Crowds cheer Amgen Bike Tour

Sunday was cloudy and rainy but that didn't stop La Cañada residents from cheering on the Amgen Tour of California as it sped through town.

“We had a fair share of people that came out,” said Sgt. Mark Slater of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station.

Around 2 p.m. a party atmosphere began to build as residents and visitors from nearby communities joined together, many with umbrellas in hand, to see the cyclists race around corners and past homes during Stage 7, the final day of the eight-day event. Many in the crowd assembled at Green Lane and Angeles Crest Highway shared stories of bike tours they had seen in the past while others were not certain what to expect. The one thing in common between those who were veteran race watchers, and those who were new to it was the excitement shared at about 2:40 p.m. as they watched a group of cyclists fly down Angeles Crest Highway, having left the Angeles National Forest only moments before. The entire crowd seemed to hold their breath as the athletes made the left turn onto Green Lane. They came in two groups, the first, the breakaway, flashed by in less than a minute followed by a seemingly endless string of team vehicles and California Highway Patrol cars.

The crowd watched as a cameraman standing on the back of a motorcycle continued doing his job as the bike raced around the corner documenting the race. “He has the dangerous job,” said one bystander.

The main group of cyclists, the peloton, followed shortly thereafter. This pack passed by just as quickly as the breakaway had. Again, support vehicles followed close behind.

No sooner had they appeared than the dramatic show was over. The final Amgen vehicle slowed down, a worker jumped out, grabbed the sign that read “Course Route” and everyone dispersed from the scene.

Although it seemed to happen in the blink of an eye, those who braved the rainy afternoon went away smiling.

“The race gave the residents an opportunity to stand alongside the road to cheer and support the teams,” said La Cañada Flintridge Mayor Dave Spence, whose home is a short block away from the route.

Spence said the tour also gave an opportunity to the city to partnership with Pasadena.

“Any time we have a positive situation that can cement the relationship with the city of Pasadena it is good thing,” Spence said.

This is the third year for the Amgen Tour of California and its first time through La Cañada, with a finish line at Pasadena's Rose Bowl. In the past the race ended in Long Beach.

The traffic sergeant, Slater, said despite media coverage and warning signs of street closures placed on the route by both Caltrans and Amgen officials some residents were caught unaware. Slater said some motorists were upset that the streets were closed to traffic.

“We shut down roads from 45 minutes to an hour,” Slater said. “It is a major race and I think many people didn't realize the magnitude.”

The 93-mile Stage 7 began in Santa Clarita just after 12 p.m. Sunday. The winner was George Hincapie, who crossed the finish line at the Rose Bowl in 3 hours, 50.57 minutes. For the second year in a row, California cyclist Levi Leipheimer claimed overall victory for the 650-mile race that began Feb. 17 in Palo Alto.

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