The final stage of the 2019 Amgen Tour of California is anything but a tranquil parade to the finish. Following a harrowing uphill finish to the slopes of Mt. Baldy the day before, this journey from Santa Clarita to Pasadena passes through the rugged San Gabriel Mountains before making a final descent into the City of Roses and a finish at the iconic Rose Bowl. Among the race’s former finishes in southern California, Pasadena is among the race’s favorite stops. It has been on the itinerary on five previous occasions. Yet with a challenging route through the mountains, this stage could shake up the standings just as it did in 2015 when Peter Sagan squeaked by Julian Alaphilippe for the General Classification win by three seconds. That year saw a bunch sprint to the finish, unlike this year’s eighty-mile trek over nine thousand feet and several KOMs before plunging back down to the San Gabriel Valley where the race to the finish will be fast and furious.
Starting at Santa Clarita’s Valencia Town Center, Stage 7 begins in earnest with a gradual uphill outing through the community of Valencia before hitting more rural outskirts and coming back to the Santa Clara River. After only fifteen miles, the peloton will have already climbed 1,500 feet. Here the riverbed is dry most of the year. But as the peloton continues to climb towards the river’s headwaters at Acton, the Santa Clara’s riparian environment gets greener even though the surrounding landscape remains a tanned high desert color. As the riders persist on their twenty-seven mile ascent to the pass of Pacifico Mountain, the roars coming from the Shambala Preserve will surely compel them to new heights. Shambala is an exotic cat preserve founded by actress Tippi Hedren to give sanctuary to big cats like lions, tigers, cougars, and leopards. In total, some forty animals make the sanctuary their home and live out their lives in peace and safety. This is a special place that exists for the benefit of the animals alone, but monthly safari tours give the public a unique opportunity to personally witness the majesty of these creatures.
Continuing past Action, the peloton continues to follow the Santa Clara River through Aliso Canyon and into the heart of the San Gabriel Mountains. Another ten miles brings the race to the top of the day’s first KOM at the pass of Pacifico Mountain. This area is consistently under threat of wildfire and the surrounding landscape illustrates this reality. The 2009 Station Fire blazed this area and 250 adjoining square miles. Even the proximity of the 2016 Sand Fire has left many trails closed. Within the confines of the broader mountain chain sits the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, 541 square miles protected by President Obama in 2014. Within easy reach of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area, this National Monument is unique for its amazing biodiversity, archaeological and historic sites, and of course Mount Wilson - best known for its forest of antennae and famed observatory. It is from the winding roadway of Angeles Crest Highway that the peloton will enjoy expansive vistas of the San Gabriel wilderness and the historic observatory in the distance - where astronomers like Edwin Hubble discovered our place in the universe.
For the racing peloton, Mt. Wilson speeds by on the twenty-mile finishing descent. Despite a technical mountain drop into the Crescenta Valley and the city of La Cañada Flintridge, any breakaway will have a hard time staying away with such a long and fast circuit awaiting at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl itself is one of the world’s iconic sporting venues. Not only synonymous with the annual Rose Bowl game and home to UCLA Bruin football, the stadium has hosted Super Bowls, the World Cup, Olympics, and electrifying concerts. It carries a historic legacy that began with its construction in 1922 as the work of Master Architect Myron Hunt in a classic horseshoe shape. Over the years its initial seating capacity of 57,000 has been expanded to over 90,000, making it one of the largest stadiums in the nation. Where many champions have been crowned on its field, one more will be named in its shadow - the winner of the 2019 Amgen Tour of California.