Downtown Modesto bustles with fans, locals after bike race

February 17, 2009 

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Those hoping the Amgen Tour of California would wash downtown Modesto in the color of money were treated to a gray sky instead.

Although the tsunami of restaurant and nightclub patrons never quite emerged, the crowds that did come out were enthusiastic and excited to be part of the festivities.

Many restaurant and nightspot owners said they had steady and above-average business throughout the day.

"Anything on a Tuesday is great," said Bacchus general manager Trinity Amador-Stewart, whose restaurant was near the finish line. "It's normally our slowest day of the week. But it brought everyone from the school-age to elderly out in the middle of the afternoon."

At 5 p.m., when the race and jersey presentations had ended, most of the audience quickly dissipated. Those who stuck around said they planned to spend the night enjoying themselves.

"It's so much fun to see all the camaraderie of people coming out for Modesto," said resident Jamie Byous. "If people are going to come out in the rain and wind, obviously they have a good temperament."

Byous came out with his family and friend Brent Jones. After the race they stopped at Bacchus, where they happily discussed the day.

"I'll be able to tell my kids and grandkids that I saw Lance Armstrong," said Jones, who had bought a couple of Livestrong bracelets as a souvenir.

Across the street at Harvest Moon, Charlene Smallwood, who owns the restaurant with husband Mark, said most of the customers had been locals.

"We've had a lot of people interacting," she said. "People are joining other tables."

The restaurant, which participated in the city's meal voucher program for Amgen support staff, saw a few groups from the tour.

Harvest Moon also had the honor of catering dinner for Armstrong and his team at their hotel.

But locals weren't the only ones out celebrating in the city.

Friends Gary Green and Steve Werlin have been following the tour in a trailer since it came through their hometown of Santa Rosa.

They plan to go with the tour until its end Sunday in Escondido.

The men were at Tresetti's World Caffe, as was a group of Amgen motor marshals using their restaurant vouchers.

"As cold as it was, it was a great crowd," Green said. "Everyone has been really nice."

The weather didn't rain on The Firkin & Fox's business. Owner Sharon Lapacket said she expected the restaurant to have its biggest day since it opened in April.

"I think (the weather) actually benefited us because people were so cold they wanted to come inside and maybe get a drink," she said.

At the bar next to her were a pair of journalists from Belgium covering the race.

"This is great for Modesto," she added. "I'd like us to be the end every year."

Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at or 578-2284.

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