Special Edition May 2019
The Tour Returns
The mighty Team Sky is no more. Now Team Ineos, the Amgen TOC was their second race under the new sponsor.
The Amgen Tour of California returned to Ventura with the finish of Stage 5 of the Mens' race and the start/finish for Stage 1 of the Women's race. The seven day stage race is ranked as one of the top races in the world by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), professional cycling's sanctioning body.
The Amgen overlaps with the three week Giro d'Italia which, along with the Tour de France, and the Vuelta a España, constitutes one of the three Grand Tour races. The Tour of California provides a less exhausting option for riders preparing for the Tour de France.
The Amgen Tour of California is the only UCI race in the world where women and men race practically side by side. Other races with female competitors often schedule the women's races on off days for the men. This year Amgen is offering equal prize money for both men and women.
The Amgen is the second largest race on the women's calendar, behind the Giro d'Italia Femminile. There are twenty three races on the Women's Tour. Two of the biggest, the Fleche Wallone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège recently announced that they would be dropping their women's races due to issues with television requirements.
The race is an important step in qualifying for the Olympics, the international riders trying to impress their home Olympic Committees. "The race to Tokyo starts in Ventura," said three-time Olympic Gold Medalist Kristen Armstrong, "I can't think of anyone who will be on the team who is not here today."
A photo shoot on the beach is de rigueur. Here the Kazakh-based Astana Women's Team helps promote the sun and sand of Ventura County. Blanca Liliana Moreno Canchon (in white) sports the National Champion's jersey of her native Colombia.
Major bicycle races serve as global advertising for local tourism. San Buenaventura Mayor Matt LaVere said, "This is one of the best days in Ventura."
The major sponsor, Amgen, uses the Tour of California to promote its "Breakaway from Cancer®" program which "aims to increase awareness of important resources available to people affected by cancer," according to the website. Breakaway from Cancer is a partnership among Amgen, the Prevent Cancer Foundation, the Cancer Support Community, Patient Advocate Foundation, and the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship.
Netherlands-based CCC-Liv strikes a California pose with South African Champion Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio anchoring the center. Do they surf in Amsterdam?
In California they sign-in on surfboards. Lauretta Hanson explains to a skeptical Elizabeth Deignan and Tayler Wyles of US-based Trek-Sigafredo.
From Mexico comes the Swapit Agolico team.
Sunweb, based in the Netherlands, submits to a pre-race interview.
Ventura local Kendall Ryan, South African Champion Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, England's Elizabeth Deignan, and US National Champion Coryn Rivera.
Interviews are part of the game. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and the rest of the CCC squad.
If you want to race, you need wheels. One of the support vehicles ready for the day's action.
New Zealand's Deborah Paine with Virginie Perizzolo Pointet (Switzerland) and Valentina Scandolara (Italy), of the Russian Cogeas Mettler Look Pro Cycling Team checking out the competition.
Thursday was Ride Your Bike to Work Day. Rally UHC Cycling (USA) arrives, ready for a hard day at the office.
Game face. Italian National Champion Marta Cavalli confers with a teammate before the race. Valcar Cylance Cycling Team (Italy).
The calm before the storm.
Tayler Wiles, Anna van der Breggen in her World Champion Rainbow Jersey, and Katie Hall in the front line waiting to launch.
Underway at last. Stage 1 of the Women's Amgen Tour of California.
Anna van der Breggan shreds the world's best riders. "She went solo and nobody could catch her," said teammate Katie Hall.
Is this the world's best all-around rider? Anna van der Breggen after the race.
The men's race was a bit closer, with Spaniard Ivan Garcia Cortina sprinting into a vicious headwind to claim the victory for Bahrain-Merida.
He helped to bring his teammate home first, but Heinrich Haussler's efforts to make the Austrian Olympic Team have not been going well. Races are hard and the season is long, even when your team is winning.
The legendary Mark Cavendish continues to battle his way back from the Epstein-Barr virus that grounded the erstwhile "Manx Missile". The former World Champion ranks second only to Peter Sagan in Tour of Califonia stage wins. Sagan notched his 17th by winning the opening Sacramento stage. Cavendish has 10, but was nowhere near the podium in the 2019 edition.
Fan favorite Tejay van Garderen dons the leader's Yellow Jersey for the last time. The next day he would crack on the climb up Mt. Baldy and fall out of contention. A time trial specialist, his chances were hurt when that discipline was removed from the TOC in a cost-saving move by the organizers.
When you win a stage, you get a bear. Tejay van Garderen and Anna van der Breggen share the podium. Van der Breggen would go on to dominate the remaining two days of the women's tour to win the overall championship.
Community activist Suz Montgomery presents the Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider award to Swiss rider Matteo Badilatti of the Israel Cycling Academy.
Ladies and gentlemen, your podium! Ivan Garcia Cortina first (top step), Maximiliano Recheze (Argentina) second (on left), and Sergio Higuita third (on right).
Higuita proved to be quite a find for the Education First Team. The 20 year old made a brilliant run at the overall championship only to be aced out on the last turn on Mt. Baldy by 21 year old Slovakian phenom Tadej Pogacar. Racing in his first World Tour event, the Colombian Wonder finished on the podium in second place overall behind Pogacar. EF took the team prize and made one of its strongest showings of the season so far.
When the big guys are done, the real racers takes over. Amgen makes every effort to create a family-friendly event. Ventura County has become a regular part of the Tour of California. Always one of the most entertaining races on the calendar, we look forward to once again hosting the world in the 2020 edition.
The Greatest Show on Wheels rolls on.
Vol. IV, No. 7 May 2018
Amgen Tour Returns to Ventura County
The peloton heads for Santa Paula.
The Amgen Tour of California returned to Ventura County with Stage Two being contested from Ventura to Gibraltar Rd. in Santa Barbara County. Two years ago the Tour was won there with a strong finishing climb by Julian Alaphilippe of France.
This year's stage was taken by Colombian Egan Bernal (Team Sky) who rode away from the powerful field on the difficult Gibraltar climb.
From the start at the Ventura Pier the riders made their way through Oxnard, Camarillo, Santa Paula, and Ojai, before heading over Casitas Pass to Carpinteria.
The Amgen Tour of California, one of the major races on the UCI World Tour, is the premier cycling event in North America attracting many of the top teams and riders from around the world.
As Amgen is headquartered in Thousand Oaks, Ventura County is a regular stop on the Tour giving local fans an opportunity to get a close-up view of some of the sport's top competitors.
Peter Sagan sporting the World Champion's Rainbow Jersey.
Three time defending World Champion Peter Sagan holds the record with 16 stage wins in the Amgen TOC. He won overall in 2015, and is considered by many to be the best rider on the World Tour.
There they go! Until next year...
Vol. II, No.8 April 2016
The World Comes to Port Hueneme
Imagine Serena Williams smashing aces at Moranda Park or Mike Trout patrolling the outfield at the Bubbling Springs field. Unlikely? Yes, but on Tuesday, May 17, some of the top bicycle road racers in the world will be traversing the streets of Port Hueneme as the Amgen Tour of California comes to town.
The riders will begin stage 3 in Thousand Oaks at 11:10 AM, then make their way to Portrero Rd. and down Highway 23 to the Pacific Coast Highway. The sweeping curves around Mugu Rock, made famous by numerous automobile commercials, this time will be navigated by the brightly colored peloton as the riders make their way toward the Oxnard Plain.
Hueneme Road’s long straight should provide some of the highest speeds of the tour – unless the strong Westerly headwinds so familiar to local riders slow things down.
For local fans looking for interesting spots to view the race, the first challenge will be the newly resurfaced railroad crossing on Hueneme Rd. east of the city limits. Any rider catching a wheel on the tracks will face certain disaster.
Continuing into Port Hueneme, the riders will have to quickly slow from a nearly 30 MPH pace as they make the 90° right turn onto Ventura Rd. The first sprint points of the day will be awarded at the end of the straight before the left hand turn onto Channel Islands Blvd. The Quick Men will be challenging each other to see who will wear the points leader's green jersey.
From Channel Islands Blvd. the race makes its way down Harbor Blvd. to Ventura, up SR 33 and around Lake Casitas, then heads for East Valley Rd., finishing with a punishing climb to the top of Gibraltar Rd.
In the cycling lexicon, the hardest, toughest, most punishing stage of a race is called “The Queen Stage”. Stage 3 is the Queen Stage of this year’s Amgen Tour of California and it’s coming right through Port Hueneme.
Think you’re up to the challenge? Amgen offers L’Etape California, a chance to ride the Stage 3 route with the legendary Jens Voigt on April 24. Information on reservations and pricing is available at http://www.amgentourofcalifornia.com/letapecalifornia-register
Next time: The No. 1 team in the world is based in California. An interview with Jim Ochowicz, General Manager of BMC Racing.
Vol. II, No. 9 April 2016
Coming Here to Win
Rohan Dennis in the lead Photo courtesy @BMC Racing Team
With all the support vehicles, team cars, mechanics, and tv cameras, a major professional bicycle race is often described as “a motorcycle rally with a few bikes thrown in,” but at its best, world class cycling is a competitive team sport of complex tactics and individual heroics played out before some of the most magnificent scenery in the world.
Port Hueneme will witness some of that pageantry and drama as the Amgen Tour of California powers through town on Tuesday, May 17.
The leading team in the world, sponsored by Swiss cycle maker BMC, is based in Santa Rosa, California. With a long history in American professional racing, Jim Ochowicz, the President/General Manager of BMC Racing, recently granted an exclusive interview for the ePilot.
“As an American team we’re very focused on the Amgen Tour of California,” he said. “We’re bringing a formidable team and want to be competitive from the first day to the last.”
“We’re going there to try to win the race,” he asserted. “The American races have always been a focus for us.”
Much like a football team with specialized players, a cycling team carries a big roster with riders to match every circumstance. When asked about the roster for the Amgen Tour of California, Mr. Ochowicz mentioned Australian Rohan Dennis, winner of two Tour de France stages, along with American Brent Bookwalter as contenders for the overall victory.
Powerful Olympic Champion Samuel Sánchez, sprinter Jempy Drucker, and American time trial specialist Taylor Phinney are also expected to ride.
When asked about American star Tejay van Garderen, Mr. Ochowicz stated that he was focused on the Tour de France — that was his “primary goal.” However, with Greg van Avermaet’s brilliant start ruined by a broken collarbone, it remains to be seen what roster adjustments will be made.
As a long time advocate for American cycling, Mr. Ochowicz explained the importance of the Amgen Tour of California: “We need races like the Amgen Tour of California to allow American teams to participate at that level of sport and provide an opportunity for younger Americans to get visible, and for us to see them in action against us. While they might not get the chance in Europe to do that, they can certainly do that at the Amgen Tour of California, and you never know what that might bring for them or for us in the future.”
Here comes the peloton!
Sometimes we miss BMC.
1st turn, Thousand Oaks.
The Amgen Tour of California, always one of the most entertaining races of the year, brought great memories to Ventura County and the State of California. Professional cycling is facing a challenging economic environment. Let's hope the riders are back on our local roads in 2021.
Tour Boosts Local Cycling
Mayor Matt LaVere is interviewed before the start of the race. The rest of the City Council and Supervisor Steve Bennett look on.
"This is one of the best days in Ventura," said Mayor Matt LaVere as the Amgen Tour of California returned to the County Seat. "They said last year was the best start of the race," he added. "When they asked about [this year's] women's start, we said, 'Yeah!'"
A major international sporting event such as the Amgen Tour brings a level of promotion for local tourism that is hard to match. A global television audience tunes in to watch the best riders in the world compete on familiar Ventura County roads.
County Supervisor Steve Bennett (Ventura, Ojai), has been a prime mover in establishing CycleCalCoast.com. "It [the TOC] really helps us," he said. "We're promoting bicycle tourism in Ventura County." Cycle Cal Coast provides information about routes and amenities for cyclists in the local area.
Supervisor Bennett cites statistics that show bicycle tourists spend more per person than other tourists. He believes that Ventura County can be a major destination for cyclists with routes for cyclists of all skill levels.
Lindsay Goldman, #134, assembles her Hagens-Berman team before the start of the Women's Tour of California.
Professional cycling is a global big money sport. For over 100 years it has been almost exclusively male. In recent years women have been competing on the international level as the sport of women's cycling begins to gain recognition.
While the men have competed for big money purses and TV coverage, the women have been often treated as an afterthought. While cycling's major event, the Tour de France runs for three weeks, its owners, ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation), run only a one day event for women.
Two California Assmeblymembers, Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas) and Lorena Gonzales (D-San Diego), have introduced AB 467, a bill that would mandate equal prize money for men's and women's sporting events. It is currently in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water.
AEG, the owners of the Amgen Tour of California already offer equal prize money and express a committment to maintaining the race as a premier showcase for women's cycling.
Two Northern California women, Kathryn Bertine and Sabrina Brennan believe the legislation does not go far enough. In addition to requiring equal prize money, in an email to CalTrans, they cite the Unruh Civil Rights Act as the basis for requiring an equal number of days for men's and women's events. The Unruh Civil Rights Act prohibits gender discrimination. CalTrans is the agency responsible for issuing the permits necessary to conduct a road race.
The requirement for equal race days has raised concern among the cycling community. ASO recently announced that it was cancelling two of the biggest women's races, the Flèche Wallone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège over requirements to provide equivalent television time for each race.
Lindsay Goldman, a professional rider and part owner of the Hagens-Berman/Supermint team, expressed concern. In response to a question from the Pilot she said, "I'm all in favor of anything that advances the women's sport, but this is a business. We have to produce a return on investment. I'm afraid this [requirement] would shut down the women's race."
Men's rider Tejay van Garderen offered a lighter perspective, "Considering how tired my legs are," he said to Ms. Goldman, "I'd gladly give you two days!"
The Amgen Tour of California Cycling Road Race Put on Hiatus for 2020
Racing in the US has to be re-invented