Hundreds of bystanders clapped and cheered as some of the world’s best cyclists pedaled off at the beginning of the final leg of the Amgen Tour of California Saturday.
For the last 14 years, the city of Santa Clarita has played host to the race, and this year, the approximately 200 racers began their day at the starting line at Valencia Town Center. Beginning with the women’s division at 9:05 a.m. and then the men’s heat an hour later, the riders would spend the next three hours traveling 78.3 miles to the finish line in Pasadena.
“We started with the men (on May 12 in Sacramento), and there are seven days for the men, and this is the final day of the women’s race, which was three days,” said Kristin Kline, president of Amgen Tour of California race. “We have over 100 men and 90 women (racing).”
At the event were a number of Santa Clarita dignitaries, leaders, businesses, residents and cycling fans, all of whom cheered on the elite cyclists who came from around the world to compete. As music blasted intermittently over the speakers on a closed-off Town Center Drive, two emcees provided energized rundowns on the histories of each of the riders from a stage set directly in front of a VIP section, which was complete with food, drinks and shaded seating.
“The biggest cycling race in America, and second biggest race in the world,” said Kline. “Throughout the entire course, we travel 2,000 people deep come race week. Not only do we have everything that’s set up here at the start, but the footprint is even larger at the finish.”
Before each of the two races, the cyclists and current time leaders took the stage to sign in for the race — signing their signature on a surfboard on stage that was decorated with Santa Clarita’s name and a picture of Magic Mountain — and then they began their warm ups after a brief interview.
Some of those who walked on stage, such as three-time world champion Peter Sagan, walked along the start line fence greeting fans and signing hats and memorabilia. As he walked on stage, he was greeted with a chorus of cheers from his fans in the crowd.
“Very good memories,” said Sagan, a Slovakian racer, in response to one of the emcees pointing out that he had used the Santa Clarita leg of the Amgen Tour of California to secure his win a few years back.
Anthony Cuellar, a local elementary school student and young fan of cycling, said that Sagan was his favorite racer and he loved meeting the riders before they walked up to the stage. “It’s fun,” he said with a smile.
The race resulted in a number of Santa Clarita streets being closed as the bicyclists traversed the hilly landscape before sprinting through Acton, down the Angeles Forest Highway, until they reached Pasadena.
The race is scheduled to finish later Saturday afternoon at which time a champion will be crowned.
“We love it that (the Amgen Tour of California) is here,” said SCV Mayor Marsha McLean. “This morning was so exciting and I love it that you have the women’s race and I hope that we can do that again next year.”