Patrol motorcycles roared through leafy La Cañada streets Saturday afternoon to announce the arrival of the Amgen Tour of California and to ready the path for what was to come — a beautiful chaos of competition and resilience, perfectly epitomizing the spirit of professional bike racing.
With anticipation, families lined the narrow path the tour would take, including the long southbound stretch of Commonwealth Avenue from Lynnhaven Lane to Berkshire Avenue. A block party ambience prevailed.
This year’s men’s event kicked off on May 12 in Sacramento, from where hundreds of international cyclists made their way to Southern California. On Saturday morning they started in Santa Clarita and raced through Angeles National Forest, known for its level of difficulty for competitors.
Although the racers were in town for mere minutes, the youngsters in the crowd seemed to get a kick of adrenaline from the passing riders. Jumping up and down and yelling with excitement, some children — as well as adults — shook cow bells in efforts to encourage the competitors.
Dean Jenkins lives in the neighborhood and says that in the past five or six years it has become a tradition for him to sit out in his frontyard on race day to watch the cyclists pass by on their way to the finish line.
“It goes by pretty fast, but I watch it,” he said.
Like many other bystanders, Jenkins was following the race live online so he could assess when the riders would arrive in his neighborhood.
Another community member, Felicia Torres, said she is a longtime fan of professional biking races and follows them every year.
“Yesterday I was up in Mount Baldy to watch [Stage 6 of the Tour]” she said. "The sport isn’t that big in America, but it’s huge in Europe, so it’s good to see that Americans have a chance to do good and represent themselves.”
Torres remains hopeful the sport will gain more interest and attention in the coming years. She believes an event such as this is something that can bring communities together.
Shortly after the peloton traveled through La Cañada, the race came to an end in the Pasadena Rose Bowl stadium, where winners were announced.
Dutch cyclist Cees Bol, 23, of Team Sunweb was the fastest in the final bunch sprint to the finish line, winning the seventh stage of the weeklong event.
Overall Tour winner was 20-year-old Tadej Pogacar of Slovinia, who rides for the UAE-Team Emirates and became the youngest-ever winner of a World Tour stage race.
The Amgen Tour of California Women’s Race was a three-stage event, May 16 through 18, and the women followed the same route as the men, arriving in La Cañada just behind them.
The Women’s Stage 3 winner Saturday was a 21-year-old Italian, Elisa Balsamo of Valcar Cylance Cycling. The overall women’s competition was captured by the Canyon/SRAM Racing team.
Marian Sahakyan is a contributor to Times Community News.