Amgen Tour of California Returns to Long Beach Mother’s Day With Circuit Race

Photos by Asia Morris. Route map courtesy of the City of Long Beach. The Long Beach Circuit Race is 83.6 miles and 12 laps.

Local cyclists, Amgen Tour of California President Kristin Klein, Vice Mayor Rex Richardson, Long Beach “Bicycle Ambassador” Tony Cruz, Second District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce and other officials revealed this morning the Long Beach Circuit for Stage 1 of the tour, to take place Sunday, May 13.

Returning to Long Beach since the city hosted the overall race finish in 2007, the official first stage of the 2018 Amgen Tour of California will be a 7-mile circuit to start and finish on Shoreline Drive near Shoreline Village and the Long Beach Convention Center. The circuit will use portions of Shoreline Drive, Ocean Boulevard and Pine Avenue, as well as Bixby Park, Bluff Park, Retro Row and downtown areas.

Tony Cruz is the current program specialist for the city’s Department of Public Works and one of the officials who has been working with AEG, owner and presenter of the 13th annual race, over the past six months to help bring the tour to Long Beach. The former professional cyclist played a part in designing the course and said he hopes to generate local excitement over the major stage race.

“Because we have such a strong cycling region here in California, I wanted our clubs and local riders to be able to come out and hang out and watch the race, watch their favorite racers go by as many times as possible,” Cruz said. “I think we have the top three sprinters right now in the world, they’re coming here, so this is a perfect sprinter stage and I wanted our local riding community to get to see this and experience it. I’m super excited.”

Indeed, three of the sport’s best sprinters are confirmed to race: Mark Cavendish (Team Dimension Data), Marcel Kittel (Team KATUSHA ALPECIN) and “King of California” Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe), the first three-time consecutive world champion who also holds the California race record for the most stage wins (16), AEG announced today.

Amgen Tour of California to Kick Off in Long Beach

Sagan will begin the Amgen TOC defending his seventh California Green Jersey for the tour’s overall sprint competition against 30-time Tour de France stage winner Cavendish, and Kittel, who won the opening stage of the TOC in 2017. A field sprint is expected for the finish of the Long Beach circuit, so spectators crowding the start/finish line near Shoreline Village should be in for an exciting showdown.

Unfortunately, those watching the tour in Long Beach will not get to see the start of the women’s tour. Local fans will have to wait (and travel) to see the world’s best women cyclists compete during The Amgen Tour of California Women’s Race empowered with SRAM, which kicks off later in the week on Thursday, May 17 in Elk Grove and finishes in Sacramento on Saturday, May 19. The women will race upwards of 187 miles over three stages, compared to the 645 miles and seven stages of the men’s race, which also ends on May 19.

Presented by Visit California, check out the visual overview of both the men’s and women’s courses here.

Attendees, tour and city officials were escorted by police around the block to participate in a mock race following the route announcement.

Kerstin Kansteiner, owner of Portfolio Coffeehouse, which is located on the corner where the circuit makes a left turn onto Retro Row, was at the press conference, which took place in front of her business, following a meeting with members of the 4th Street Business Association.

“We were finally able to tell them that this is happening and[…] everyone was super excited about it,” Kansteiner told the Post. “Even the typical naysayers were like, ‘I don’t care, it brings people, this is awesome’. I know it’s Mother’s Day—even the restaurants [said] ‘we don’t care there’s going to be so many people, here we love it.’ So everyone is in favor.”

This is in contrast to what local news outlets reported last month, that Shoreline Village area restaurants were less than excited that the tour was taking place on Mother’s Day, especially with the initial route restricting some access to waterfront eateries during one of their most profitable days. The finalized route announced this morning is a revised version following the Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA)’s request for revisions to the course among other changes.

“Mother’s Day is Super Bowl Sunday for most restaurateurs and their employees, so the concerns, beyond changing the race date, were mostly addressed with a series of discussions with city staff and stakeholders from the area,” Kraig Kojian, president and CEO of the DLBA, told the Post in an email.

Not using Broadway west of Alamitos Avenue and expanding the ingress and egress on all downtown streets involved with the course were revisions that were made, allowing the course to be shared and for two-way vehicular traffic on Ocean Boulevard west of Alamitos, Pine Avenue south of Ocean to the Pine Avenue Circle and Shoreline Drive west of Shoreline Village Drive, Kojian said.

“Accommodations were also made to alter the start time of the race and promote all parking opportunities through enhanced signage,” Kojian said. “Having addressed these logistical challenges leads us now to create a marketing campaign with our partners to promote the waterfront destination and the businesses in the area that strongly believe in delivering an exceptional customer experience – both for their regular and local clientele, as well as to all the visitors to the event.”

As a former pro tour rider and U.S national champion who has competed in multiple world championships, world cups and international tours, as well as four Amgen TOCs and as the city’s “Bike Ambassador”, Cruz voiced during the press conference that he was tearing up slightly as memories of his own professional racing career seemed to come full circle.

“I think it’s a dream for a lot of riders to have either a world cup, a classic or a major stage race come to their hometown. You get to compete in it, try and put on a good showing for family, friends, the community, and your city, the place that you love,” Cruz told the Post afterward, speaking on his experience as a competitor. “Now it’s a different kind of emotion where I get to showcase the place that I love and invite the cycling community to come to my city. It’s just reliving those cool memories of racing and adding to them.”

For more information on the Amgen Tour of California, visit the website here.

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.