Finish line-Lifestyle Festival, all day
Even if you choose not to watch the riders cross the finish line, sometime during the day you need to come down to ground zero of Stage 4 to take in the traveling carnival that is the Tour of California. In addition to the vendors' and sponsors' booths, you'll be able to watch the telecast of the entire race on JumboTrons along I Street.
Base of the Needham Overpass, about 3 p.m.
There's limited room, but if you situate yourself in the right spot early, you'll be able to see the riders buzz across the overpass and make the immediate left-hand turn, then watch them come around again for two hairpin right-hand turns onto College Avenue.
The lawn at Modesto Junior College, about 3:01 p.m.
A very underrated place to watch the racers, who will be nearing top speed on this straight shot before jockeying to make the right-hand turn onto Coldwell.
Graceada Park, Sycamore and Needham, about 3:02 p.m.
Pack a picnic and get here early to watch the only repeated left-hand hairpin turn on the downtown loop.
11th Street, all day
Before the riders arrive, this will be a haven from the bustle of the Lifestyle Festival on I Street. As the riders draw near, those wishing to avoid the 10-deep throng around 11th and I will find clearer vantage points all the way down 11th. This is the fastest stretch of the downtown loop.
The route into Patterson from the west, from Sperry Road to West Las Palmas Ave., around the traffic circle at Plaza Park and across Highway 33, is likely to be less crowded this year. It's an early dismissal day for Patterson schools, and most of the school-age kids will be home by the time the riders scream through, starting about 2:30 p.m. The closure includes access to restaurants and gas stations next to Interstate 5 at Sperry. As soon as the pace car goes through, roughly a mile ahead of the peloton, the exits off I-5 at Sperry will be closed for 10 to 15 minutes. In 2008, when the tour went from Modesto to San Jose, through Patterson, the schoolchildren were there to cheer on the riders.
Text by BRIAN VANDERBEEKfirstname.lastname@example.org