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Santa Cruz Sentinel
May 19, 2010

SANTA CRUZ — At the finish line in front of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, spectators crowded 10 deep to watch the climactic ending of Stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of the California on Tuesday.

The Tour of California is an eight-day, 810-mile professional bike race that ends Sunday in Thousand Oaks. Tuesday, the competition traveled from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, where the most fanatical of cycling enthusiasts staked out their spots hours before the racers were expected.

The crowds leaned over the orange fencing, cameras in hand, striving to record the excitement of the best pro racers in the world sprinting for the win.

And there were no umbrellas in sight.

“I am so glad the rain stopped after last night,” said Bart Coddington, a member of the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club and a Tour of California volunteer. “It’s so much better with the sun.”

Coddington remembered the rain that greeted fans and racers last February, the first time the Tour of California came through Santa Cruz. Despite a light drizzle Monday night, the weather cooperated on race day and organizers said they were pleased that the roads dried in time for safer cycling.

The 113.3-mile Stage 3 race started in San Francisco and blasted down West Cliff Drive after the peloton’s approximately seven-mile climb up Bonny Doon Road. David Zabriskie of the Garmin Transitions team captured the victory with a time of 4 hours, 26 minutes, 10 seconds.

Competitors MichaelRogers [HTC-Columbia] and Levi Leipheimer [Radioshack] were only a hair behind. Peter Sagan followed in fourth place. The rest of the peloton charged into the finish area with equally deafening cheering and cowbells clanging moments later.

“This is so thrilling,” said Mary Alsip, who was decked out in a golden feather boa.

Alsip, who is the coordinator of the Peloton Club — a booster club for Stage 3 — said she thought the finish-line frenzy was even greater than last year.

“Cycling fans are out in force,” she said.

In addition to the ideal weather, there was race drama when the three overall favorites broke away together on the critical Bonny Doon climb. The trio pushed full force toward the finish line as a determined pack closed to within a handful of seconds of them.

“It was an amazing finish,” said Nils Tikkanen, a competitive cyclist who races with Team Bicycle Trip. He managed to squeeze in his own training ride before watching the race from the Peloton Club.

As a racer, he said he appreciated the work required to charge over the finish line.

Zabriskie, the reigning national time trial champion, attacked the others with less than a kilometer to go and held them off. He captured the win and a 10-second bonus that put him into the overall lead, displacing Brett Lancaster [Cervelo TestTeam].

“This is my favorite race on the calendar,” Zabriskie said at a press conference following the race.

He smiled when talking about winning the surfboard, which was a special Santa Cruz prize awarded to the winner of Stage 3.

“It’s iconic of Santa Cruz,” said Matt Twisselman, noting that designer Judi Oyama and shaper Doug Haut put a lot of effort into the custom surfboard’s design and creation.

At the finish line, Cindy Jewell summed it up: “The crowds were loud and had a blast — what a great day for Santa Cruz.”

The fifth annual Tour of California continues to day with Stage 4, a 121.5-mile race from San Jose to Modesto.

For more information visit: www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.

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