The Amgen Tour, the largest U.S. bike race, heads to Santa Cruz. Why local cyclist are stoked about the event.
February 12, 2009
Good Times Weekly, Vol 34. No. 43
By Karen Kefauver
Andy and Ben Jacques-Maynes have been racing each other from the start.
In 1978, Andy squeezed past Ben to win their first event-entering the world five minutes ahead of his identical twin. The brothers have been super competitive ever since.
"Andy was my constant companion growing up in Berkeley," says Ben. "My brother and I were always pushing each other to expand our abilities on the bike. Every hilltop became a race, every downhill corner an opportunity to pass."
Fast forward 30 years and the muscle bound, dark-haired duo still pushes each other to the max now that they are professional cyclists competing at the top level of their sport. Both Santa Cruz County residents, the pair often trains together, riding four or five hours a day averaging 80 to 120 miles, depending on the terrain.
"It's not a real bike ride if I don't go through three counties," Ben says, ticking off Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties as training grounds that help him log 15,000 miles a year in the saddle.
The twins' rigorous training will be tested in the largest and most prestigious pro cycling event in the United Sates, the AMGEN Tour of California [TOC], which begins Saturday, Feb. 14 in Sacramento and ends Feb. 22 in Escondido. The grueling, nine-day stage race spans more than 800 miles, nearly the length of California. It also includes a Women's Criterium, taking place Sunday, Feb. 15 in Santa Rosa.
Sixteen cities were selected as the start and finish points for the daily races. For the first time, Santa Cruz will host a stage of the three-year-old race. Thousands of spectators will witness world-class road bike racing when Stage 2 of the Tour of California rolls into town Monday, Feb. 15 (Presidents' Day). A 115.9-mile race, Stage 2 begins in Sausalito, crosses the Golden Gate Bridge and zips down Highway 1 to Santa Cruz. The pros will attack a steep climb on Bonny Doon Road, descend Empire Grade at hair-raising speeds and finish with a gut-busting sprint on Front and Cooper streets in downtown Santa Cruz.
"It's my hometown race," says Andy Jacques-Maynes, a UC-Berkeley graduate who lives in Watsonville. "I get to ride roads I have known for a long time. I've trained and raced here -it's pretty killer! I travel so much for races, it's great to have everyone here cheering."
The Jacques-Mayneses will represent Santa Cruz in the strongest field of cyclists ever assembled for a U.S. road race. The 136-rider pack is a veritable who's who of Olympians and world champions. The star-studded TOC line-up includes seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, who recently returned to cycling after a three-year retirement; Levi Leipheimer of Santa Rosa, the two-time defending champion of the Tour of California; and Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, winner of 2008's Olympic gold medal in individual time trial. In a dramatic recent development, American Floyd Landis, stripped of his .2006 Tour de France title due to doping charges, will return to pro cycling at the Tour of California after serving a two-year suspension from the sport.
"It's an amazing year for us to host the race," says Jennifer Karno, coordinator of the Local Organizing Committee for the TOC. An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 spectators will watch the race in Santa Cruz, boosting hotel occupancy and sales tax income. Revenue projections for the city have not yet been calculated but are expected to offset the $100,000 the city allocated for race expenses. For the state of California, last year's tour generated $100 million.
"Santa Cruz businesses and the community have been really responsive in sponsorship and donations," adds Mary Alsip, a City of Santa Cruz employee who runs the Peloton Club, the booster club for the TOC.
Karno and other committee members have worked for months to organize community cycling events lsee sidebarl as well as race logistics with race presenters AEG. 'This will really showcase Santa Cruz and our tremendous cycling community. There's so much talent here," Karno says.
That local talent includes pro cyclist Brooke Miller of Santa Cruz, the defending champion of the Women's Criterium and current U.S. National Champion in road and criterium cycling. A member of Team TIBCO, Miller will race to defend her TOC title Feb. 15 in Santa Rosa, in conjunction with Stage 1 of the race.
"IT'S MY HOMETOWN RACE. I GET TO RIDE ROADS I HAVE KNOWN FOR A LONG TIME. I'VE TRAINED AND RACED HERE-IT'S PRETTY KILLER! I TRAVEL SO MUCH FOR RACES, IT'S GREAT TO HAVE EVERYONE HERE CHEERING." – ANDY JACQUES-MAYNES
THERE ARE MORE THAN 30 BICYCLE-RELATED BUSINESSES IN SANTA CRUZ COUNTY. THEY EMPLOY MORE THAN 600 PEOPLE AND GENERATE $150 MILLION IN ANNUAL SALES." – PIET CANIN
"The pressure will be on," admits Miller, 32, who earned her doctorate degree in Evolutionary Biology at UC Santa Cruz. Her race, an action-packed one hour, will be on a flat, fast course. "This is a high-profile race," she adds. "If everyone comes out with their guns blazing, it will be very hard."
For the City of Santa Cruz, securing Stage 2 of TOC was the result of years of planning and campaigning. Matt Twisselman, chairman of the TOC's ' Local Organizing Committee, and Tina Shull of the City of Santa Cruz, worked three years on the application to put Santa Cruz on the TOC.
"We are so honored to host the race," says Twisselman, an avid cyclist who runs a family concession business at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, He is quick to share credit with many others who have played key roles in bringing the race to Santa Cruz, including Jim Gentes, founder of Giro helmets, Steve Johnson, a bike industry insider, Piet Canin of Ecology Action and' Ben Jacques-Maynes who helped design the race route.
"So many people have volunteered their time because they are passionate about cycling," Twisselman adds, noting that on race day, more than 400 trained, local volunteers will lend a hand.
"The race will showcase cycling, which is a wonderful part of our culture and economy," said Santa Cruz Mayor Cynthia Mathews. "The Tour of California really puts us on the map because it's a world-class event with international exposure. The event is also a good fit with the city because we have had a bike program for decades-it's an important part of the lifestyle here and is part of what attracts people to Santa Cruz.'"
This isn't the first time Santa Cruz has been, recognized for its cycling culture-the city was the Silver winner of the Bicycle Friendly Award in 2007 by the League of American Bicyclists. The county is also recognized as a home to numerous cycling industry leaders and innovators-Fox Racing Shox and Bell/Giro helmets, among others. There is also a growing collection of independent, bike frame builders including Craig Calfee of Calfee Cycles, Paul Sadoff of Rock Lobster, Rick Hunter of Hunter Cycles and John Caletti of Caletti Cycles. Their craft of building custom bike frames is being honored in several downtown exhibits in conjunction with the Tour of California. In addition, the city boasts its own bike coordinator on the staff, actively promotes bicycling as alternative transportation through urban planning and has a Bike Week that is more than 20 years old.
"There are more than 30 bicycle-related businesses in Santa Cruz County," says Piet Canin, who is active with the Santa Cruz County Bicycle Coalition. "They employ more than 600 people and generate $150 million in annual sales."
For Santa Cruz, having the Tour of California means uniting the community. "This is an event for everyone- families as well as cycling fans," says Lisa McGinnis with the City of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Department. 'We invite everyone to participate."
Cyclists and non-cyclists alike can rally for superstar cancer survivor Lance Armstrong and cheer especially loudly for home¬town pros Like Brooke Miller and the Jacques-Mayneses, the only twins on the Tour of California.
"Having a stunt double pays off every once in a while," Laughs Ben, whose wife, Goldi, and two young daughters, will be amongst the cheering throngs. Their large fan club, including Andy's wife, Josie, is called the ".Jacques-Mayniacs."
As for which twin finishes first? Andy tends to be the stronger sprinter, while Ben excels in the hills. Despite their competitiveness, the twins' camaraderie is even stronger. They agree that a win for one of them is a win for them both.
For more information on the race, visit the City of Santa Cruz's official TOC website, tourofcalifornia-santacruz.com and the Facebook.com group page: 2009 AMGEN Tour of California, Santa Cruz.
Karen Kefauver is a freelance journalist specializing in stories on adventure travel and endurance sports for print and online publications. Her stories have appeared in Velo News, Triathlete and Her Sports, among others. She has more cycling stories at karenkefauver.com