In light of Boston attack, Amgen Tour of California beefs up security

Organizers say they are working with the Department of Homeland Security and ask for fan involvement

ESCONDIDO, Calif. (VN) — The far-reaching impact of the attack on the Boston Marathon on athletic events has rippled into cycling and Amgen Tour of California organizers said on Friday that they’ve fortified security measures and are asking fans for help.

“Obviously, with that event, we wanted to make sure we were doing everything possible, because safety and security is our first priority,” said Matt Bettenhausen, VP and chief security officer for race-owner AEG Worldwide.

The race begins Sunday in Escondido and will cover more than 700 miles of open roads before concluding in Santa Rosa a week later. Cycling is celebrated for its public nature and fan access, but it is those charms that also leave it vulnerable. According to organizers, last year’s race drew more than 2 million spectators to California’s roads over eight stages.

“We are going to enhance security throughout the race. We’re asking for everyone’s patience and cooperation and assistance as you might see additional security measures,” Bettenhausen said, also pointing to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign — which relies on a sort of crowd-sourced observation to reduce public threats — as a security element this year.

“This year we have rolled that out more extensively and will enlist volunteers,” he said. “We ask the general public, be aware of your surroundings.”

Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Leopard) said that in his many years of racing, he’s never felt threatened. “No, never. No. I mean, you have really, really excited fans at the mountaintop finishes. And they always wait until the very last moment, and they always step aside and give you space,” he told VeloNews. “No, I’ve never felt threatened or insecure.”

The Amgen Tour also partners with the California Highway Patrol for every-day race security and will work closely with the state police in light of the Boston attack.

“We couldn’t do this without the cooperation of the highway patrol. With our county enforcement, our sheriffs offices, and local law enforcement departments,” Bettenhausen said. “They’ve all been very cooperative.”

The event is also working with the Department of Homeland Security and its science and technology department, using a next generation command system for operations.