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Course, schedule changes put Tour spotlight on California
Last dash into Santa Rosa capped sterling event

If seven years is enough to establish a cycling tradition, the eighth incarnation of the Amgen Tour of California was a radical departure.

Like geese flying home for the summer, the riders proceeded south to north this year, starting in Escondido and finishing on Third Street in Santa Rosa on Sunday. No word yet on total attendance or revenue, but race director Jim Birrell sounded highly pleased after the race.

“I think we nailed it this year,” Birrell said. “I think we hit it out of the park. You just look at how we were able to showcase the state of California, and the diversity of the state of California. I mean, look at all the big markets that we hit, and all the iconic images that we were able to project to the world. And three mountaintop finishes in an eight-day tour were a big accomplishment. ... They all brought so much drama to each day.”

Certainly, there were hurdles. Temperatures approached 120 degrees on the road during some stretches of Stage 2 near Palm Springs. “The heat was unlike anything I've ridden in,” Bissell Pro Cycling's Carter Jones said.

Veteran rider Jason McCartney, also with Bissell, wasn't crazy about the constant headwinds along the northerly route.

But the weather was ideal over the second half of the race, creating some lovely images for the TV viewers and live spectators. And according to Birrell, there was never any doubt about the finish line.

“Santa Rosa has always come out full-force with its fan value and its spectator strength,” he said. “I knew we were gonna have a spectacular finish.”

McCartney is 8 for 8

Every year more than 120 riders line up for the start of the Amgen Tour. But only one cyclist has finished all eight editions of the race: McCartney, a compact cyclist from Iowa.

He has now saddled up for five different teams in California — Discovery Channel in 2006 and 2007, Team CSC in 2008 and 2009, RadioShack in 2010 and 2011, UnitedHealthcare in 2012 and now Bissell.

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