Julian Alaphilippe’s tour de force on Gibraltar Road last week may mark him as a contender in the Tour de France. But whether or not the 23-year-old French cyclist celebrates in Paris this summer, he can say, “I’ll always have Santa Barbara.”
The route for the 2016 Amgen Tour of California comprised 782 miles of pavement to be covered in eight days, and none proved to be more consequential than the seven torturous miles up Gibraltar Road — a first for the 11-year-old tour — at the end of Stage 3. Alaphilippe’s finishing surge gave him the stage victory and the overall lead. He retained the yellow jersey throughout the remaining five stages, all the way to his bubbly-wine-drenched victory celebration in Sacramento last Sunday.
Runner-up Rohan Dennis of Australia wound up 21 seconds behind Alaphilippe in the final standings. He finished 48 seconds behind Alaphilippe on Gibraltar Road, a margin that enabled the Frenchman to forfeit some time, but not too much, when Dennis won the Stage 6 time trial in Folsom.
This race was survival of the fittest and most well-rounded bicycle racers. Sprinters Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish each claimed a stage win, but they were no match for Gibraltar’s speed-sucking elevation and gave up all hope of contending for the overall title. American riders Brent Bookwalter, Andrew Talansky, and Lawson Craddock filled out the top five after Alaphilippe and Dennis.
SUFFER FOR CHARITY: Jason and Tricia Middleton, organizers of the SB100 — a cycling event coming October 22 that features 100-mile and 100-kilometer rides — hope that it will benefit from the notoriety of Gibraltar Road. In the middle of each course will be the same climb that the pros made. “Our goal is 1,500 riders,” Tricia said. “Sixty percent of them do the 100-miler. We attract hard-core cyclists.” For the less ambitious, there’s a 34-mile relatively flat course. Proceeds will benefit several charities including the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition and the Cottage Children’s Medical Center. Visit sb100.org.
PEABODY PARADE: Santa Barbara High’s Peabody Stadium reeks of history. After it was built in 1924, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig brought their barnstorming baseball tour there. The stadium is most famously known as the Home of the Dons — showcasing 90 years of football, 42 years of soccer, and lacrosse for the past two years — as well as graduation ceremonies and other events. It’s all taken a toll on the original structure and the field, which will undergo a complete renovation starting this summer. On Sunday, May 29, for old time’s sake, the community is invited to participate in the “Last Lap” at the stadium, rattling its bones for a final time. Activities and entertainment will take place 3-7 p.m. Proceeds from the $15 admission (18 and under are free) will support the renovation fund.
RECORD BREAKER: The plans for Peabody Stadium include a new track. The old asphalt running surface around the field has long since disintegrated. That did not stop senior Natasha Feshbach (featured here last week) from finding a place to train, and at the CIF Finals, she improved her school record in the 100 hurdles to 14.08 seconds, and she set a new record of 18’8¼” in the long jump. Her hurdles time makes her the sixth fastest girl in California, and she will try to qualify for the State Championships this Friday. Also on track is San Marcos High junior Erica Schroeder. She clocked a season’s best of 2:10.34 in winning the CIF Division 2 800-meter final. She’ll have to go faster the next two weeks to defend the state title she won last year in an astonishing 2:07.08.
MAGIC GAUCHOS: Austin Bush’s grand slam rallied UCSB’s baseball team from a 5-1 deficit in the eighth inning to a 9-5 victory at UC Irvine last Sunday, and on Monday the Gauchos scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat Gonzaga, 6-5. They finish the regular season at home with a three-game series against UC Riverside starting Thursday, May 26, and their “magic number” is one. UCSB (12-9 in the Big West) needs a victory to clinch third place in the conference over three teams that are 10-11: UCR, Cal Poly, and Cal State Northridge. With a sweep, the Gauchos (36-16-1 overall) could finish as high as second. On Monday, they hope to receive their invitation to the 64-team NCAA tournament.
ANDY’S ASHES: Andy Norton did not live to see his hometown team, the Leicester City Football Club, win the English Premier League soccer championship, but he came closer than he could have imagined. Norton, signed by the club as a teenager, wore the Leicester colors in the early 1970s before an injury short-circuited his professional playing career.
He found his way to the United States and made a home in Santa Barbara. He was a patron of the Press Room, the pub where Brits cheer for such clubs as Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea, while paying scant attention to perennial also-rans like Leicester City.
The Foxes were not even competing in England’s top league when Norton died of cancer in late 2013. His friends spread his ashes at the four corners of the Elings Park pitch, where he used to play recreational soccer with the Press Room’s team. Too bad Andy couldn’t have been toasted by his mates this month when Leicester City, defying odds of 5,000-to-1, became champion of England for the first time in its 132-year existence.