If you ever have wanted to feel like you're riding in the Amgen Tour of California without the hassles of training to become an elite athlete, getting on a team, having to undergo drug testing or climbing pesky mountain passes, the Stanislaus County Bicycle Club has an event just for you.
On Saturday at 9:30 a.m., the club is hosting a free event in which cyclists of all levels can ride a 21-mile escorted loop of many of the same city and country roads that the Tour of California riders will be speeding down on May 19.
The ride will start downtown at 12th and I streets, which is the Tour of California finish line, and head out of town on a loop that includes Woodland Ave., Hart Road, Paradise Road and back via Carpenter, eventually crossing over the Kansas Avenue overpass and onto the same downtown circuit route the Amgen riders will take 11 days later.
There is no fee for the event, no registration and you do not have to be a member of a cycling club to participate.
When the Stanislaus club hosted this ride prior to last year's race, about 120 riders participated.
"Part of the excitement of this event is riding the same route that the real riders will be doing in a little more than a week," said Susan Dion, president of the Stanislaus club. "Another great part of this is that it gets people out to do things with the community. A lot of people ride alone and don't realize that there are clubs here to ride with, and riding in a group always is better for safety reasons."
The Stanislaus club also is in charge of enlisting and coordinating the volunteer effort that goes into hosting Stage 4 of the Tour of California and will be hosting a volunteer orientation session tonight.
The meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. in the Arbor Room at Centre Plaza, 1100 K. Street. Dion said more than 380 people have signed up to volunteer at the event, and all persons interested in donating time to this year's race are invited to visit tonight's session.
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.