Hundreds of fans lined downtown streets Monday to see the Amgen Tour of California — featuring some of the world’s top bicycle racers — return to Modesto for the first time in six years.
The racers were here for the start of Stage 2 of this year’s tour in front of the Gallo Center for the Arts. The roughly 150 cyclists from 30 nations made two quick laps through downtown before cheering spectators before heading out to the West Side, then over the Diablo Range and finishing in San Jose.
Rafal Majka of Poland won Stage 2 at the finish in San Jose. George Bennett of New Zealand was second followed by American Ian Boswell and Australia’s Lachlan Morton.
Spectators said the tour showcases Modesto and promotes bicycling as a healthy lifestyle. The tour — which started Sunday in Sacramento and ends Saturday in Pasadena — is broadcast on television.
“I started cycling in 2014,” said Atwater resident Abraham Camello, who brought his 4-year-old daughter, Leanne, to the Stage 2 start. “I was about 284 (pounds) and went down to 130, so cycling is part of my life now. It’s amazing. I was out here to see (Amgen cyclist) Peter Sagan and to introduce my daughter to cycling early.”
The event included a lifestyle festival and a community bicycle ride after the Amgen riders left. The ride featured several dozen participants, including Modesto husband and wife Jena and Ryan Brady and their 10-month-old son, Jack.
The family bicycled downtown for lunch, learned about the tour start and decided to stay and participate in the community bicycle ride. “I think this is great for Modesto,” Jena Brady said. The family planned to head to the Brighter Side for sandwiches for lunch.
Modesto was a stage city from 2008 through 2011. It hosted the start of a stage the first year and then hosted the end of a stage the next three. Having a stage end in a city brings out more people, but John Sanders, one of the volunteer organizers for this year’s stage, said he was pleased with Monday’s turnout.
The city expects to cover its costs of hosting the stage. Those costs were roughly $132,000 as of last week, according to an update given to the City Council then, and the city had a deficit of roughly $1,000. Costs could rise by as much as $2,500 more, said Laurie Smith, the Community and Economic Development Department business manager, on Monday. But she said fundraising will continue.
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316
Bee staff writer Deke Farrow contributed to this report.