Arguably the biggest bike race in the history of North America pedaled into town last Friday afternoon, concluding stage five of the eight-stage race with a photo finish along Cabrillo Boulevard. The First Annual Amgen Tour of California began in San Francisco on Sunday, February 19 and concluded some 600 miles later in Redondo Beach last Sunday. According to the California Highway Patrol, more than 100,000 people turned out along Friday’s race route — a grueling 105-mile ride that began in San Luis Obispo, snaked through Santa Maria and up the San Marcos Pass, and culminated in a high-speed burn toward downtown Santa Barbara — to ring cowbells, wave flags, and shout encouragement to the 100-plus riders. Hitting speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour, the riders hung remarkably close to one another as they approached the oceanfront finish line and the several thousand supporters gathered around it. Pulling away at the last second, Discovery Team’s George Hincapie was victorious with a finish time of three hours and 52 minutes. Twenty short hours later, the saddle-weary riders got back on their bikes to begin stage six, which ended in Thousand Oaks 89 hot and hilly miles away. The tour was ultimately won by Team Phonak’s Floyd Landis, with Team Computer Science Corporation taking the top team honors.
Aiming to eventually rival the world-famous Tour de France, the Amgen Tour was declared a smashing success by viewers and city officials alike. According to economic analysts from Santa Barbara’s Bureau of Tourism, the race — which garnered 700 hotel reservations and a bustling health fair at the finish line — generated more than $1 million locally, a figure some predict will double once the final numbers are in.