SCV NEWSMAKERS OF THE WEEK:
Watch Program Rick Gould
Parks Director, City of Santa Clarita
and Michael Roth
VP-Communications, AEG
AMGEN TOUR OF CALIFORNIA


Michael Roth
Michael Roth
Interview by Leon Worden
Signal Senior Editor

Sunday, February 4, 2007
(Television interview conducted January 31, 2007)

Signal: What is the Amgen Tour of California?

Roth: The Amgen Tour of California is a cycling road race, a 750-mile race. It's modeled after the Tour de France. We start on Feb. 18 in San Francisco and spend the next eight days racing, including a race-through and then a stop in Santa Clarita on Saturday, Feb. 24.

Signal: How long has the Tour been held?

Roth: This is just the second year that we've run the race. We made some modifications the first year, based on a number of things, beginning with: We wanted to make the most challenging course for our riders. We had the best riders in the world, the best teams in the world, our representatives from Discovery to CSC and Toyota and all the teams that you've heard of, probably, watching the Tour de France.
    With some of the climbs and some of the time trials we had, it worked out perfectly to come through Santa Clarita. And then we find what an invigorated area this is, and how many cyclists not only live here but train here, and it just seemed like a natural to come into a town where people will support it — because there are so many people who understand road cycling and want to come out and not only watch the racing, but (also) meet the cyclists.

Signal: What did the city do to talk these people into bringing the Tour to Santa Clarita?

Gould: Well, we saw the obvious benefit. The city has had a focus on sports tourism for some time, and we knew that not only is it a great event and it fits within the "healthy" concept of the city, but it also was an economic development engine; it fills hotel rooms and restaurants. So there was a natural benefit to the city. It promoted our goals, our aims, and the economic side of it was obviously of interest. We've really been looking for events like this to support the community as a whole.

Signal: So this is going to draw a significant number of spectators?


Rick Gould
Rick Gould
Gould: Michael tells us we should expect about 100,000 people on race day. To put that into context, if you've been to the Fourth of July fireworks at Town Center, that's about 25,000 people. So this is a big deal.

Signal: How many people does the Tour draw overall?

Roth: Last year, our first year, with exceptional weather all eight days, we had 1.3 million people come out and support the race during one—

Signal: For a first-time event?

Roth: Yes. You know, we were told how many cycling enthusiasts there were in the state of California, and we were told how many people would travel to watch a race like this — because we just don't have many races of this stature and caliber anywhere in the United States. We were told that, but then it was an amazing sight, the first couple days. But we really got used to it. Coming into a town and seeing tens of thousands of people — and 100,000 people in one day along course is just astounding, and they're all so appreciative and they know the racers. But really, it's being part and witnessing a world-class competition.

Signal: To have 1.3 million people come out to a first-time event — did that blow you away?

Roth: It blew us away. I'll tell you, the first day in San Francisco last year, we did the Prologue, which is a type of a time trial. We started by the Embarcadero and they raced against the clock up to Coit Tower. There were nearly 100,000 people on the route that day. Just everybody in San Francisco wanted to watch.
    But the next day, the first actual stage — we were following the same course (as) this year for the first couple of days — and it went from Sausalito to Santa Rosa. We came into Santa Rosa with over 130,000 people that day. I mean, there were people hanging on buildings and on rooftops and on streets and in parking lots and standing on cars. And having never been to an event like this before, personally, I was amazed. I was as much enthused with the crowd as I was with the racers.
    And then the Peloton, which is the pack of cyclists — when a couple hundred cyclists come riding by at speeds over 50 mph, it was absolutely astounding: the grace, the speed, the beauty, but just how close these cyclists were on a city street, racing against each other for a couple of circuits around the town.

Signal: It didn't come through Santa Clarita last year; where did it go?

Roth: Last year, on our way down, the same day — the same Saturday before the last day — we started off in Santa Barbara, as we will this year. Last year, we ended in Thousand Oaks.
    We decided that we would be able to expose the race to a different group of people — it's a lot of the same ones, but more people — and the way it worked into the race, with the different kind of climbs that we'll have this time, we just thought it was more challenging for the riders.
    We fully expect, on this Saturday, to be all-out racing. Because the last day will be just a circuit race around Long Beach. So there will be actual jockeying for position all day long on Saturday with these race teams and the individual racers, looking to see where they're going to place for Sunday before the finish.

Signal: How does the race work? It's not like one big, long race straight through from San Francisco to Long Beach with overnight stops in each city, right?

Roth: No. There are some scenarios where, for example, on (Sunday, Feb. 18), we will start in San Francisco and do the Prologue, and then people will — what we call "transfer" the next morning, and it's not so far away. They'll get in their vehicles and go to Sausalito, which is just 20 to 25 minutes away. Start from Sausalito and go to Santa Rosa.
    And then from Santa Rosa, we will actually start in Santa Rosa and go to Sacramento. But then there will be a transfer the next morning from Sacramento to our next city (Stockton). So they'll have to travel to Stockton before they start—

Signal: So they pick up and drive from Sacramento to Stockton?

Roth: Absolutely. And when they get done here, they'll actually pick up and drive that night down to Long Beach so (that) they'll be there in Long Beach the next day to start out.
    But there were a couple of days last year where we'd be staying at the same hotels as the riders, and I'd be getting in my car, driving from the hotel to the start line, and alongside of me are the cyclists getting on their bicycles and cycling the 10 minutes to the start, just as a way of warming up.

Signal: On the day it comes here, Saturday, Feb. 24, they'll start in Santa Barbara and ride to a finish line in Santa Clarita?

Roth: That's correct.

Signal: What roads are being used?

Gould: The stage starts in Santa Barbara at 11 a.m., and they'll work the back roads through Santa Barbara County up into Ojai, then drop down into Santa Paula and cross the 126—

Signal: All those curvy roads back there?

Gould: Yes, and those nice hill climbs in there. There are actually four "King of the Mountain" stages, which are hill climbs, and you get points and awards for those parts of the race. They'll drop down into Moorpark, and then from Moorpark, come back down the curvy Highway 23, and then work their way out (Highway) 126 through Fillmore, Piru, and eventually come into Santa Clarita at the 126 and (Interstate) 5.
    There will be some impact on our roads. ... They're coming into the (Valencia) Industrial Center on the west side at the 5 and the 126, coming down Avenue Stanford, turning onto Avenue Scott, and then onto McBean Parkway.
    Once they get onto McBean Parkway, they'll make their way down to Town Center, and then they're going to do three laps of a 3.1-mile circuit around the Town Center area. The streets are McBean Parkway, Valencia Boulevard, Tourney (Road) and Magic Mountain (Parkway) — basically going around the Hyatt and Valencia Country Club.

Signal: So on that Saturday, are people advised to stay off the roads?

Gould: Absolutely not. We want them to come into town. We'd like them to come to the race — and there are actually festivities that begin at noon. The racers won't arrive until around 2:45 p.m., but we want them to come down to the Lifestyle Festival — and Michael has seen them, I haven't, so you can ask Michael about the Lifestyle Festival. But there's a whole series of events taking place all day — for the families, for people to participate in, in anticipation of the riders coming. But we will have significant road closures.

Signal: Will Highways 126 and 23 be closed?

Gould: What they do is — the best way I can describe it is a moving train. It's like a train coming down the tracks. You can be behind the train, and you can be in front of the train, but you won't want to be there when the train's there. So this moving caravan of cars and cyclists and sag wagons and all kinds of stuff will move with California Highway Patrol and Ventura County Sheriffs and L.A. County Sheriffs.

Signal: Sort of like a presidential motorcade coming through.

Gould: Absolutely. That's another good description, a presidential motorcade. And that'll be pretty much what you'll see through the Industrial Center. It won't be until you get to McBean and Magic Mountain that you'll begin to see hard road closures.

Signal: When do those closures take effect?

Gould: The biggest one, and the most significant traffic impact in Santa Clarita, will be a 24-hour closure of McBean Parkway beginning the Friday night before the race, from Magic Mountain Parkway to Valencia — that one stretch there, between Town Center and the Hyatt hotel. That will be closed, and there will be detours. You'll be able to get to the freeway, or you'll be able to go around on Citrus Avenue or San Fernando Road, obviously, as an alternative.
    We'll be doing a lot of noticing of our residents, and this is another opportunity for me to say: Plan ahead. Look at the routes. We're sending notification to every resident in the Santa Clarita Valley about the closures, but we'd still like you to come down to the event, come out and experience something that you may not see again. A true national sporting event.

Signal: It's a concentrated time period when there is actual racing in Santa Clarita, right?

Gould: That's correct. I would say that there's probably racing for about 30 minutes while they're here in Santa Clarita.

Roth: And it's nice: As you're on the course, if you're one of the circuit-goers who takes the laps, you'll see the Peloton come by once — but then you get ready and now you're in a position to really know what you're going to see the second time. Because the first time, it will take you by surprise — the speed and the number of riders and how close they are — but by the second and third times, you'll not only be able to really know what's coming toward you and going through, but I believe you'll see cyclists, toward the end, trying to pass each other. Race cars passing (each other) is one thing, but seeing these guys (at) 50 mph on cycles passing each other is really quite amazing.

Signal: People are going to be able to line up around the Town Center area and watch them go by a couple of times?

Roth: Line up anywhere you want. You'll find that people will line up early in the day and watch some of the racing, and then speed up and get ahead of them and see them again. You'll have people seeing them two or three times. And then there are people who will be sort of behind it, and try at the very last minute to cut in front. But if you're out here early enough, you'll get the best spot.
    And if you're out here early enough, we do have the Lifestyle Festival presented by HealthNet. It's a nice thing to do, to come out early, relax a little bit, and go through some of the displays. We have displays on different types of healthful living; some of the cycling manufacturers show the new cycles and equipment that's coming out. We have some testing on healthy issues, we have some food that'll be offered there, and it's really just a nice day to share with people who have the same interests as you do, or learn some new interests, learn what you're going to see.
    We also have a stage, and on stage we have specific announcers who (know) what's going on in the race. They'll have updates via walkie-talkies and earpieces, so they'll be able to talk through what you're going to see.
    We have two huge television monitors, so there will be part of the race action that you'll be able to see.

Signal: Where will those be set up?

Gould: They'll be located out in the middle of McBean Parkway. (They are) huge, big-screen TVs, so while you're enjoying the Lifestyle Festival, you can glance up and you'll be able to see the riders in Santa Paula, let's say, for example, and have a sense of where the race is staging.

Roth: When the race is over, you'll also see on the screen — we don't just pick up and leave quite yet. We do have an awards ceremony where there are presentations made to the riders who have won the stage.

Signal: In Santa Clarita?

Roth: In Santa Clarita. On the stage there.

Signal: But the race won't be over yet—

Roth: Yes, but each stage is a race unto itself. So winners of each stage of the race are awarded, and we'll also pay tribute to whoever is leading the race, what team is leading the race at that point. We'll bring you up to speed and give you a little preview of what's going to happen the next day.

Signal: Tell us about the teams that are participating.

Roth: Well, I think the most popular team is the Discovery Channel team; that was the team that Lance Armstrong rode for, for so many years.
    HealthNet has a team; CSC won our event last year — Computer Sciences Co. We have Toyota — I think Toyota won the sprint last year that came into Thousand Oaks. Team Kodak; there are a lot of teams that I think you'll recognize if you watch the Tour de France. (Some are) sponsored by banks and they're sponsored by other cycling companies...

Signal: And Amgen is a biomed company; why is Amgen the title sponsor?

Roth: Well, it was important to Amgen. They're into athletics, they're into healthful living, they want to show that their drugs, which are very, very important when they're taken properly. (Amgen produces) things that are prescribed daily and supplements that are taken that are very important when taken the right way.
    But to Amgen, it is more — it's important, giving back to the community as well. Part of Amgen's participation was to guarantee money made for charities. The wellness community benefited by over $1.3 million last year in money raised. It's a very moving story: Some people who were part of the presentations, coming out, who are cancer survivors — you may not even know some of your neighbors who are part of the wellness community, but they are part of the presentations, and they're quite amazing stories that I think everybody is very moved by seeing.

Signal: There might be some confusion about the name; some people might assume that Amgen owns the Tour, but it doesn't. It's actually your company, AEG — what is AEG?

Roth: I think when you hear a lot of things that we were involved with, you say, "Oh, that's who those guys are."
    AEG began in Los Angeles by purchasing the Los Angeles Kings hockey franchise in the NHL, and we built Staples Center. We started right here at the Staples Center, and (we will welcome) our 25 millionth guest this year, and the Grammys will be just concluding at Staples Center before the race starts.
    But you know us from Staples Center; you know us from the Los Angeles Galaxy, that we also own, and a certain international soccer star, David Beckham, who's coming to play for us this year. We own other (Major League Soccer) franchises; we own other buildings — we're actually going to be opening up a building in London, an arena in London, much like Staples Center, come June.
    Our concert division has had concerts recently that you may have attended, such as Prince or Justin Timberlake or Paul McCartney. We're the second-largest concert touring company in the world.

Signal: So, why cycling? Is there a market for it in California?

Roth: We believe in a lot of the sports and a lot of live programming that maybe hasn't gotten the attention that we believe it should have. Doing our research for several years before we launched the race, we didn't realize that there was a tremendous call for cycling. There are so many people who watch the Tour de France, and as borne out by the race last year, in our very first year with over 1.3 million people attending, there is a tremendous amount of cyclists.
    And it's a terrific sport. It's a sport that the whole community participates in. It's a sport that makes it easy to raise money for charity, which is one of our initiatives in everything we do. And we just thought that it was a great way to promote our state, as well. This is where we have our corporate offices.
    When you think about it, we will have over 14 hours of prime-time programming this year, and Versus, which was the OLN (Outdoor Life) network until they changed their name — they had the Tour de France, and other than Tour de France, it'll be (more) cycling coverage in an eight-day period than any time throughout the year, and they do such a tremendous job of covering the sport.
    I'll also say that if you don't know a lot about cycling, tune in (to Versus) every night before the race gets to Santa Clarita and watch how they explain the sport, and you'll be able to see some of the stories about the riders who are taking the lead — I think you'll find that being the seventh day or the eighth day of the race, if you watch Versus for a couple of nights, you'll be able to see your neighbors and point out some of the riders, point out George Hincapie and things that he has overcome, or knowing that Hincapie rode for so many years with Lance Armstrong. You'll know all these backstories and maybe somebody (else) won't, and you'll be the cycling expert on your block.

Signal: When I think sports in Santa Clarita, I think high school football — and nowadays, Saugus girls cross country — and lots of kids play soccer. How strong do you see cycling here? It seems like a rather small niche.

Gould: There's a large group of cyclists (here). There are a couple of bicycle clubs. Santa Clarita Velo is one of the strongest clubs; they're participating with us in this effort on the local organizing front.
    But one of the things that I think gets missed in Santa Clarita is how much effort the city has put into its Class-1 bike trails, and trails all across the city. You may not realize it, but you can pretty much get across a 50-square-mile city right now on Class-1 bike trails and never have to cross a major intersection (because of) the Santa Clara River commuter trail and many of the other trails that we're building. And those trails continue to be added on a daily basis. Our statistics tell us that there are over 200,000 bicycle trips on those trails a year. And it's a part of a healthy lifestyle. It's a part of getting people out of cars and saving gasoline. It's better for our environment, and it's also a great way for family recreation.
    That's why so many of the things with the Tour really fit with Santa Clarita. It's one of the reasons we're having a Family Ride before the Tour. You'll be able to come out and actually, with your kids, ride a "led" casual tour on some of the city's bike trails, that will actually finish under the Finish banner of the Tour's sixth stage.

Signal: How do people find out about that?

Gould: The city's Web site (www-santa-clarita.com) is the best access point, which will also access you to the Amgen Tour of California Web site (AmgenTourOfCalifornia.com).

Signal: Can the public sign up, right up until race day?

Gould: Absolutely. You can sign up that day. And there are options, too. If you have little ones who can only go three miles, you can do that (race), or you can do a 5-mile or a 7-mile. Each one of those will actually finish right there underneath the Amgen Finish banner. Then they stay for the Lifestyle Festival, experience all the great things that Michael has talked about, and then watch the riders coming into town. It really is going to be a fabulous day.

Signal: Are any local people participating in the Tour itself?

Gould: I don't believe there are any local riders at that level. There are a number of California-based teams, and I think the closest riders I'm aware of are out of the San Luis Obispo area.

Signal: What is the criteria? How do you become a rider in the Tour?

Roth: Like any other sport, like track and field — although most high schools I know have actual teams that compete against other high schools — but if you show that you have a great desire and ability to become a world-class cyclist, there are cycling clubs that you can join and be part of, and learn from the more experienced riders. It's a matter of finding where these races are.
    There are races all over the state, all over the country every weekend, and it's entering these stages, these races, and becoming better at what you do like any sport.

Signal: So there are qualifiers for this?

Roth: There are qualifiers to become what would be called an elite cyclist. Once you become an elite cyclist, you know the 25 or 30 best teams in the world, and the ones that are in the country; you contact them, and these teams have tryouts periodically. It's one of those things that if you're at that level and you can work up to that level, they'll find you as easily as you can find them, because they're obviously always looking for people to augment their team.

Signal: Do you decide who gets to enter the Tour?

Roth: We offer invitations to the 18 professional teams that are in our race. We've invited them and they've agreed to join us.
    This is a very important time of the year. It's the first major, big stage race of the year, leading up to the Tour de France. So the teams want to see, after their winter training is over, they want to see where the teams are. They want to see how fit the riders are. A lot of (teams) are having new riders come and join their team. Discovery did almost an entirely new team this year. They didn't finish first (last year), which is tough for them, so they reconstituted their team. Everybody wants to see the big race of the year, how their team stacks up to the other teams.
    So we're going to see the best riders in the teams, including Ivan Basso, who will be racing in our race, which we didn't have last year. We created such a great event last year that the cyclists were talking about it amongst themselves. Some of the cyclists who chose to pass last year and had other team members ride, wanted to come to this because of how the teams are treated, and also because of the route that the teams will take and how challenging it's going to be.

Signal: Are there similar bicycle tours elsewhere in the United States?

Roth: Yes. We, truly, after last year, became not only probably the best known, but the most challenging and the most important and significant race in the country. But there are several others, beginning with the Tour de Georgia, which is a long-standing race. In Missouri, they are launching a new one in Missouri; there's one in Canada. There are probably about half a dozen races that are approaching our standard.
    But we just were reclassified by the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale), which is the international body, this year, with an even higher classification rating. It shows that even in one year, with the time, effort and money that AEG invested in this race, that we've created a happening that not only does the state of California take notice to, but the nation and the world is taking notice to, because of the caliber of the riders and the teams that are in this year, and also the coverage on the Versus network. The time that they're devoting is because this race is so important and so significant.

Signal: Something we heard out of the last Tour de France — and as you see in some other professional sports — are questions about doping. What are you doing to make sure riders aren't using performance-enhancing drugs?

Roth: Because we are a race that is overseen by the UCI, we have to follow the drug testing standards that they have set up, that every international race goes by. We gladly follow that. The riders and the teams gladly follow that. And really, we set those as our minimum standards because we go above and beyond the testing that's done in almost every way and occasion.
    Last year, every single rider who was tested during the Amgen Tour of California was tested negative, and we did not have a single issue that was drug- or performance enhancing-related, and we fully expect that this year.
    I think what you'll also find this year is (that) a lot of these teams are putting their own safeguards and testing methods into place this year because these teams understand that this could be a make-or-break year for cycling. The world is looking upon this sport to see if they cleaned up their act; to see if they will have a race that every other sport can look on as a completely clean and respected sport. This is a very important year. We're actually very, very pleased with the feedback we've gotten and what these teams are doing above and beyond, just to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that their riders and their teams are completely clean at the appropriate levels.

Signal: When you say a "make-or-break year" for the sport, do you mean because of what happened with the last Tour de France?

Roth: Some have speculated that although it's a minority of riders who did test positive in the course of the last year or two, that with all the attention — with all the sports, really every sport this year in 2007 needs to police itself and needs to really prove to the world just how clean they are, just how high their standards are, and just how serious it is that they need to not only be clean for themselves and for their sport, but for the kids, especially, who look up to these racers as role models.
    This really is a responsibility. And cyclists, like no other athletes I've seen, take so serious this responsibility. Because they understand that ... every little boy and girl grows up riding a bicycle and ... there are so many people who look to these racers as idols, as heroes, as role models. They take that very seriously.

Signal: Are there any other associated events and activities in Santa Clarita that we haven't covered?

Gould: We covered most of them, but there is one in particular I can release to you now. We've been sort of keeping it under wraps, but because we have a strong contingent of cycling manufacturers here in the Industrial Center, we were able to obtain the opportunity to have Greg LeMond, the three-time winner of the Tour de France, come to Santa Clarita. He is actually going to speak at a dinner that the public is invited to. Obviously it costs a little bit for the ticket, but we'll be having an evening with Greg LeMond and Kozo Shimano, who is part of one of the largest cycling manufacturers in the world, out at Robinson Ranch.
    It will be the night before the race (Friday, Feb. 23). We'll have a gala dinner and remarks from Greg — and a remarkable accomplishment, three-time winner of the Tour de France and really the first American who put cycling on the map in this country.

Signal: What do you want to leave people with?

Roth: Well, any piece of information on the Amgen Tour of California and especially relating to Santa Clarita is on our Web site. You can go through the city's Web site or AmgenTourOfCalifornia.com, including some commemorative bicycles that are made for the event that you can purchase, some actual jerseys that the riders will be wearing, and a whole bunch of information — how to watch the race, what to look for, and how the scoring is done.
    Also, one last thing — the way you're going to be able to track these cyclists, with the technology that we're getting from our partners at Adobe and Google — the top 10 or 15 cyclists will be wearing homing devices, essentially, and you can watch (them move) on the map and get all sorts of information on the course and how the cyclists are doing.

    See this interview in its entirety today at 8:30 a.m., and watch for another "Newsmaker of the Week" on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on SCVTV Channel 20, available to Time Warner Cable subscribers throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.


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