The world’s top bicycle racers will arrive in Modesto on Monday morning and, before the end of lunch, will have buzzed out of town toward Patterson.
That’s how the city welcomes back the Amgen Tour of California after a six-year hiatus – a back-to-the future moment. The city began its Amgen experience as a starting point for a stage in 2008, followed by three years as a thrilling finish line.
The powerful peloton returns to Modesto on Monday to launch Stage 2 at the Gallo Center for the Arts on I Street, leading to a roll through the West Side, an exhausting climb over the Diablo Range and finally to San Jose. But it starts with two neutral laps through downtown streets as fans wave and shout support to about 150 riders from 30 countries.
“I’m not sure a lot of people understand how great this is,” said John Sanders, one of the event’s volunteer organizers. “It puts Modesto back on the map in the bicycle world. It is a feather in Modesto’s hat.”
The event promises more, much more, than just a quick cheer as the bike-jockeys whirl by. Fans congregating downtown in the morning will be entertained and informed by a variety of activities.
5 The years Modesto has welcomed the Amgen Tour of California
Start with the lifestyle festival at 9 a.m. on I and H streets. About 50 organizations will display their health products, including 18 cancer-related displays and booths.
Sanders, the chairman of the lifestyle festival, touted an interactive trailer that targets children’s education on Stanislaus County agriculture.
“Kids will see that milk doesn’t come from a grocery store,” he said.
Also featured about four hours before race time is Autograph Alley on I Street, a check-in area for riders and an autograph opportunity for fans. Another fan-friendly plus are the headquarters for the 17 WorldTour race teams along 11th, 12th and 13th streets between I and J.
A “Walk For Cancer” for cancer survivors will start in front of Gallo Center at 11 a.m. And for those looking for food, vendors will be open in front of the county courthouse.
Adding to the event’s ambience will be displays of antique bikes and about 20 classic cars – the latter a nod to Modesto’s history – near the start line.
After the peloton leaves downtown, a community bicycle ride has been scheduled on the race route. “Anyone in the area can bring their bike and cruise the route,” Sanders said.
It puts Modesto back on the map in the bicycle world. It is a feather in Modesto’s hat.
Another new touch this year were the arrival of arrival of Tour de France officials who helped in the organizing of the Amgen races.
While the riders climb the daunting Mt. Hamilton in the afternoon, Modesto will revel in the Amgen’s return to the city limits.
Whether you’re an avid racing fan or not, it’s a neat thing for the town and the area,” Sanders said. “It’s even more than it was in Modesto in the past.”
Amgen Tour of California
▪ When: Monday
▪ Stage 2: Modesto to San Jose (road race)
▪ Distance: 89.8 miles (144.5 kilometers)
▪ Elevation Gain: 8,400 feet
▪ Downtown Route: I St. at Gallo Center, right onto 10th, right onto K, right onto 11th, left onto J, right onto 16th, right onto I.
▪ Starting Time: 12:10 p.m.
▪ Finish Time: 4:13 p.m.