Bakersfield College to host trial section of Amgen cycling tour
The Tour of California, a nationally recognized cycling event, will be holding its fifth section, a time trial, at Bakersfield College, and both the organizers and cycling enthusiasts are excited.
On May 17, the trial will take the top cyclists in the world from BC, through Alfred Harrell Highway, all the way to Lake Ming, and back to BC. The 18.4-mile course will take a professional rider under 40 minutes to complete. In many other cycling events, the cyclists race in teams and travel from one city to another. In this trial, they will race by themselves to compete for the best time.
The Bakersfield Sports Foundation is putting on the event with help from the city of Bakersfield and Kern County. Kerry Ryan, the president of the sports foundation, describes the trial as a challenge.
“The course ungulates. It has hills and turns,” he said. “It’s a technical course. The road conditions change with the weather. It will change from the first to the last [cyclist]. What should be expected is a very hard course, harder than their usual time-trial course, for sure.”
The course starts at the top of Panorama Drive and Mount Vernon Avenue, and pro riders will reach speeds of 60 mph going downhill onto Harrell Highway.
Ryan described the cycling pros coming here as “the top field competing in the world.” He is expecting an even bigger turnout than the tour’s stop here in 2010.
“In 2010 we had 14,000 people,” he said. “That was for a 30-minute exposure to the pros. This time, the pros are going to be here for almost four hours. They’ll be warming up. They’ll be signing autographs; I picture 30,000 people hitting the BC area.”
For first-year Taft College student Ricky Gonzales, the nature of time trial races is what interests him about our stage of The Tour of California.
“It’s just different,” Gonzales said. “Time trialing is different in that it’s one person; it’s not a group of people. You get to really see people at their own ability, not in the pack, just their own ability showing on that day.”
For Ryan, BC was an ideal spot to start and end the trial.
“I chose BC as a location because they had parking, and they had facilities. It enables me to use this side of the valley. If I took the race downtown, it adds extra miles and costs to blocking all the roads and things like that. I don’t think we could have afforded to have the race downtown. So BC provided a great venue for us to host the race.”
Ryan is most looking forward to showing off Bakersfield in a new light.
“Bakersfield always has this mixed reputation,” he said. “This really puts Bakersfield in the most favorable light when it comes to people that are athletic and their perspective of what Bakersfield is. I got calls from friends in 2010 (when BC held a previous Tour of California event) they said, ‘Oh my god it looked incredible, it was green, it was hilly, mountainous, the rivers were flowing.’ What I’m trying to do is change the perspective of people about Bakersfield, and hosting a premiere event like this does that.”
Ryan was particularly proud of the roadwork done here.
“The city and county roads departments have really fixed up the roads like you can’t believe,” he said. “The other tour stops have never done this much roadwork. I will tell you, it will make Bakersfield look great.”
On April 29, non-pros were able to ride the same course that the pros will May 17. When David Rous raced the time trial he described the roads as “nice” and “smooth.”
He said, “The roads have never been in better shape in the 30 years I’ve been riding, and so we’re really happy [with the new roads].”
Rous said this about racing the same course as the pros.
“It’s fun knowing that this is going to be what the pros are going to ride, and it’s always nice to be able to do a full effort and kind of judge yourself and measure yourself against the pros. That was the most fun,” he said.
Rous is going to the event May 17 and is looking forward to it.
“[I’m looking forward to] seeing the racers, the atmosphere of it, the anticipation of the best racers coming here, the comradery, hanging out with friends, I’ve got kids, watching them get excited for an event that is big to come to Bakersfield. For those of us who have been here for years, it’s a big deal. I love seeing something that gets some nationwide exposure,” he said.
The fastest rider completed the non-pro time trial in 41 minutes, and many of the approximately 40 riders who participated broke an hour.