A 750 mile race over 8 days. 102 miles and 1 day completed, as the 8th edition of the Amgen Tour of California rolled out of Escondido on Sunday, the obvious question is, what’s the story?
The best in the business
The Amgen Tour of California is a who’s who of professional cycling, with the best in the world coming to this stage race. But still, who are they? The “Terminator” Peter Sagan at 23 years old won 5 stages at last year’s Tour of California. Also racing against the Slovakian are 2010 Tour de France winner Andy Schleck from Luxembourg, current Road World Champion Philippe Gilbert of Belgium, and the 2012 Tour’s best young rider, American Tejay Van Garderen.
Breakaway Gets the Yellow
4 men broke away from the field almost instantly on Stage 1, gaining more than 10 minutes on the peloton. The eventual winner and runner-up Lieuwe Westra and Francisco Mancebo Perez surprised Sagan and the Cannondale team with their own break, just as the original breakaway was swallowed up in the final 2 miles.
It’s a Huge Event
The 2012 Amgen Tour of California drew more than 2 million spectators, and that’s not just commuting traffic by LA Live. The economic impact of the race is an estimated $100 million on the host cities. 2013 expects to draw at least as much success, and build on it’s reputation as one of the premier stage races in the world.
After the tragedy that transpired at the Boston Marathon last month, safety is a big concern. How to police and cover 26.2 miles of the Boston Marathon course is a serious dilemma, but seven of the Tour’s eight stages are more than 80 miles. Police, firefighters, race officials, and volunteers were out in force from downtown San Diego up to the summit of Mt Palomar at 5,341 feet, and everywhere within a half mile of the finish was shut down to vehicle traffic.
The heat stole the show.
The temperature hovered near 100 degrees in the mountains of Northeast San Diego during most of the stage. The brutal heat separated an elite field, including overall classification contenders Philippe Gilbert and Sylvain Chavanel who are more than 9 minutes off the lead.
The Dopes are Doping
Who cares about cycling after its most famous and dominant figure was stripped of his 7 Tour de France titles? Who cares after he organized and participated in the most sophisticated known-doping program in US sports history? Out of the shadow of Lance Armstrong, and onto the shade-less summit of Mt Palomar fans gathered to yell and cheer at the world’s best zip by for a moment. The rowdy, shirtless, rag-tag fans, which mostly cycled up to the summit, weren’t there to make a statement about Lance, and the culture of cycling. They were there to support the sport which they have found so much value in personally. Yes, it’s a big race. Yes the best in the business are there. But for the fans braving the heat Sunday, it was about supporting the positive benefits that cycling has brought to their lives.