The first of eight stages of the 2013 Amgen Tour of California got off to a thrilling – and hot – start today in Escondido, Calif., as Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team’s Lieuwe Westra (NED) held off the charging peloton to capture the Stage 1 victory of American’s biggest professional cycling race.
Today’s stage included more than 11,000 feet of climbing, the most ever for an opening stage in race history. The climbs were the sites of dramatic shake-ups, including a decisive one in the last five kilometers that saw Westra claim the stage victory, as well as the Visit California Sprint Jersey, when, perhaps aided by a tailwind in the final minutes of the race, he embarked on a furious sprint to hold the lead. Second sprint points finisher Francisco Mancebo Perez (ESP) of 5-Hour ENERGY presented by Kenda Racing Team will wear the Visit California Sprint Jersey for tomorrow’s stage that begins in Murrieta as Westra will start the stage wearing the yellow Amgen Race Leader Jersey.
“It was a good surprise,” Westra said of the win. As for what that will mean for his team for the rest of the race, “We won a stage, and we have a strong team. We will see.”
Now in its eighth year, the 2013 Amgen Tour of California will run south to north for the first time, covering nearly 750 miles of California’s most scenic highways, roadways and coastlines over eight days, concluding in Santa Rosa, Calif., May 19. With one of the most difficult courses yet ahead of them, the 123 elite cyclists (the race began with 127, with four eliminated due to time cuts today) will compete through 12 Host Cities and 60,000 feet of climbing, a record for the race, including a first-time summit finish at Mt. Diablo in the Bay Area.
Photos © Christy Nicholson / EchelonDesignPhoto.com
With temperatures hovering around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, BISSELL Pro Cycling’s Carter Jones (Boulder, Colo.) claimed the first Nissan King of the Mountain Jersey in a stage that will be the first of several where climbs play a crucial role in shaping the podium. The riders had to battle not only each other, but the blazing temperatures, which will continue tomorrow as the race heads from Murrieta to Greater Palm Springs. “The heat was brutal. Definitely the hardest part of the day. We haven’t done anything like this all year,” said Jones.
The Amgen Tour of California is the largest and most prestigious race in the U.S. and has become known for attracting top international talent. Among the riders at the start line today were the second-ranked cyclist in the world, Cannondale Pro Cycling’s Peter Sagan (SVK), who will be looking to increase his hold as the Amgen Tour of California stage win record holder (8); seven world champions including current world road race champion Philippe Gilbert of BMC Racing Team (BEL); 11 current national champions; Tour de France champion Andy Schleck of RADIOSHACK LEOPARD TREK (2010, LUX) and Amgen Tour of California champion Michael Rogers of Team Saxo-Tinkoff (2010, AUS).
“We’re proud that over the past eight years, we’ve built this race into one of the top cycling events in the world, which was evident on the race course today as we watched a truly world-class field battle it out to the finish in Escondido,” said Kristin Bachochin, executive director of the race and senior vice president of AEG Sports. “We congratulate Lieuwe Westra on being the first to don the coveted Amgen Race Leader Jersey this year. And, we thank all of our teams, partners and Host Cities for their help making this day possible.”
Other jerseys awarded today include: the Amgen Breakaway from Cancer® Most Courageous Rider Jersey to 5-Hour ENERGY presented by Kenda Racing Team’s James Stemper (Wauwatosa, Wisc.), and the Crunchies Best Young Rider Jersey to Jasper Stuyven (BEL) of the Bontrager Cycling Team (USA). Taking second and third stage finish spots on the podium were 5-Hour ENERGY presented by Kenda Racing Team’s Francisco Mancebo Perez (ESP) and Cannondale Pro Cycling’s Peter Sagan (SVK) respectively.
“In the last four years with this team, I’ve been making the transition to a road rider. I pride myself on being a great teammate right now. I know I can ride hard for the entire day,” said Stemper.
“Amgen is proud to join AEG for the eighth consecutive year as the title sponsor of the Amgen Tour of California. The race provides Amgen the opportunity to be part of America’s top cycling event while promoting our beautiful state of California and stimulating the local economy,” said Rolf Hoffmann, senior vice president of U.S. Commercial Operations at Amgen. “This race allows Amgen not only the opportunity to be part of a world-class professional cycling event, but also to raise awareness for Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer initiative.”
Amgen created the national Breakaway from Cancer initiative in 2005 as a complementary component to its title sponsorship of the Amgen Tour of California. Breakaway from Cancer is a collaboration between Amgen and four nonprofit organizations – Prevent Cancer Foundation, Cancer Support Community, Patient Advocate Foundation and National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. These organizations offer a broad range of support services complementing those provided by a patient’s team of healthcare professionals. For access to resources or to learn more, visit breakawayfromcancer.com.
Throughout the 2013 Amgen Tour of California, Amgen will honor and celebrate cancer survivors through a variety of events including four Breakaway Mile events, a special walk on the race course that crosses the finish or start line to honor cancer survivors; official race starts; and jersey presentations.
In honor of cancer survivors and advocates everywhere, today during the Escondido Breakaway Mile, breast cancer survivor and Escondido resident Sue Martin was recognized and celebrated as the local Breakaway from Cancer Champion. Encouraged by those she has inspired, Sue is writing a book about her successful journey to cancer freedom entitled I Shed Two Tears, then Kicked it with Attitude. During the event in Escondido today, Martin was joined by approximately 150 community members – cancer survivors, patients, caregivers, and advocates – and Amgen’s Joseph P. Miletich, M.D., PhD., senior vice president of Research and Development, who plays a crucial role in developing innovative medicines to treat cancer and other serious illnesses.
There are plenty of ways to take in the racing action through May 19, whether in person on the race course, via daily broadcasts on NBC Sports Network and NBC, or by downloading the free Tour Tracker app, which features live race updates, rider background and full race results. More information on all of the ways to watch is available at www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.
STAGE 2 TOMORROW, PRESENTED BY VISIT CALIFORNIA:
Monday, May 13 – Murrieta to Greater Palm Springs (124.1 mi/199.7 km)
Start Time: 10:20 a.m. PT
Estimated Finish Time: 3:48 p.m. PT
Satellite Feed Time: 4:50 – 5 p.m. PT
(Coordinates can be found at https://www.amgentourofcalifornia.com/news/media-info.html)
Murrieta is well versed in hosting cycling races. It has been the host city for the popular Tour of Murrieta for several years. This stage will incorporate an entirely new part of California for the race. We will head south through Temecula Valley Wine Country. The riders will then tackle the climb up the San Jacinto Mountains to the small hamlet of Idyllwild (one of the most well-known mountain biking towns in the USA). The race will then descend into Coachella Valley and the towns of Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Cathedral City and Palm Springs. The finale of the stage will be contested on the slopes of Tram Way, a 3.6 mile climb near the northern entrance to the Coachella Valley that averages over 9% gradient. This intermediate length climb is expected to produce the first shakeup in the general classification.