Thursday, December 6, 2007

Amgen Tour heads to Santa Barbara, again


For the third consecutive year, the Amgen Tour of California will make a two-day appearance in Santa Barbara County, with the individual time trial in Solvang on Feb. 22 and the beginning of stage six starting in Santa Barbara the next morning.

While that has been known for months now, the exact route of the individual time trial was announced yesterday for the first time at Solvang Park to an anxious crowd of nearly 200.
“We’re mighty glad to see you come back again,” said Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, who rode the time trial course yesterday with a group of about 50 cyclists. “We are a symbol of bicycling in the world and it’s a good thing to have the Amgen Tour of California here.”
The 2008 time trial course has been extended by a half mile, from 14.5 miles to 15. The additional half mile is a climb that Max Hanberg, co-chair of the Solvang Local Organizing Committee, said is roughly a 20 percent grade.
Nils Hendrix, an avid cyclist from Santa Ynez who rode the time trial course, said the addition of the climb in the early minutes of the time trial will add to the excitement and be far more demanding on the riders.
“I’d take this one over last year because it brings more out of the rider,” Hendrix said. “They are going to win it or lose it on that hill.”
Hendrix and his riding partner Neil Abello, said the right hand turn onto Viborg Road about halfway down the descent will be a challenge on a time trial bike because they often aren’t built to handle as well as regular bikes.
Once the riders take a left onto Alamo Pintado Road and head toward Ballard and Los Olivos, the course is the same as last years, with the steepest climb coming at the beginning of the Ballard Canyon Road section.
The time trial begins at noon and is expected to take about three hours. The start and finish lines are one block apart, with the start at Mission Drive and First Street and the finish on the 1500 block of Copenhagen Drive.
Tony Cruz, a five-year member of the Discovery Channel team, who said he will race this year with team BMC, said the Tour of California is on par with tours of similar length in Europe.
“It’s the biggest race for all of the teams in the U.S.,” he said. “It’s what all of the teams are gunning for – winning a stage here.”
The eight-day tour begins in Palo Alto on Feb. 17 with a prologue (individual time trial) and ends after traversing about 700 miles of California.
The 105-mile stage six is one the longest and begins in Santa Barbara on Cabrillo Boulevard between Garden Street and Calle Caesar Chavez on Feb. 23 at 11 a.m. It will wind through downtown Carpinteria for the first time in its three year history and will finish in Santa Clarita. The race concludes Feb. 24 in Pasadena.
While the race, which local officials estimate pumped about $1 million into the local economy last year, certainly provides revenue and draws a crowd, Abello said one of the major benefits is the perception it gives cycling in a country where basketball, baseball and football traditionally rule.
“[The tour] exposes locals to world class athletes and the sport,” Abello said. “Locals might get into cycling not only because of this, but because it doesn’t take much gas to fill up your bike.”
More information about the Amgen Tour of California is available at, or

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