A high-end location for a bike race — or a press conference for one.
Maybe it wouldn’t seem as strange to anyone outside the L.A. area.
Yet somehow, I found myself on a sunny SoCal morning in the biking black hole of Beverly Hills, listening to some of this country’s best pro cyclists describe the city’s Tiffanyed streets as the ideal starting point for the final stage of the Amgen Tour of California.
Yes, that Beverly Hills, with not one inch of bike lane within its jewel encrusted borders.
The day's guest stars make their way one very short block up Rodeo Drive.
The Bulgari burgh where West Hollywood and Los Angeles bikeways roll within blocks of its city limits. Then stop almost without warning, leaving riders to fight for road space with Ferraris, Bentleys and massive high-end SUVs of every make and measure.
Not to mention the midrange rentals of countless tourists, and low-end rides of locals just passing through.
A city that hasn’t updated its bike plan since the 1970s. And even then, proposed routing riders through the alleys of the Golden Triangle to keep us from impeding the progress of their many impatient drivers.
To their credit, Beverly Hills has formed an ad hoc committee to finally update that plan. Yet seem to be throwing up so many roadblocks and limitations that the final result is almost guaranteed to fail.
City Manager Jeff Kolin, Tom Danielson, defending champ Chris Horner, David Zabriskie, Patrick Dempsey and some guy with a camera.
Or at least likely result in something of little value to the everyday riders who mostly pass through on their way to somewhere else. Like sharrows on Charleville, which is already a relatively easy road to ride, and where shared lane markings would merely mark the space we already use.
And which wouldn’t have done a damn thing to protect me last week when I nearly did a face plant on the back of an SUV, courtesy of a door-flinging driver.
Yet there they were, biking and Hollywood royalty alike promoting the Tour of California, and announcing the route of this year’s multistage race.
Don’t get me wrong.
The ToC has made great strides in recent years, with last year’s race the most competitive and exciting yet.
And this year’s edition promises to be better yet, as it meanders its way through the late, great Golden State by way of Santa Rosa, San Francisco, Livermore and Bakersfield, et al, with mountaintop finishes on Mt. Baldy and Big Bear Lake.
Amgen Tour of California Executive Director Kristin Bachochin at the podium.
And followed by a final route that will start on Rodeo Drive before following Santa Monica Blvd — where Beverly Hills officials have been dragging their feet on a commitment to make the boulevard bike-friendly when it finally gets a makeover in a few years.
Then it’s up Doheny and off to Hollywood, reverse engineering the route of the L.A. Marathon before winding down to finish at L.A. Live.
As I, and a couple of other cyclists listened to the press conference, surrounded by confused tourists wondering who the hell these spandex-clad celebrities were — though they did seem to recognize Grey’s Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey — it was hard not to get excited.
After all, what’s not to like about a race that will bring some of the world’s best male pro cyclists — though sadly, still no women — within walking distance of my own home. Even if it is a long walk. And one that leads to an alternate and much richer reality.
Hollywood star, cancer fundraiser, serious cyclist and bike advocate Patrick Dempsey.
And one that would be followed by a race through the same mean streets we all ride on a regular basis. Although it would be more exciting if the Amgen riders had to contend with the same careless, distracted and angry drivers we do.
Now that would be a race.
It’s also long past time that the top women’s racers were allowed to compete on an equal stage alongside the men, just as the late, great Coors Classic did with great success decades earlier.
But it didn’t take long to be reminded that we were in Beverly Hills. And that cyclists aren’t exactly welcome there.
As the press conference was winding down, a gentleman came out of the exclusive haute couture store next to where we were standing, and firmly but politely asked us to move the bikes we’d leaned against the wall since there didn’t seem to be any bike racks around.
According to him, they were blocking the store windows — even though the seats and handlebars barely reached the window’s bottom ledge.
It is Beverly Hills, after all.
And they’re just not that into us.