Tour takes over

May 16 time trial showcased Morgan Hill worldwide

Thousands of spectators lined the closing stretch of the Amgen Tour of California’s May 16 time trial on Monterey Road, cheering each competitor along as they finished the 21.6-mile loop in the city’s downtown. Credit: Robert Eliason
The top three finishers in the May 16 TOC time trial were Tejay van Garderen, Patrick Bevin and Tao Geoghegan Hart. Credit: Michael Moore

“We would love to have you come back to Morgan Hill,” Mayor Steve Tate exclaimed to Amgen Tour of California organizers on the finish line stage—at Fourth Street and Monterey Road in the city’s downtown—at the conclusion of the competition’s May 16 individual time trial. “Thank you!”

The 21.6-mile time trial loop started and ended in downtown Morgan Hill, which was closed to vehicle traffic for about 24 hours while TOC organizers set up—and then tore down—the course route and installed temporary fencing and other crowd control measures. By the morning of May 16, the downtown was buzzing with the arrival of race officials, last-minute preparations by professional cycling teams and spectators trying to find the best spots to watch 116 professional cyclists start and finish the time trial.

The TOC is considered one of the world’s most prestigious pro cycling races, and is broadcast on live television to millions of viewers. Athletes such as Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish—household names among cycling fans—competed in the seven-stage TOC as it stopped in Morgan Hill.

Amid the downtown Morgan Hill “lifestyle festival” that coincided with the six-hour (including opening and closing pageantry) time trial May 16 were a number of giant screens showing the live coverage of the day. This coverage prominently depicted repeated shots of downtown Morgan Hill and its surroundings—including El Toro mountain and stretches of rural roadways, wineries, vineyards, hillsides and waterways that are well known to commuters, residents and visitors.

Spectators lined the fenced-off closing and opening stretches of the time trial route on Monterey Road as individual cyclists embarked from and—typically less than 45 minutes later—made their approach to the downtown.

All five of the city’s council members participated in the time trial’s opening and closing ceremonies. A children’s choir from St. Catherine school sang the national anthem.

Before the event, city officials and local business organizations anticipated a windfall of both immediate sales at local establishments related to the May 16 event, and a long-term impact from worldwide exposure the race brought to Morgan Hill.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director John Horner said businesses are still trying to gauge the economic impact of the May 16 time trial.

“Our local bike-oriented companies were over the moon,” Horner said, referring to Morgan Hill-based Specialized Bicycle Components and new downtown shop Bike Therapy. “They did a lot of the work to help put the logistics together. For visibility, it’s great to have positive news about Morgan Hill. From an advertising and marketing (perspective), it was clearly a win. Some (business owners) say sales were great, some say it was just another Wednesday.”

Chamber officials added that the “Bike Week” events in Morgan Hill preceding the May 16 time trial were also popular, and they will encourage a repeat next year even if the TOC does not return to town.

The TOC time trial also reinforced Morgan Hill’s image as a den of cycling enthusiasm—an image that was established long ago as Specialized grew into an international industry behemoth.

“There’s a lot of bike enthusiasts in Morgan Hill, which was evident by the amount of people here enjoying the event,” said Mayor Pro Tem Rich Constantine. “We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback.”

Constantine noted that the city has received a handful of complaints from residents who live along the May 16 time trial route and were unable to pass freely in and out of their neighborhoods.

He also offered thanks to the City of San Jose Sports Authority for partnering with Morgan Hill to host the May 16 time trial.

Some downtown businesses on Monterey Road took advantage of the TOC time trial to attract customers, promoting their outdoor dining areas as prime race watching areas for spectators.

Rosy Bergin, owner of Rosy’s At The Beach restaurant near the corner of Monterey Road and Third Street, rented a section of bleacher seats, which she placed in the dining area just outside her front door, facing the final stretch of the time trial course. The restaurant developed a “bleacher menu” containing items that outdoor diners could eat from their laps while they watched the cyclists.

Local tourism proponents also expected hotels to rake in the sales for the May 16 time trial, which featured cyclists from all over the world. All 85 rooms at the Holiday Inn Express on Condit Road were booked the night before the time trial, according to owner Ashis Roy. Those rooms were going for $150-plus per night.

On stage at the end of the time trial, after American cyclist Tejay van Garderen was declared the stage winner, Tate said on stage that it was the city’s “wonderful economic development person,” Edith Ramirez, and her fellow city staff that made the high-profile event such a breeze for TOC organizers.

Van Garderen—who also took the “yellow jersey” May 16 identifying him as overall TOC leader at the end of the time trial—counted a giant bottle of local Guglielmo wine among his prize winnings.

In January, Amgen selected Morgan Hill as the “host city” for the Stage 4 time trial. The city council agreed to host the event, in partnership with the City of San Jose, and ponied up $40,000 to assist with traffic control and road closures during the May 16 stage.

The seven-stage TOC started May 13 in Long Beach and concluded May 19 in Sacramento. Egan Bernal of Colombia was the 2018 overall TOC champion, with van Garderen in second place and Daniel Martinez, also of Colombia, finishing in third place.

At the May 16 time trial, van Garderen finished finished with a time of 40 minutes, 47 seconds. Patrick Bevin of New Zealand came in second in Morgan Hill, and Tao Geoghegan Hart of Great Britain came in third.

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