The Amgen Tour of California bicycle race comes through downtown San Luis Obispo this afternoon, bringing two Cal Poly graduates with it.
San Luis Obispo will play host to the tour for the second year in a row as the fourth stage ends shortly after 3 p.m. today at the cross-section of Osos and Monterey streets.
Stage four begins in Seaside at 10 a.m. today and travels approximately 130 miles on U.S. Highway 1 to reach San Luis Obispo in the early afternoon. This stage, one of the longest of the tour, brings the event into its second half.
The two Cal Poly graduates competing are Lucas Euser, 23, and Ken Hanson, 23, both residents of San Luis Obispo. The tour is an eight-day event.
“I’ve been riding a bike since I could breathe,” Euser said.
Euser, who graduated this past fall with a degree in industrial technology, has been racing professionally for the past two years. Competing in last year’s race, he placed 49th out of 97 racers.
“Personally I was 49th,” Euser said. “More importantly, however, we stood out as a team.”
Euser is riding with Team Slipstream, sponsored by Chipotle. The team is gaining global attention for its young, multinational riders and plans to compete in the Tour de France in two years.
Team Slipstream is doing well so far in the race, with one of its riders currently in second place.
The team’s biggest competition is the Discovery Channel team (the same that Lance Armstrong rode for), which is presently in first place.
For Hanson, the tour is an introduction to professional racing. After riding in collegiate competitions since 2002, Hanson joined the Swiss-American BMC team in 2005. This is the first year the team has become a professional riding group.
Overall standings at the end of the second stage put Euser in 72nd place – 27 seconds behind the leader, Levi Leipheimer (U.S.) of the Discovery Channel team. Hanson placed 135th coming in about 4 minutes, 27 seconds behind Leipheimer. There are 141 riders competing in this year’s tour.
Today’s stage is the longest of the competition and is one of the most trying stages for riders who lack endurance. However, Euser said that stage four will not be as difficult for him as other stages, but he is prepared to attack it just like any other stage.
The fourth portion of the race should be memorable for Euser and Hanson as they are San Luis Obispo residents. The two riders occasionally ride together with a group of bikers from the area.
“It was amazing to see the support in Napa (Euser’s hometown), and I am looking forward to seeing friends and more support in San Luis Obispo,” Euser said.
Experts predict that the race will come to a close at roughly 3:22 p.m. today.
Residents and students of San Luis Obispo are advised that road closure and bus times will be affected due to the race. A city bus employee said that there would be no bus closure, just delays and rerouting of buses along Foothill and other nearby streets.
Dan Blanke of the San Luis Obispo Police Department said that roughly 25 city police officers will be at the event, assisting volunteers and controlling traffic and road closure.
“The CHP is primarily responsible for bringing the race down the state,” Blanke said. “We take over when it enters San Luis Obispo. There are certain intersections and roads that can only be properly managed by officers.”
One of the most significant intersections is Chorro Street and Foothill Boulevard, Blanke said. There is a critical turn in the course for the riders, and the intersection tends to be one of the busiest on the San Luis Obispo portion of the course.
The riders head to Solvang on Friday, after ending stage four in San Luis Obispo, for the time-trial portion of the competition. Beginning at 11 a.m., that portion of the race will only be 14.5 miles long and will test the bikers’ speed capabilities.
The tour will come to a close Sunday in Long Beach, where riders will compete in their final stage, a 77.5-mile circuit race in the city’s downtown. The 10-lap portion of the race will begin at 1 p.m. and is expected to last roughly 2 3/4 hours.