Amgen riders, local fans beat the heat in Tour of California's grueling first stage
May 15, 2013Temperatures soared into the 100s on Sunday, but the heat didn't keep the crowds away from cheering on the bike riders in the Amgen Tour of California as they rode through Valley Center.
The first stage of the 2013 Tour came through town midway through the afternoon on Mother's Day, and spectators gathered in pockets along the route to watch the battle for the yellow jersey unfold.
Early on, Australian rider Zakkari Dempster took the lead, but by the time the riders got to the grueling climb up Palomar Mountain's east grade, the breakaway consisted of two Americans, Carter Jones and James Stemper, riding with Canadian Marsh Cooper. Jones led the race at the top of Palomar, earning him the title of King of the Mountain for stage one.
The trio was cut to two by the time the breakaway made it up the Cole Grade climb, as the two Americans held onto the lead. But the main pack of riders, called the peloton, led by Lucas Euser, closed the gap one minute at a time as the riders made their way through Valley Center.
Two of the local hot spots to watch the race were at the turn from Cole Grade Rd. onto Valley Center Rd., as well as the intersection of Woods Valley and Lake Wohlford roads.
At the turn onto Valley Center Road, local bicycle racing fans Randy & Cynthia Botta kept an eye on the race with their mobile phone while they waited to see the riders in person.
"We were watching the race on TV, but we left it on pause so we could come out to watch," Cynthia said.
The breakaway whizzed by in a heartbeat, but the peloton took a lot longer to pass. Perhaps the most amusing sight for the first-time fan was the swarm of support vehicles following the riders, complete with their extra bikes and spare parts perched atop the cars jockeying with each other to keep pace with their teams.
A couple of riders had some issues in the race, as Peter Sagan, one of the favorites to win the stage, fell behind to deal with some mechanical issues on his bike. And on the turn from Lake Wohlford Road onto East Valley Parkway, Cuban rider Luis Amaran crashed hard into the bushes on the side of the road before eventually continuing the race.
The race came down to a two-man sprint down Broadway in Escondido, as Spain's Francisco Mancebo dueled with Dutch rider Lieuwe Westra toward the final turn onto Grand.
Westra made the pass on the final stretch and won the first stage of the eight-day Tour.
Mancebo took second and Sagan battled back to take third, just in front of the rest of the peloton.
Be sure to check out our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/valleycenter/ to see lots of local photos from the race, and visit our Web site at www.valleycenter.com to see a video wrap-up of the ride through Valley Center.