Riding a bicycle was a regular activity for Armando “Mondo” Requejo as a youngster in Montecito. He pedaled uphill to school at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and had an afternoon newspaper route. Football and track were his consuming sports at Santa Barbara High, where he was a running back and sprinter.
It was not until he was 33, in 1997, that Requejo discovered his passion for cycling. He joined the Tailwinds club in Santa Maria and rapidly moved up to higher categories in racing. “I had a lot of fun,” he said. “The sport of racing is an intense rush, wheel-to-wheel and elbow-to-elbow at 30 miles per hour. It’s a great sport all the way around.”
Twenty years later, Requejo has an important role in the staging of America’s most prestigious cycling event, the Amgen Tour of California (ATOC). As chair of Santa Barbara’s Local Organizing Committee (LOC), he oversees the operational necessities to assure that the race goes off smoothly and safely on roads in the city and county jurisdiction.
Stage 4 of this year’s 12th annual ATOC will start on Cabrillo Boulevard at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 17. Seventeen teams, totaling 136 riders, started the seven-stage tour in Sacramento last Sunday. From the Santa Barbara waterfront, they will proceed through the Coast Village roundabout, up Hot Springs Road and across Route 192 through Toro Canyon and Carpinteria, leaving the county on their way toward Casitas Pass. The finish line of the 99-mile stage is in Santa Clarita.
Santa Barbara is an ATOC host city for the eighth time and the fifth consecutive year. Requejo became involved in 2013 as technical director for the LOC. Barney Berglund, the original chair who brought the tour to Santa Barbara, passed the torch to Requejo after he became terminally ill.
Requejo works closely with Amaury Sport Organization (AMO), the French firm that operates the Tour de France and has the overall technical responsibilities for the Amgen Tour. His LOC technical director is David Gonzales, a retired policeman and avid triathlete.
The cooperation of law enforcement agencies is essential for traffic and crowd control during the race. “The police love to see community events like this,” said Requejo. His committee also musters a sizeable force of volunteers.
“I like the effort that goes into it, then sitting back and watching,” said Requejo, who has a day job as an engineer at Lockheed Martin Santa Barbara Focal Plane.
Hosting the start, rather than the finish, of this year’s stage affords cycling enthusiasts an opportunity to get up-close with the teams. “Before they take off, folks can walk around, see the riders, trainers and directors,” Requejo said. “They’ll see that the riders are all really tiny guys.”
Notable teams this year include Team Sky, Quick Step, Cannondale, Bora Hansgrohe, BMC, and Team Dimension Data.
The winner of Stage 1 on Sunday was Germany’s Marcel Kittel of Quick Step. Taking the overall lead with a victory in Stage 2, from Modesto to San Jose, was Poland’s Rafal Majka (Bora Hansgrohe), the reigning Tour de France King of the Mountain. New Zealander George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) and American Ian Boswell (Sky) were close behind.
After 119 miles on the road Tuesday, world champion Peter Sagan (Bora Hansgrohe) surged in the final stretch to win Stage 3 in Morro Bay. It was the Slovakian’s record 16th California stage win. Majka, Bennett and Boswell remained the top three in the overall standings.