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Tour of California catches heat from critics

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - The 2013 AMGEN Tour of California is set to finish on Sunday.  The 8-stage, 750 mile cycling race will wrap up in Santa Rosa. The race made its way through the Coachella Valley on Monday-- a 124-mile race that scorched cyclists with temperatures about 100 degrees.  In addition to the heat, the 3.7 mile climb up Tramway road at a steep incline drew frustration from the athletes.  Several covered themselves in ice, some had to be carried to the medical tent, while two men got taken to the hospital.   "They thought it was cruel and unusual punishment," said Kevin Brown, owner of the Bikeman store in Palm Desert.  

An avid cyclist, Brown's not the only one to criticize the route.  A writer on called the stage "the closest thing to hell on earth for a bike race."  Jonny Westom is the local organizer for the tour.  He defends the decision to include the ascent.  "This is going to be the most epic finish we've ever had, it's going to beat any destination we've ever been to, and so they chose to go with the tram route," said Westom.  "Now these are professional athletes and they were given the route plenty months in advance, so they knew what they were getting themselves into."

Some critics believe course organizers should've taken the tram run out of the race, once the knew to expect the heat.  Westom says, that wasn't an option.
"There's a lot of cost involved with that, millions of dollars, you have the tents, the advertising, the location," said Westom.  "You have all the information that was given to riders, all that would change in a heartbeat."

Now, after the last rider crossed the finish line, some fear the tour may pump the brakes before it decides to return to the Coachella Valley.  "I fear some of the word from the riders and their experience here may cause the organization that handles the tour to reroute it in the future and maybe not revisit us," said Brown.

Westom said the organizers of the tour have already called him and asked them to place a bid to host next year.



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[CG in 1'27" to 1'31":2 LINE CG\Kevin Brown\BIKEMAN STORE OWNER]


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