 pre-race rider check-in and interview session Saturday morning, Amgen/AEG stage announcers Dave Towle and Brad Sohner spoke a parade of cyclists, and almost to a man, they said the heat made Stage 6 one of the most brutal they’ve ever experienced.
Towle asked one racer what he was thinking about when he finally crossed the finish line Friday afternoon in Mountain High.
“Water,” the rider said.
An hour or so before the Stage 7 start, recently elected Santa Clarita City Councilman Dante Acosta commented echoed Phil Lantis’ take on the Tour of California’s effect on the city’s economy.
“You're not only talking about sponsorship dollars, but also hotel space, tourism — sports tourism for cycling is huge in this country,” Acosta said. “It brings in people that shop at our stores, stay at our hotels, eat in our restaurants and hire our local vendors,” referring to an economic ripple effect.
The Santa Clarita City Council at the Stage 6 ceremonies Friday: Bob Kellar, Marsha McLean, Mayor Laurene Weste, Dante Acosta and TimBen Boydston.
“And because it's a multiple-day event, a lot of (participants) are so excited that they get to go out for a couple of nights, because generally they don't get to spend more than one night in any one place,” he said. “This time we’ve had a couple of nights, sometimes three nights for these guys, and they're excited about it.”
As she had done Friday before the start of Stage 6 in Newhall, Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste welcomed local spectators and visitors alike. Councilmen Bob Kellar, TimBen Boydston and Dante Acosta accompanied her on the Amgen stage; Councilwoman Marsha McLean was on hand Friday but not Saturday.
“Santa Clarita’s the first city to have back-to-back starts in the Amgen Tour of California,” Weste said. She plugged the city’s shopping, accommodations and amusements, gave props to the hundreds of local volunteers, and thanked Amgen-AEG for producing the event and bringing it to Santa Clarita.
“We’re honored to be part of it and hope you come back and keep up the tradition,” Weste said.
Tour of California Stage 7 — Sir Bradley Keeps his Leader Jersey
A color guard, the singing of the National Anthem by Madison Frisch, and the crack of DeLong’s starter pistol launched the 2014 Tour of California’s Stage 7 on Town Center Drive about 20 minutes before high noon Saturday.
The Stage 7 route from Valencia to Pasadena followed a high desert path to a sprint in Acton and wound through the Angeles National Forest, over the San Gabriel Mountains into Pasadena. It’s essentially the same course as 2010, but with Upper Big Tujunga added, creating a second “King of the Mountain” climb and a picturesque stretch along Angeles Crest Highway.
2014 Amgen Tour of California winner Sir Bradley Wiggins (yellow jersey) leads the field starting Stage 7 on Town Center Drive in Valencia.
Racing past the Mount Wilson Observatory, the riders soon began a long, steep and technically challenging decent into La Canada/Flintridge. The riders cruised past the Rose Bowl and over the famous Colorado Street Bridge. A three-mile circuit through Pasadena’s streets included a stretch down Colorado Boulevard, familiar to Rose Parade viewers around the world, and a finish in Old Town Pasadena.
Almost 89 miles later, at 3:12 p.m., the first three racers to cross the finish line there were Peter Sagan, Thor Hushovd (Norway; BMC Racing Team, USA) and Danny Von Poppel (The Netherlands; Trek Factory Racing, USA).
Wiggins maintained his overall lead after both Santa Clarita starts and heading into Sunday's final Stage 8 in Thousand Oaks, home of Amgen's corporate headquarters.
Why the Official Amgen Tour of California Announcers Love Santa Clarita
With the racers gone from Town Center Drive, announcers Towle and Sohner took a couple minutes to talk with KHTS before jumping in their car to beat them to the Pasadena awards stage. These guys have visited all the Amgen host cities more often than the riders, including Santa Clarita several times, so we asked themfor their perspective on the city.
“We love it here — there's something about the familiarity of a stage you've been to before,” Sohner said. “People here really seem to enjoy the morning, it has a really light ambiance to it. For us, what we do, the peloton is a little more relaxed today after a hard, hard day yesterday. I think the (riders) have realized they're now in the home stretch to the finish, so they can lighten up a little bit and enjoy all things that are California and Santa Clarita."
While he and his colleague have no sway on the host city decisions, Towle said, “This is one of the stops that we enjoy the most, no doubt.”
“It's been awesome here,” Sohner said. “This always has one of the best crowds that we see at any of the starts, and we had that yesterday as well with our (Newhall) start. Today, we could just feel the energy. There's something different about these starts in Santa Clarita.
"A lot of it has to do with where we are on the tour, as we wrap up tomorrow," he said. "The guys have made it over the tough part, they start to look toward the finish a little bit, start to think about enjoying some California sunshine after they're done with the tour. Yeah, it's always an awesome turning point to come to Santa Clarita."
The heat wave coinciding with this year's Santa Clarita stages made a hot tour even hotter.
"It's been really tough on the guys out there," Sohner said. "Everyone we talked to has said this has been one of the most interesting, but also one of the hardest Amgen Tour of Californias they've done. We had incredible heat on Stage 1 in NorCal when most people thought it would start cool and heat up a little bit as we came south, but we've had a lot of 90- and 100-degree days out there."
When riders reach the end of a stage, Towle said, "You can see how completely empty they are — that feeling when they start to wonder, 'This is life or death, isn't it? If I don't get water soon, I don't know how much longer I can go on.' I think that's how they felt a couple days out here."
Sohner credited the Skratch Labs crews with keeping the riders in the race despite the heat. "They're basically on motorcycles out there with coolers on the back with ice-cold bottles of water and ice packs for the guys, so that's been huge and really important this year."
"It hasn't been the 700 miles of racing this week that's been tough — it's been doing it in hundred-degree weather," Towle said. "Most people in their right mind... What do they say? 'Mad dogs and Englishmen are the only people out in the sun today.' Not even Brad Wiggins or Mark Cavendish looked too happy about it.
"But you know what? Inside, they're smiling," Towle said. "I know Bradley Wiggins, the Olympic champion and Tour de France winner, feels a great sense of accomplishment to win here. This is a big goal for him, and I think by meeting that goal, he's walking away a very satisfied man — well, in two more stages (7 and 8). He's got to make it to the finish first."
Towle called it: Wiggins indeed kept his 30-second lead after the Stage 7 finish a few hours later in Pasadena, and through the end of Stage 8 in Thousand Oaks Sunday, when he became the first Brit to win the Amgen Tour of California.
To find out more about the Amgen Tour of California, click here, and click here for more 2014 Stage 1-8 details.
To read more KHTS-HomeTownStation.com Amgen Tour of California articles, click here.
Photos: © Stephen K. Peeples for KHTS News — http://www.stephenkpeeples.com except as indicated.
Special thanks to Paige Hagen for the transcriptions and image production.
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