We situated ourselves at the Finish Line of Stage 4 of the Amgen Tour of California. It's hard to believe that this Finish Line located in one of America's beauty spots running parallel to the Pacific Ocean with its thundering waves, its balmy temperature of 72 degrees was less than 200 miles away from Palm Springs where just two short days ago Stage 2 was finished in 110 degree heat.
But that's California! Its landscape goes from sea level to snow-capped mountains. It goes from glutted urban development to wide-open fields growing Blueberries, Garlic, Strawberries and lettuce. It passes hospitals, institutions of higher learning, as well as prisons.
The tour goes through wine country encompassing the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. The foregoing, then, is the route that the 2013 Tour same as the previous 7 Tours traversed. The only difference this time it started south and is going north instead of the other way around.
It started on may 12th in the Southern California city of Escondido at 11:15 in the morning. Sixteen of the finest Pro teams in the world with 128 riders in total lined up. If there was blight on the race because of the scandals including the demise of Lance Armstrong, it was not evident.
A party atmosphere prevailed at every Stage. Many have called the Amgen Tour, "A festival of both happiness and health". Amazingly, Kristen Bachochin, President of AEG Sports and six months pregnant, once again had organized her minions, which numbered in the thousands including both employed help and volunteers.
As she has been since the start of the Tour, Kelly Staley was alongside Kristen, making sure that everything worked like a well oiled clock... and it has.
New names have come to the forefront. Among them, many outstanding young American Riders are showing of their skills. Tyler Farrar from Wenatchee, Washington won Stage Four. He did it in a breathtaking and exciting finish to win right at the wire. The cacophony was ear- shattering. You could not hear the person standing right next to you... even if you tried.
At present, American Tejay van Garderen is the overall leader. His lead is precarious since there are three more stages and the talent is evenly distributed. It remains anyone's race.
Amidst all the Festivities, the increased presence of security was evident. No one could enter any of the key tented locations without first being screened and their handbags, knapsacks etc; being thoroughly searched. Upon being cleared, whatever they were carrying was adequately tagged. It was similar to what happens at many Airports without the benefit of Electronics.
This truly is" America's Greatest Race" as it has been labeled. However, it is more! It is a spectacle worth participating in. In fact, it is the embodiment of the words that make up my personal favorite American song written by Katherine Lee Bates... "America the Beautiful".
We all have sung it from time-to-time. They are words to remember and be thankful for, especially in these turbulent times throughout the word.
"O beautiful for spacious skies, / For amber waves of grain, / For purple mountain majesties, / Above the fruited plain! God shed his grace on thee ...