Last year, they came, and the city especially the cycling fans rejoiced.
This year, they're coming back again. On Feb. 22, the eight-day, 700-mile Amgen Tour of California will send 18 professional teams from Seaside to San Luis Obispo, where they'll mark the end of the fourth stage of the competition.
- PHOTO BY CRAIG SHAFER
- SPEED MACHINES : Brian Sheedy, left, and Garrett Peltonen are members of Team Priority Health, a Michigan-based team training for the Amgen Tour of California in the Santa Maria Valley. Cyclists will make their way to San Luis Obispo on Feb. 22.
# Professional cycling is steadily gaining popular ground in the United States. Dave Towle a longtime cycling supporter and the announcer for the Amgen Tour of California, every Tour de Georgia, and the USPRO Championships said that there are now more cyclists registered with USA Cycling, the competitive organization that governs U.S. cycling, than ever before.
The Amgen Tour of California has, in one year, arguably become the largest and most important race in the American season. The teams are evenly split into competitors on the Union Cycliste International (UCI) Pro Tour and those who race predominantly in the United States.
Last year's overall team winner, CSC, is back again this year, along with top European teams, the best cyclists in the United States, and even Italy's Paolo Bettini a world champion, no less in his first U.S. race.
For some American teams, this race is one of their only shots at competing against UCI teams, making it one of the biggest if not the biggest race of the year.
Once they enter San Luis Obispo County, this year's competing cyclists will follow a route south on Highway 1 through Cambria, Cayucos, and Morro Bay. After Cuesta College, they'll whiz along O'Connor Way and Foothill Boulevard to the finish line in San Luis Obispo.
About a week before the tour was to arrive, the California Highway Patrol announced a list of long-term road closures and possible alternate routes. The patrol will use signs and changeable message boards to let motorists know about possible delays.
If you need to get around on four wheels instead of two on Feb. 22, keep the following in mind:
Highway 1 northbound will be closed from Ragged Point to Monterey from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and southbound should face delays of up to four hours between Monterey and Ragged Point from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Highway 1 northbound will close at Cayucos Drive from 1 to 2:30 p.m.
Foothill Boulevard will be closed between Los Osos Valley Road and San Luis Obispo city limits for 40 minutes, starting at 3 p.m.
There will be other closures as well, and for much of the above, the actual closure time depends on race progress, and could be delayed by an hour.
Rich Ogden with the San Luis Obispo Parks and Recreation Department is still looking for volunteers to help at the event, mostly as course marshals to ensure that the course is safe at all times. He's looking for people to help between 1 and 4 p.m. on Feb. 22. Volunteers will receive a free Tour of California T-shirt. Contact Ogden at 781-7305.
In honor of the tour, visitors can attend a health and lifestyle festival in Mission Plaza on Feb. 22 from noon to 5 p.m. The local health and wellness expo will begin after the awards ceremony and continue through Farmers' Market.
Union Bank of California a founding sponsor of the tour is inviting members of the public to watch live coverage of the race Feb. 20 through 24 on the local branch's plasma screen. Show up at 1144 Morro Street in San Luis Obispo between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Feb. 20, 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Feb. 21, 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 22, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Feb. 23 (for the Solvang time trials), and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Feb. 24. ?