So much for the Sycamore Slide.
While there were concerns that the extremely tight corner from Coldwell Avenue onto Sycamore Avenue might be too treacherous for speeding cyclists, all seemed to negotiate it just fine.
Modesto's Lance Ingeman joked before the cyclists arrived, wondering if the 400 or so fans were at the corner waiting to see the competitors or "a NASCAR incident."
Titus Striplin, a 1993 Beyer High graduate, is a cyclist himself, racing in the Denver area, where he now lives.
"If I were racing, I'd be nervous about the (crosswalk) paint, the (speed) bumps and the lack of padding around trees," he said.
While there was word this week that the majority of the 30 bales of hay would be at this spot, there were only three, and used mainly to hold up the umbrellas of spectators.
The first few riders in the lead pack cut it tight and didn't seem to have a problem. Cyclists in the Peloton were forced three or four wide, and came close to the far, east sidewalk on Sycamore.
But there was never a hint of problems the two times they came through.
"It was intense," said Modesto's Robin Denga after watching the riders whoosh by her spot on the east side of Sycamore. "I was a little nervous."
There is no more appropriately named team in the Tour of California than Team Ouch, whose headliner is Floyd Landis. But it was Ouch member Bradley White who carried his team colors through the climbs at the start of the race, and it was White maintaining a spot in the breakaway into the 2.8-mile Modesto loop.
He lost his share of the lead early in the lap but wasn't unhappy about the lack of a second lap and a chance to catch up.
"I think a second lap would have meant I would have fallen more behind," White said. "I think we only needed one lap. Had we come through for another lap, the bunch would have been a lot smaller. The longer we were out there banging around those corners, there would eventually been a crash out there."
Before the race was over, local organizers already had started the lobby for an increased role for Modesto in the 2010 race. Already, Modesto has gone from a stage beginning in 2008 to a stage finish.
Last week, Julie Hannon of the Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Department, said she'd like to see Modesto be the finish of a stage and a starting point the next day next year.
"We're hoping to get a two-day event out of this next year," Hannon said. "Once all the stages and booths are up, it's much easier to keep them here."
Race director Jim Birrell, when asked about the Modesto's ambition, seemed interested.
"We have looked at stages that stay in the Central Valley, perhaps one that runs from Sacramento to Modesto," Birrell said. "You could start in Merced and end in Modesto from the east, and we have probably 13 or 14 different options involving Modesto for 2010."
When asked if he or his crew had taken a look at what would be a leg-wasting climb of Old Priest Grade Road into Groveland, Birrell smiled.
"Several people have mentioned that road to me but I've never seen it," he said. "I think I'm going to have to give it a look."
BRAVO! A dozen or so people watched the finish from the roof make that the edge of the roof of the Gallo Center for the Arts, their silhouettes against the backdrop of white clouds akin to the chimney sweeps in "Mary Poppins."
SNAPSHOT Taking photos at the finish line was retired Stanislaus County Counsel Mick Krausnick, whose wife, Claudia, is Levi Leipheimer's cousin. They're following him throughout the tour.
CLOUDBURST A hard rain about 45 minutes before the finish left the top of Amgen's Breakaway From Cancer tent sagging. Hosts had to use the legs of a portable table to push gallons of water over the side and prevent the tent from possibly collapsing. No harm, no foul.
Two-year-old Christopher Hinkley seemed more interested in the torrent flowing down an I Street gutter during a downpour about an hour before racers zipped by a few yards away. The current swept completely over his brown tennies as he laughed and splashed. "The rain's not fazing him," shrugged his mother, Alison Hinkley of Modesto.
The Messersmith family, event volunteers from Stockton, let their enthusiasm be known in big chalk letters in the middle of Sycamore Avenue. "Lance" and "Levi," the message said, a tribute to racing teammates Armstrong and Leipheimer. Martin Messersmith, a triathlete, came with wife Karen and children Ryan and Kateyln. The kids are competitive cyclists, too. All said they were impressed with how Modesto put on its part of the tour, despite the rain that messed with their chalk work. "That's why we're redoing it," the dad said. "It just washed off."
Blake Mittan and his 11-year-old son, Nathan, thought about walking over from their home in the La Loma neighborhood but decided not to chance running home in a downpour. The crowd of spectators near the finish line was about five people deep, Blake said, so they headed north to watch from 16th and I streets. "They had to slow at the corner, which made it more dramatic," he said. "We have cold toes, but it was worth it."
The Mittans have followed the race casually, with Lance Armstrong being the only familiar rider. Blake had filled in Nathan on Armstrong's battle against cancer. "The Lance Armstrong story, with his overcoming cancer, does make the whole thing more compelling," Blake said.
The roughly 200 media members in Modesto to cover the finish of Stage 3 of the Tour of California were greeted by a local goodie bag upon entering the press work room set up on the main stage of the Gallo Center for the Arts.
The press bag included a collection of local products, including a generous wedge of Fiscalini San Joaquin Gold Cheese, a 5-ounce bottle of Sciabica's winter harvest olive oil, a french baguette from Word of Mouth Bakery, and a 200ML bottle of E.&J. XO Brandy.
Carol Olsen said she did not mind that Coldwell Avenue was closed in front of her house for the race. She invited people over for a pre-race meal that included chili and other dishes, consumed out of the rain. They then watched the riders twice take the tight turn at Sycamore Avenue, a crowded viewing spot. "I loved it, loved every minute of it," she said afterward. "I think to bring it to the neighborhoods is very nice."
If you live on the race route, it was good to be you on Tuesday.
As the rain pelted down about 90 minutes before cyclists reached Modesto, Claire Dial, Florence Tan and Rose Van Domelen were enjoying coffee, tea, blueberry muffins, pineapple tarts and plenty of laughs on their covered Sycamore porch.
Farther north, Modesto's Lance Ingeman, who lives nearby on Virginia Street, was "taking advantage of his friendship" with Lynda Thiel, whose Sycamore home, and front yard, was a popular spot.
"The race wasn't really sinking in," she said. "Then people kept asking me (recently) if they could come and stay in my yard."
Karen and Del Tiffin of Modesto brought their grandson, Jack Tiffin, 4, to see the race.
Jack lives in Oakland but his father brought him to town Sunday just so he could watch. Jack also was in Modesto in 2008 for the Tour of California and brought his yellow cow bell from last year.
They watched from in front of the McHenry Museum because Karen works as a docent there.
"It was a lot of hype and a lot of excitement, and it's good for our community and good for cancer" awareness, Karen Tiffin said just after the riders flew by.
"It was great," Del added. "We'll be back next year."