Pasadena Star-News – Amgen Tour of California to End with Santa Clarita-to-Pasadena Finish
The Amgen Tour of California will return to the Southland in May, bringing the world’s top cyclists and a major economic boost to the region.
The 14th edition of the Tour de France-style race will find riders navigating 750 miles of the Golden State’s roadways, highways and coastlines in seven stages beginning May 12 in Sacramento and ending May 18 in Pasadena.
Two key stages in Southern California
The second to last stage — a torturous climb running from Ontario to Mt. Baldy — will put riders to the test, and the final leg will route the pro teams from Santa Clarita to Pasadena.
A three-stage, 180-mile women’s edition of the tour also will be held, beginning May 16 in Ventura, followed by the Ontario-to-Mt. Baldy stage and finishing May 18 with the Santa Clarita-to-Pasadena stage.
Eighteen men’s teams are expected to participate with a total of 144 riders, and 15 women’s teams will include 90 racers.
Riders Tanner Putt, left, and Andrei Krasilnikau are seen here during the first stage of the 2018 Amgen Tour of California in Long Beach. (Photo by Scott Varley, Contributing Photographer)
Big business for host cities
Host cities for the tour attract visitors from all over region who spend money at local restaurants, hotels, convenience stores and other businesses. There are 13 host cities this year.
“The tour is estimated to create an economic benefit of more than $100 million for California when you take in the police that are contracted and money spent on things like hotel stays and restaurants,” said Michael Roth, a spokesman for the Tour of California.
This is the sixth time Pasadena has been chosen as a host city and it will be the fourth time the closing stage is held there.
“We’re thrilled to have the finals,” said Michael Ross, CEO of Pasadena Center Operating Co., which manages the city’s convention and visitor’s bureau. “In 2017 it was live on NBC and the network carried it with 700,000 to 800,000 viewers. You can’t buy that kind of advertising. We’ll get about 20,000 people who come to watch the race, shop, eat and enjoy the city.”
Ross said the tour also generates more hotel stays.
“Some folks spend the night, either within Pasadena or the outlying area,” he said. “As we get closer to the event we’ll see where the teams are staying and where the media will be staying. The beauty of this event is that it’s free — anyone can come out. And it has a global audience of 16.6 million.”
Evan Thomason, who oversees Santa Clarita’s tourism office, noted that the upcoming race will mark Santa Clarita’s 14th year as a host city.
“It does a lot of things for the city and it doesn’t just start that day,” he said. “We get benefits well before that with the promotion and publicity. This is a premier cycling event and it puts a big spotlight on us. We’ve gotten interest from other large sporting events because of the Amgen tour.”
Santa served as a host city for Red Bull’s Wings for Life World Run four different times, Thomason said, largely a as result of the Amgen connection. The global charity event raises money for spinal cord research.
“That was exciting for us, too,” Thomason said. “But we’ve gotten thousands of hotel room stays because of the Tour of California. It provides a great opportunity for sponsors to get on board with a high profile event. Restaurants and other business benefit.”
An uptick in business for bike shops
Mark Smits, who owns a chain of Incycle Bicycles shops in Santa Clarita, Pasadena, Rancho Cucamonga, San Dimas and Chino, said his business picks up when the tour hits Southern California. “It brings people back who may have lost their motivation to ride, so they’ll get their bike out of the garage,” he said. “We always see an uptick in labor and service — that’s where the noticeable measure is.”
Beyond that, recreational cyclists and hard-core racers alike are buzzed to see world-class riders right in their backyard, Smits said.
A grueling event
“We get to see some amazing athletes come by by our driveway,” he said.
“People tend to think the Tour of California is all about palm trees and sunshine, but many riders who have raced in classics around the world say some of their hardest days ever on the bike are in this race. They’re averaging 100 miles a day doing stages that would take you or I three times as long to finish.”
Traffic concerns …
It’s not always smooth sailing … or riding.
Long Beach officials adjusted plans for the first stage of this year’s Amgen race so the course could meet race organizers’ needs for a competitive event while also serving the desire of restaurant owners to serve customers who wanted to celebrate Mother’s Day.
After announcing that the race would start in Long Beach on May 13, planning began to create a multi-event festival, including a Tour of Long Beach charity bicycle event and a twilight Beach Streets festival.
But those events would have necessitated closing Shoreline Drive, the primary access for Pike restaurants south of that busy street, as well as Shoreline Village, on Mother’s Day, traditionally one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants.
Next year’s Tour of California won’t include Long Beach as a host city.
But regardless of the concerns, the tour has evolved — and the fans have evolved along with it.
“The caliber of cyclists has greatly improved over time,” Roth said. “And the fans’ knowledge of cycling has greatly improved. They’ve been around the sport longer and have followed it more closely. It really is a one of a kind event.”