If you are a football fan, imagine what it would be like if you not only had 50 yard line seats to the Super Bowl, but the game was going to be played in your community.
That’s exactly what it’s like for pro cycling fans, with the Amgen Tour bringing the world’s top professional competitors to the Central and South Coasts.
Thousands of fans like Sue Hollingsworth of Santa Barbara are on hand for the start of Stage Four of the Amgen Tour of California, Wednesday's 99 mile ride from Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita. The nation’s largest cycling race is not only a fan favorite, riders from around the world love the terrain, and weather. Hollingsworth says the great weather, and scenic places to ride are a perfect fit for the race.
Jonathan Clark from Australia, with the United Healthcare Cycling Team, says the terrain is great for a world-class competition.
There’s hours of buildup along the starting line here on Santa Barbara’s beachfront for what amounts to less than a minute of action. Some of the die-hard fans even get into their cars to leapfrog ahead of the race, and watch the cyclists as they ride through places like Montecito, Carpinteria, Ojai, and Santa Paula before reaching the finish line in Santa Clarita.
For others at the starting line, it’s a chance to highlight bicycling in general. Eve Sanford is with the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition, which works to get people out of their cars and onto bikes, and to make the community more bike-friendly. She says the community is a great place to cycle, and the Amgen Tour helps showcase it.
Perhaps the award for longest trip just to get to the starting line goes to 17 cyclists from Melbourne, Australia’s Bike Style Tours. Liz Georgeson is the leader of the tour, and says they take riders from around the world to scenic parts of the state, and give them the chance to try parts of the competition course. David Gleason of Melbourne is one of the Bike Style Tours riders, and says it’s the experience of a lifetime getting to ride around some of the most scenic spots in California.
For many people, the race is almost incidental to the excitement surrounding it. But, for those keeping track, American rider Evan Huffman won stage four of the race. He was followed across the finish line by teammate Rob Britton.
The tour takes riders from Ontario to Mt. Baldy Thursday, with time trials at Big Bear Lake Friday, and then it’s downhill on Saturday with the big finish from the Mountain High Ski Resort to Pasadena.