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My day at the Amgen Tour of California

Posted by rc360 on May 21, 2010

Lance Armstrong of Team Radio Shack cools off after Stage One of the Tour of Califorina, Sunday, May 16, 2010, in Sacramento, Calif. (SacPress Photo/Rob Small)

It was an exciting day in Sacramento as Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California (ATOC) rolled through. It kicked-off in Nevada City and returned to the river city with cycling’s biggest superstar and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

The Tour de France is the world’s premier cycling tour. The ATOC is the Tour de France of North America. Besides Armstrong, the free food and free schwag at the MBT (Shoes) Lifestyle Festival wasn’t bad either.

I’m not a huge fan of cycling, but I’m drawn to the ATOC since I first went in 2008. Knowing that cycling’s biggest star, Armstrong, would be in the race drew me back since I missed it last year. This could also be my last time seeing the race in Sacramento since I’m transferring to Azusa Pacific University in the fall.

I was planning on going to the ATOC just for the experience but I decided to help out KCRA’s Leticia Ordaz as well. My internship with KCRA 3 ends this week.

When I arrived on 10th Street there were vendors as far as the eye could see. Crowds of people were streaming into the tents full of merchandise.

You couldn’t walk anywhere without seeing a bicycle and many of the fans at the event were knowledgeable about the sport of cycling. Many of them took advantage of the free bike parking on the State Capitol grounds. It was a great atmosphere even before the race reached Jackson Highway.

Bob Hammond was one of the many fans enjoying the festival and he was glad that Sacramento was getting a taste of professional cycling.

“I really like the fact that it’s drawing high quality, professional riders,” Hammond said. “The city of Sacramento is really going to benefit. It sees a lot of people coming from everywhere, not only from Northern California but sees people from the western United States.”

Local cyclist Luiggi Zuniga, who hails from Peru and recently won a local race with Team Kinetic Cycles was also in attendance.

“(I came) to see the top riders in the world riding around our lovely Sacramento,” he said. “Lance Armstrong, of course, he’s the best rider in the world.”

At the festival activities ranged from buying official ATOC merchandise, taking a picture with Armstrong using a green screen, spinning a wheel to win prizes and keeping up-to-date with current race results at the Radio Shack tent.

I took advantage of anything that caught my eye. Signs, stickers, free samples, you name it, I grabbed one. I even got my body fat checked at the Herbalife tent. I tested at 15.6%, which is considered underweight. Not a surprise to me since I’m five-feet-nine-inches and weigh 156 pounds.

As soon as I heard that the cyclists were coming, I tried to make it back to the KCRA live truck, but the road had been sealed off. I made the mistake of going back to 10th Street when I should have stayed on the Capitol Mall and ran around the border of the route.

To get a decent view of the race on L Street between 10th & 9th streets I had to balance myself on top of a CVC pipe next to a palm tree. A fan’s crazy idea for me worked and I got some great photos of the race as the cyclists zoomed by.

Unfortunately, you could hear the reaction of the crowd when U.S. national road racing champion George Hincapie and Belgian sprinter Tom Boonen both crashed.

Britian’s Mark Cavendish of HTC-Columbia finished in first place with Argentina’s Juan Jose Haredo right behind him for second place. The favored winner of the ATOC, Levi Leipheimer of Team Radio Shack, came in 42nd place and teammate Armstrong finished in 69th place.

Stage 2 started today in Davis, home of the United States Bicycle Hall of Fame, and ends in Santa Rosa. Even though it lasts less than a day, ATOC remains one of Sacramento’s biggest events of the year.

Click here to read the story on Sacramento Press.

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