Right around the time the L.A. Kings duke it out Sunday against the Phoenix Coyotes for a spot in the Stanley Cup finals, a mega bike race will come to a close — right there in front of Staples Center. Thousands are expected to come cheer on cyclists from around the world who are competing in the Amgen Tour of California. The race is one of the biggest of its kind.
After a week of pedaling for nearly 800 miles through a dozen cities from the Bay area to Bakersfield to Big Bear Lake, pro cyclists will zoom to the finish line, smack dab in the heart of L.A. Live.
“Many people internationally believe that we’re the third most important race on the annual calendar, just behind the Tour de France and the Giro, which is held in Italy," said Michael Roth, who works for developer AEG. The group owns Staples Center and runs the California bike race.
“Watching a hundred or more riders, biking down the streets of downtown going more than 30 miles an hour, it's breathtaking," said Roth. "And it’s a new sport... and that’s one of the things, we’re exposing... hundreds of thousands of people, if not more, to a sport of cycling which may be new to them.”
Organizers are hoping tens of thousands of fans will come downtown to watch the eighth and final leg of the cycling competition.
The riders represent more than 20 countries and 16 professional teams. Many of them will go on to compete in the Tour de France and the Summer Olympics in London.
The event has changed significantly from when it first started seven years ago, said Tour Executive Director Kristin Bachochin.
“We continue to change up the route every year and make it more competitive than the previous edition, we continue to attract the best riders, the amount of spectators continues to grow every year," said Bachochin.
Dave Towle calls the action at the end of each stage of the race. He’s worked with the tour since it began.
“All the top talent was coming," Towle said. "Eventually Lance Armstrong came out of retirement... he raced here for a couple years. And the race has always been really successful, which we really feel right now, it just has this momentum.”
In yet another sign of the Tour’s growing importance, NBC will broadcast the final stage of the race as the riders come in to L.A. Live.