118 international ride down Town Center Drive at the start of the AMGEN Tour of California Men's Race in Valencia on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Amgen Tour of California makes pit stop in Santa Clarita Valley

Steve Cueller and his two sons — both under 10 years old — might not race in any professional races, but they certainly put some miles in.

Whenever the three want a dinner at McDonald’s they hop on their bikes and complete a 10-mile, round-trip ride to the restaurant and back.

“Our popular ride is we live off of Wiley and all the way to McDonald’s, there’s a steel bridge, and it’s 10 miles from there and back,” Steve said. “So when they want to go to McDonald’s, go eat, but we’ve got to burn the calories to get there and ride back.”

So for the Cueller family, it was a huge deal for the final stage of the Amgen Tour of California to start in Santa Clarita on Saturday morning. Cueller’s sons held the ribbon at the starting line for the men’s race, which featured professional riders that the young cyclists couldn’t wait to see.

Anthony Cueller, an elementary school student, said that meeting the riders was his favorite part of the day and was particularly looking forward to meeting Peter Sagan.

Sagan, of Slovakia, finished second in the seventh stage of the tour. Cees Bol finished first in the stage and Tadej Pogacar finished first overall in the tour.

Elisa Balsamo came in first in the third and final women’s stage and Anna van der Breggen came in first in the tour.

The riders not only brought out the Cuellers, but also what seemed to be the entirety of the Santa Clarita cycling community. Spectators of all ages rode into Valencia Town Center on their own bicycles to get a glimpse of the world’s best cyclists.

“The beauty of the Amgen Tour of California is it’s a free event to the public,” said Kristin Kline, president of Amgen Tour of California race. “So as you can see people can just walk up, you can see the riders get up close to them, which differentiates itself from any other even in the world.”

In addition to bike paths on most major roads, there are plenty of off-street trails to ride on. Cueller participates in races and his two sons race every Thursday at PedalFest.

Santa Clarita is becoming even more bike-friendly. Bike Santa Clarita recently released an app for riders that turns traffic lights green as the rider approaches the traffic signal, making for smoother journeys.

The Amgen Tour of California only helps grow the cycling community.

“This is a great way to get everyone to know our trails, so as people visit the city of Santa Clarita, they can ride our trails as much as they want,” said Joel Bareng, a senior traffic engineer. “We’ve got miles and miles of bike lanes, so they can come into the community, visit and see what our trails look like.”

SCV residents interested in getting more involved in cycling can go to bikesantaclarita.com for more information, but many at the Amgen Tour said that the passion for riding is spread by word of mouth and friends’ involvement.

“First my brother started, then I wanted to start cycling also because everything my brother did I had to do,” said Pogacar, who also won the TAG Heuer Best Young Rider Jersey. “He quit and I was still pursuing my dream.”

Cycling is turning into a dream come true for many in Santa Clarita, a dream that sometimes ends in a trip to McDonald’s.

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