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February 15, 2009

Fans want a glance at Lance

SACRAMENTO -- Hundreds of cycling fans crowded the outside of the Astana trailer hoping for a sighting of Lance Armstrong as several riders rode stationary trainers under a tent. Some of the camera-carrying spectators had waited hours for their chance to see Armstrong up close.

"All this just to get a glimpse of the legend," said Dave Talpas, 54, of San Francisco.

Talpas, who is fighting lymphoma, arrived in Sacramento on Friday, bringing his bike to get around the 2.4 mile course. While Talpas, who described himself as weekend cyclist, said he would have attended the Sacramento prologue either way, Armstrong made it a must-see.

Many of the thousands of people who braved the cold weather echoed similar sentiments. The Lance Armstrong Foundation booth buzzed outside the Capitol, where the popular Livestrong bracelets were a hit. By 1 p.m., the booth was out of 2,200 adult-size bracelets and was expecting to be out of the 2,200 child-sized bands, too.

Organizers at the booth also handed out yellow chalk, a promotion sponsored by Nike, with people asked to write messages to Armstrong on the sidewalk.

All along the course, kids and adults scribbled messages like "Have faith" and "Go Armstrong."

THEY'RE NOT ALONE -- Teens Nikka Van Den Dires of Los Gatos and Andrew Biscardi of San Jose are used to being the only cycling enthusiasts in their age group. Saturday, they found themselves among many people who shared their passion.

"I'm the only one at my school who cycles," said Biscardi, 13. Added 14-year-old Van Den Dires: "Me, too."

As the two riders stood near the corner of 19th and L streets, they said they had been looking forward to the Sacramento prologue and were excited to see Armstrong in action.

"He's my hero," said Biscardi, who rides for San Jose Bicycling Club.

"This event in Sacramento is so exciting," said Van Den Dires, who rides for the Proman Professional Cycling junior team.

TREK FROM UP NORTH -- Colin and Eve Taylor took their cameras off the course for a while, pointing a Sony camcorder at the State Capitol building long enough to give away their out-of-town roots.

"We drove from Vancouver," said Eve Taylor. "We came down especially to see (pro cyclist) Cam (Cameron) Evans. We are avid cycling fans."

The Taylors were able to meet Evans, who shares their hometown of Tsawwassen, British Columbia.

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