What a day…that seemed to sum up the sentiment heard from spectators, city officials and racers alike.
100,000 people were expected, and the crowds that did show up to line the streets and cheer on the racers did not disappoint. Levi Leipheimer retained the overall lead, and will be the Tour’s most likely winner tomorrow afternoon in Long Beach.
The day started at 9:30 with a woman’s bike race through the industrial center. After that, families took off on a “fun ride” launching from City Hall at 11:00. There they had their choice to ride 3, 5 or 7 miles. As they crossed the real life finish line, some were winded, but each and every rider had a smile on their face.
The kid’s zone was a sight to see. With inflatable obstacle courses, human bowling and a tricycle race course. The laughter of kids, (and adults posing as kids) could be heard over the band that was playing.
All through the main strip of McBean in front of the mall, there was a lifestyle fair featuring vendors from every side of the sport, and even some gigantic hot dogs that seemed to get away with being surrounded by healthy messages.
The raceway filled up quickly as the top riders in the world worked their way closer to the city. Almost instantly it was a shoulder to shoulder smushfest of fans cheering and beating their inflatable batons against the railing.
And then the words came over the P.A. system.
“And…here they come!”
Almost as quickly as the words came, the crowd in unison shoved their bodies forward. About 10 motorcycle police whizzed by sirens blaring, then a couple of photographer motorcycles.
Finally, the brightest colored uniforms imaginable lit up the far end of McBean and an army of cameras shot out of the huddled mass of spectators.
When the riders passed, shouting erupted and a big ‘whoosh” of passing bikes sent a flurry of wind into the sea of people.
And then they were gone. It wasn’t a disappointing feeling, but certainly humbling. When they came around for the next lap, it was clear that people had their cameras ready a lot sooner than the first.
These men had just bicycled from Santa Barbara. They went through hill climbs, a crash, and dead sprints for hours and here they came on their final few laps around our beautiful town, and they were still pumping their bikes faster than anyone can legally drive in a school zone.
Juan Jose Haedo, for team CSC took the stage 6 victory to much applause, but it was the Discovery Channel Team’s Leipheimer, who was in the overall tour spotlight.
“Now you know why this team has won 7 Tour De Frances,” said Leipheimer. “This is a very strong team.”
In the coming days, it may become clear whether or not the Tour will be back next year. But even if this was Santa Clarita’s only day with the Tour of California, what a day it was.