14 YEARS OF GOLDEN MOMENTS: A LOOK BACK AT THE TOUR OF CALIFORNIA
Taking a sentimental look back at the Amgen Tour of California
The statement announcing the cancellation of the Tour of California from promoters Anschutz Entertainment Group, while unfortunate, was not terribly surprising. In fact, for some veteran race watchers, it was long overdue. Despite having no shortage of picturesque and historical race venues throughout the state, this was California, after all. And no matter how bright the sheen of the Golden State, regulation and the threat to traffic flow often conspire to the detriment of any outdoor activity that involves the public highways and byways. We are a content and happy lot here, but block off a few roads and make it hard to get to the mall and we see red!
As many relationship-ending notices read, it began with plenty of good things to say about all the players involved and the good times had. But then came the crux of the missive—after 14 years of some dramatic racing, the race had “become more challenging each year to mount the race.” As such, for the year 2020, the Golden State would not be hosting some of the world’s best teams and riders.
SUN, SHOPPING AND EPO
Despite the state’s renown for sunny weather, the race was initially held in February where some frightfully cold and wet stages would rival the misery of Europe’s worst weather. Soon enough, the race was moved to May where it would anchor itself as a proper run-up to the Tour de France. For the top riders, like Tom Boonen and Peter Sagan, a two-week stay in California could not only ensure good training for July but also countless shopping opportunities!
Although there were other American races that qualified as a points-collecting stop on the UCI calendar, the Tour of California was the most celebrated, eventually earning WorldTour status. However, even before the first stage started, the race had attained a level of notoriety, owing to the title sponsor Amgen. Remember, these were the days when all things Lance Armstrong and doping still permeated cycling headlines, and the fact that Amgen was a major producer of erythropoietin (aka EPO), which everyone knew was a successful doping agent for athletes as it was a red-blood-cell booster for cancer patients.
While there were some venues that truly brought out the best in the geography, racers and spectators alike (the time trial in Solvang was one of the best!), there were others that took the riders and team cars through truly desolate, Podunk towns. The cost to the towns was also substantial and not always a good investment. I once asked a Santa Rosa city manager what the comparison between the pro race and Levi’s GranFondo was, and she was adamant that there was none. “The Tour gets lots of publicity, but the pro riders come to town, ride and leave. With the GranFondo, we get families that come to town, shop and eat out; the Gran Fondo is much better for the city.”
Now two years on without the race, we thought to look back at some great moments before they were forgotten about entirely. It’s unfortunate that despite the popularity of cycling in America, the rise and demise of the Amgen Tour of California likely marks the last time our shores will host a bike race of such grand proportions. But, it never hurts to keep our fingers crossed!
THE KINGS OF CALIFORNIA
2006: Floyd Landis, Phonak
2007: Levi Leipheimer, Discovery
2008: Levi Leipheimer, Astana
2009: Levi Leipheimer, Astana
2010: Michael Rogers, HTC
2011: Chris Horner, RadioShack
2012: Robert Gesink, Rabobank
2013: Tejay van Garderen, BMC
2014: Bradley Wiggins, Sky
2015: Peter Sagan, Tinkoff-Saxo
2016: Julian Alaphilippe, Etixx-
2017: George Bennett, LottoNL-Jumbo
2018: Egan Bernal, Sky
2019: Tadej Pogacar, UAE Emirates
THE QUEENS OF CALIFORNIA
2015: Trixi Worrack, Velcro SRAM
2016: Megan Guarnier, Boels Dolmans
2017: Anna van der Breggen, Boels Dolmans
2018: Katie Hall, United Healthcare
2019: Anna van der Breggen, Boels Dolmans
Levi Leipheimer: 22 days (2009: 7; 2008: 5; 2007: 8; 2006: 2)
Tejay van Garderen: 10 days (2019: 4; 2018: 2; 2013: 4)
Peter Sagan: 8 days (2019: 1; 2016: 1; 2015: 2; 2012: 4)
Bradley Wiggins: 7 days (2014: 7)
Julian Alaphilippe: 6 days (2016: 5; 2015: 1)
MOST STAGE WINS
Peter Sagan: 17 (2019: 1; 2017: 1; 2016: 2; 2015: 2; 2014: 1; 2013: 2; 2012: 5; 2011: 1; 2010: 2)
Mark Cavendish: 10 (2016: 1; 2015: 4; 2014: 2; 2010; 2009: 2)
Levi Leipheimer: 6 (2011; 2009; 2008; 2007: 2; 2006: 1)
Juan José Haedo: 5 (2008; 2007: 2; 2006: 2)
Fernando Gaviria: 3 (2018)