Cycling Fans Celebrate Stage 3 Finish Under Sunny Skies
By Karen Kefauver
At the finish line in front of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, spectators crowded ten deep to watch the climactic ending of Stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of the California, an 8-day, 810-mile professional bike race that ends Sunday in Thousand Oaks. The most fanatical of cycling fans had staked out their spots hours before the racers were expected. The crowds leaned over the orange fencing, cameras in hand, striving to record the excitement of the best pro racers in the world sprinting for the win. There were no umbrellas in sight.
“I am so glad the rain stopped after last night,” said Bart Coddington, a member of the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club and a Tour of California volunteer. “It’s so much better with the sun,” he said, recollecting the drenching rain that greeted fans and racers last February, the first time the Tour of California came through Santa Cruz. Despite a light rain Monday night, the weather cooperated on race day and organizers were pleased that the roads dried in time for safer cycling for the athletes.
The 113.3-mile Stage 3 race started in San Francisco yesterday morning and blasted down West Cliff Drive after the peloton’s tough seven-mile climb up Bonny Doon Road. David Zabriskie of Garmin Transitions captured the victory with a time of 4:26:10. Competitors Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia) and Levi Leipheimer (Radioshack) were only a hair behind. Peter Sagan followed in fourth place. The rest of the peloton charged into the finish area with equally deafening cheering and cowbells clanging moments later.
“This is so thrilling!” said Mary Alsip, decked out in a golden feather boa. The coordinator of the Peloton Club, a booster club for Stage 3, Alsip said she thought finish line frenzy was even greater than last year. “Cycling fans are out in force,” she noted.
In addition to the ideal weather, there was race drama when the three overall favorites broke away together on the critical Bonny Doon climb. The trio pushed full force towards the finish line as a driven pack closed to within a handful of seconds of them.
“It was an amazing finish,” said Nils Tikkanen, a competitive cyclist who races with Team Bicycle Trip. He managed to squeeze in his own training ride before watching the race from the Peloton Club. As a racer, he appreciated the work required to charge over the finish line.
Zabriskie, the reigning national time trial champion, attacked the others with less than a kilometer to go and held them off. He captured the win and a 10-second bonus that put him into the overall lead, displacing Brett Lancaster (Cervelo TestTeam). At the press conference afterwards, a visibly drained Zabriskie said, “This is my favorite race on the calendar,” he said, Then, he added with a smile, “I won the surf board!” The board was a special Santa Cruz prize awarded to the winner of Stage 3.
“It’s iconic of Santa Cruz,” said Matt Twisselman, noting that designer Judi Oyama and shaper Doug Haut had put a lot effort into the custom surfboard’s design and creation.
At the finish line, Cindy Jewell summed it up, “The crowds were loud and had a blast- what a great day for Santa Cruz!
The fifth annual Tour of California continues to day with Stage 4, a 121.5-mile race from San Jose to Modesto. For more information visit: www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.
Karen Kefauver, www.karenkefauver.com, is a freelance sports and travel journalist based in Santa Cruz and an avid cyclist. Visit her Sentinel cycling blog at www.santacruzlive.com/blogs/outside.