Tour of California’s 21.6-mile time trial is the fourth leg of America’s prestigious cycling race

Published in the February 28 – March 13, 2018 issue of Morgan Hill Life

Photo by Marty Cheek
“Fast” Freddie Rodriguez, an Amgen Tour of California ambassador, prepares to “race” twins Valentino and James during a kick-off event.

Dignitaries and bike enthusiasts competed in a just-for-fun tricycle race Feb. 8 at the Morgan Hill Community Center to celebrate America’s most prestigious cycling competition coming this spring to the South Valley.

The kick-off event welcomed the Amgen Tour of California to downtown Morgan Hill which will serve as the start and finish line of the May 16 time trials for racers.

Amgen goodwill ambassador “Fast” Freddie Rodriquez served as the guest of honor. A former American professional road cyclist and four-time USA Pro Road National Champion, his role with Amgen is to focus on kids’ activities, school visits, and promoting healthy living. He described Morgan Hill has an excellent place to hold the time trials because of the pleasant weather and challenging roads.

“Specialized is one of our local companies and that is headquartered here, which is a big part of cycling in America,” he said. “So, to have the Tour of California come through here is a big deal here for Morgan Hill and Northern California.”

The 21.6-mile time trial at the fourth stage of the race will be an important part of the competition where racers can widen the gaps between themselves, he said. The premier sporting event is expected to draw huge crowds of cycling fans to the South Valley region who will stay in local hotels, eat at restaurants and shop with merchants.

“The time trial is one place where riders separate themselves because you’re on your own, you can’t draft out off someone else,” Rodriquez said.

California has a lot of enthusiasts who participate in the sport of cycling so the attention the Amgen time trial will bring to the South Valley might get a lot of cyclists to come out and ride these roads, he said.

“It’s nice to know the fans will have a great experience not only to watch the race but to be able to go out and ride their bikes and enjoy the environment,” he said.

Morgan Hill Police Chief David Swing has fun in the tricycle race.

The South Valley time trials event is co-hosted by the city of Morgan Hill and the San Jose Sports Authority in partnership with various organizations including the Morgan Hill Tourism Alliance, the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce, and the Morgan Hill Downtown Association.

“I cannot tell you how proud we are to partner with the great city of Morgan Hill and the great people that you have to bring the greatest cycling event in America right here to our towns,” said John Poch, executive director of the authority. “As you know, the city of Morgan Hill and the southern area of San Jose are great areas for cycling. We have the best weather, the best conditions for cycling, so why not have it here between our two cities.”

A lifestyle festival will be held on the day of the time trial so that residents and cycling fans can celebrate the sport with the professional racers. Hosting the event will enable the South Valley to demonstrate its welcoming spirit and civic pride to visitors as well as show off the rural environment surrounding the city to an international audience, said Morgan Hill Mayor Steve Tate.

“It’s going to be a beautiful and, at the same time, a challenging course because there are some ups and downs and that kind of thing as well,” he said. “The Amgen Tour of California is the most important cycling race in the United States and one of the most prestigious and most watched races in the world.”

Amgen’s time trials will also help show to the world that Morgan Hill values health and fitness through physical activity, Tate said.

“Cycling is ingrained into our community with Specialized Bicycle Components, the leader in cycling technology, headquartered right here in the Morgan Hill community,” he said. “Our community loves cycling.”

Part of Amgen’s mission is to get young people involved in the sport of cycling to encourage health and fitness. The time trial will take place during a school day and at least one school near the downtown district will bring students to the sporting event to expose them to the excitement of the occasion, said Morgan Hill Unified School District Superintendent Steve Betando.

“It’s also an opportunity for kids to learn about cycling and the benefits of it,” he said. “There is some curriculum (a printed workbook) that Amgen is providing to us. We’ve already talked to the principals about that, so they’ll be giving that information to the teachers.”

Rodriquez plans to go to the schools to represent the Amgen and teach students about the proper way to ride their bikes on streets and roads.

“We go in and inspire kids,” he said. “We teach them how to be safe, we teach them how to be active. We teach them how to be smart, and we look forward to getting Morgan Hill involved in that process. Kids are so excited.”


The Tour of California’s big day in Morgan Hill will help promote the community as a bike destination with the media coverage shown on TV channels in more than 100 countries, said Jodi Hall, co-owner with her husband Doug Hall of the Bike Therapy Shop in downtown Morgan Hill. She hopes that cycling enthusiasts will discover the region’s back-roads as well as challenging the mountain biking trails at Harvey Bear County Park and Henry W. Coe State Park.

“It’s amazing. This is going to put Morgan Hill on the map, especially in California and internationally, as a cycling destination,” she said. We have so many great roads and trails for biking. It’s also going to bring people to the downtown. Downtown Morgan Hill is really special. It’s got so much going for it and also things in development. It’s really great for biking and walking.”

Morgan Hill Youth Sports Alliance President Jeff Dixon, dressed up in striped umpire uniform and carrying an over-sized race flag to start the tricycle race, said the Amgen Tour of California is for the riders and fans comparable to the Tour de France. It’s a prestigious sport that many Americans travel to the Golden State to attend and see the fastest riders in the world.

“I think bringing Amgen to Morgan Hill really gives us a chance to show other people around the world how family friendly and sports oriented we are,” he said. “We do a lot of events in Morgan Hill — from Freedom Fest to the Mushroom Mardi Gras to the Taste of Morgan Hill. We’ll have a chance to show off our community spirit to more people around the world.”

Marty Cheek

Marty Cheek

Publisher at Morgan Hill Life
Marty Cheek is the publisher of Morgan Hill Life and Gilroy Life. He is also the co-author with Congressman Jerry McNerney of the book Clean Energy Nation: Freeing America From the Tyranny of Fossil Fuels.
Phone: (408) 782-7575
Marty Cheek