Riders get up close and personal with fans at the start of today’s stage 7 race.
It was a packed house at the Westfield Valencia Town Center as fans of professional bicycling and residents of Santa Clarita lined Town Center Drive waiting for a glimpse of the world famous riders taking part in the 2009 Amgen Tour of California.
Santa Clarita serves as the starting line for stage 7 of the race, which after a high-noon pistol start, sent riders across McBean Parkway, Newhall Ranch Road, Bouquet Canyon Road, Vasquez Canyon, Sierra Highway, Sand Canyon and Soledad Canyon Road. Eventually, the riders were tasked with making their way to Pasadena, where five laps around the Rose Bowl awaited them for a total stage length of 90 miles.
Current race leader Levi Lipheimer took his place at the head of the pack just minutes before the race began.
“Thank you Santa Clarita, this has been awesome,” Lipheimer told a strident crowd lining the streets and clamoring for autographs.
This year, the Amgen Tour of California has enjoyed extra fanfare thanks to seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong’s participation. He vowed to ride in a select number of races this year to raise awareness for cancer.
And while it was clear that Lance Armstrong brought the most publicity to this year’s race, he was quick to support Lipheimer, his Astana teammate, who looks to be well on his way to a third consecutive Amgen Tour of California win. Armstrong related Leipheimer’s task to his own previous situations, just one day after Leipheimer won the Solvang time trial by a mere 8 seconds, beating out four-time U.S. National Individual Time Trial Champion David Zabriskie of Garmin-Slipstream.
“Its one thing to have the pressure in year one, year two, but as you start to build a string of victories it’s not easy,” he said. “But at the end of the day he stepped up, and not only did he win, but he beat guys that are damn good.”
Hear Armstrong’s comments by clicking the player below.
Fans were able to get autographs from all the pro riders, including Lance Armstrong as they made their way down Autograph Row leading to and from the sign-in stage.
SCV road closures preempted the race by a few minutes, although overall they only lasted as long as it took for the race to pass, thereby minimizing the impact on traffic. The heaviest congestion occurred shortly after the race began around the Valencia Town Center, as fans migrated away from the starting location.
As usual, you can check hometownstation.com at the conclusion of each stage race for results.
See all of the pictures from the Stage 7 start in the KHTS Around Town section!