Modesto readies itself to be Stage 3 finish line for Tour of California

02/10/2009 12:47 AM

02/10/2009 12:52 AM

A quick spin downtown offers few clues about the international invasion set to wheel through Modesto one week from today.

Except for banners hung on I Street and posters on storefronts, there is almost no indication the Amgen Tour of California is coming back to town.

Don't be lured into complacency by the apparent stillness. Behind the scenes, where all the magic occurs, thousands of details are being identified and addressed.

The real action will begin Monday night, when within a few hours, much of downtown will be converted into a spectator-friendly cycling zone, complete with two stages and three JumboTrons.

And a lot of coffee will be brewed -- not once or twice, but three times per the wishes of the 200 members of the international media, for whom U.S. coffee is neither strong nor bitter enough.

Details, details.

"The writers need pasta and oatmeal available at every meal and the international media specifically demands triple-brewed coffee," said Julie Hannon, Modesto's acting director of parks, recreation and neighborhoods. "There's no way we'd ever be aware of anything like that."

There's much, much more to a bike race than setting up directional arrows and barricades, and Mo-desto organizers have been working on next week's event since before the city was awarded the right to paint a finish line on I Street for Stage 3 of the race.

Amgen tour organizers determine the route, but it's up to the local staff to mark and secure the course with traffic barriers and hay bales, and to order and strategically place portable toilets.

There's the matter of mapping where each of the more than 150 exhibitors will display their information and goods. There's seeing to the needs of the 410 itinerant Amgen crew members who need to be fed and bunked before the finish line is torn down and moved to Clovis.

"We learned so much last year about the details of putting this on, and I'm so glad we did a start last year before we took on a finish," Hannon said. "The tour's presence in Modesto this year will be three times as large as last year."

Cancer awareness a goal

The city's involvement with the Tour of California is far greater than putting on the race. A series of events has been scheduled to entertain the race fans and media coming to Modesto -- from bike-themed displays at McHenry Museum and Mistlin Gallery to a Monday night State Theatre showing of the classic movie "Breaking Away."

And on race day, the dual theme of cycling and cancer awareness takes center stage with art shows, multiple information booths and a parade of cancer survivors -- all taking place or open hours before the cyclists hit town.

The Lifestyle Festival, which travels from city to city along the Amgen trail, will line I Street between Ninth and 11th, stopping one block short of the finish line. An elaborate food court will spring to life on 10th Street.

"The number of booths at each city varies, and we have about 150, which I understand will be more than most of the other communities," said City Councilwoman Kristin Olsen. "The movie night at The State Theatre is a new idea we're trying to implement, to build excitement the night before the race."

The race itself -- after all, the riders are the reason for the event -- starts at noon in San Jose. The first brightly colored jerseys should start coming over the Kansas-Needham overpass about 3:50 p.m., with the final rider rolling past the Gallo Center for the Arts about an hour later.

The start of the downtown festivities coincides with the starting gun in San Jose, and fans will be able to follow the race on three large video screens set up on I Street. The race broadcast will be anchored at the Versus Network finish line stage.

After the race, as the Amgen, Versus and race crews (and perhaps a few of the riders) head to restaurants, the second annual Detour of the Tour -- a photography display and music event -- will kick off at 6 p.m. at the Fat Cat nightclub on 11th Street.

Then, by Wednesday morning, with Stage 4 launching in Merced, the circus will be gone, signaling the start of Modesto's effort to be host of an even larger Amgen stop in 2010.

"We're lobbying for both a finish and a start next year, a site where they finish one day in Modesto and start here the next day," Hannon said. "Once the stuff is set up, it's a lot easier to keep it up than have to move it. And it would give us twice the economic impact."

And twice the amount of triple-brewed coffee.

Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at bvanderbeek@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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