Four hours from Pismo Beach to Santa Barbara is a rather slow time by automotive standards, but what if it were accomplished by human power on the pedals rather than horsepower on the pistons? Then the distance of 108 miles — so we’re talking an average speed better than 25 miles per hour — is impressive.
When more than 250 cyclists in Stage 5 of the 2014 Amgen Tour of California (ATOC) reach the city limits on Thursday, May 15, they will be whizzing by at 50 mph on the downhill side of Highway 154. Once they level out, they’ll have to negotiate several sharp turns before stretching out into a fast sprint from Shoreline Drive to the finish line on Cabrillo Boulevard, between Garden Street and Calle César Chávez.
It will be the third time that a stage of the ATOC finishes on our waterfront (several others started here). In 2006, the tour’s inaugural year, George Hincapie surged to the front in the final pedal strokes of a race that started in San Luis Obispo. Last year, the fourth stage started in Santa Clarita, and Tyler Farrar of Team Garmin-Sharp topped the podium after edging out a pack that came wheeling around the Bird Refuge.
The Amgen Tour, covering more than 700 miles in eight stages, bills itself as “America’s Greatest Race,” and as cycling events go, it holds the title. The 16 teams in this year’s race, each consisting of eight riders, include nine teams that claim elite professional status.
Tejay van Garderen of the BMC Racing Team, the overall winner of the 2013 ATOC, will not return to defend his title. As the team’s leader in the Tour de France, he will spend the next two months training in Europe. BMC has designated Peter Stetina, another American rider, to spearhead its forces in California.
Sacramento will be the starting point of the ninth Amgen Tour on May 11, and it will finish in Thousand Oaks on May 18. One of the toughest stages will be the sixth, on May 16, from Santa Clarita to Mountain High.
Stage 5, beginning at 11:45 a.m. at the Pismo Beach pier, will include a sprint in Arroyo Grande. The riders will wind through the Santa Barbara County wine country on their way to San Marcos Pass. The anticipated time of the finish is 3:45 p.m.
If Cannondale Pro Cycling’s Peter Sagan is in the field, he will be flying down Cabrillo Boulevard. The Slovakian sprinter has notched a record total of 10 stage wins in the Amgen Tour. Ken Hanson of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling will be motivated to win in Santa Barbara, his onetime hometown, after he lost by mere feet to Farrar last year. And don’t count out Trek Factory Racing’s Jens Voigt, a wily 43-year-old German who is expected to retire after this year. Voigt scored the biggest and most pleasant surprise in 2013 when he won Stage 5 from Santa Barbara to Avila Beach.
Susie Willett, the chairperson of the Local Organizing Committee and an avid cyclist herself, suggested some favorable viewing spots on the course: the top of San Marcos Pass, as the cyclists end their climb; also, the intersections of Modoc and Las Positas roads, Las Positas and Cliff Drive, and Cliff and Meigs Road, where they will be gathering for the final push.
The best place to follow the race from start to finish will be the VIP tent at the finish line. It will feature big-screen TVs, food and beverages, and bleachers set up to give ticketed spectators a clear view of the final sprint. Tickets cost $75 until May 12 and $100 thereafter. Proceeds will benefit the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Bike Coalition, and Echelon Junior cycling program. Sign up at santabarbaratourofcalifornia.com. People interested in serving as race volunteers also can register at that website.
Santa Barbara is one of four host cities to stage the Amgen Breakaway Mile, a walk along the racecourse for cancer survivors, caregivers, and advocates. It is limited to the first 150 registrants. Visit amgentourofcalifornia.com/breakawaymile.
There will be free entertainment and many products and services on display during a lifestyle festival that starts at 11:30 a.m. on May 15 on Cabrillo Boulevard. Willett, who works for Visit Santa Barbara, invites locals to join cycling enthusiasts from around the world. “Come on down,” she said. “Take a long lunch break.”
BARNEY’S LEGACY: It is doubtful that Santa Barbara would have become a frequent stop on the Amgen Tour without Barney Berglund’s devotion to the sport of cycling. Berglund made his hometown a charter city in 2006 when he chaired the first Local Organizing Committee, and he led the effort to bring the tour back in 2013 after an absence of four years. He was being treated for a deadly form of cancer when the last race came around and brought on Willett and Jack Bianchi as cochairs. Berglund died three months ago.
“Barney was a strong rider, and a week after he passed, a hundred of us met at the Mission and cycled up Gibraltar Road,” Willett said. “We called it Barney’s Ride.” She liked the idea of crowning Berglund as Santa Barbara’s Perpetual King of the Mountain. “I watched Barney pursue the Tour of California in 2006, and I saw it gain traction not only among enthusiasts but the whole city,” Willett said. “It’s a tribute to him.”
MOVING ON: The sports community has lost a number of prominent figures this year, most tragically UCSB water polo player Nick Johnson and Maggie Daly, an 18-year-old member of Santa Barbara City College’s state championship women’s golf team. Daly, from Alamo, California, was killed April 9 in a traffic accident near her hometown.
Lorenzo Dall’Armi, a former president of SBCC and superintendent of schools, died at 91 on March 8. “Dal” was quite an athlete in his day, winning tennis championships at Santa Barbara High School (SBHS) and UCSB and impressing beachgoers with his volleyball skills more than 50 years ago.
Dale Okinaka and Frank Swain, two members of the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table Hall of Fame, also passed away recently. Okinaka, an early basketball star at San Marcos High School, made a huge impact as a coach of girls softball. Swain began compiling sports statistics when he was a schoolmate of Eddie Mathews at Santa Barbara High and held positions in the Round Table, SBHS Alumni Association, and the Semana Nautica sports festival.
HALL OF FAME: The Round Table will host its 47th annual Hall of Fame Banquet on Monday, May 19, at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort. It will feature the induction of seven new members: Stefanie Christoferson, San Marcos basketball and softball; Megan Enyeart, Dos Pueblos basketball; Mike Fitzgerald, San Marcos volleyball; Lola Trenwith Georgi, Santa Barbara High tennis; Scott Winnewisser, Bishop Diego football, basketball, and volleyball; Rick Olmstead, volleyball coach at several schools; and Joan Russell Price, community athletic administrator. Reservations to the banquet are recommended at SBART.org.
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