First stage of Tour of California begins

February 18, 2008 4:42:14 PM PST
Some of the world's best cyclists started the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California in Marin County.

This race means a lot to every town and city where each cycle starts and finishes. It meant so much to one of the cyclists in the race, he put his legal career on hold. Berkeley's Roman Kilun has been racing professionally for five years. He says the ingredients for a cycling explosion are here in California.

"You need to have great events like this with beautiful places to bring the riders and fans out. As you can tell, every year, this race gets bigger," says Kilun.

An event like this costs big money to put on and that money comes right back into the community.

"We encourage people to buy local, spend money, and have a good time," says Susan Roe, Sausalito Organizing Community.

The buildup to this race includes racing teams pulling up in highly identifiable and lavish vehicles with law enforcement parading in as well. The CHP has a critical role to play in case a cyclist breaks away from the pack.

"We want to make sure there is a vehicle between the breakaway and the main pack to let other people know more bikes are coming," says officer John Fallet, CHP.

The races technical director is more concerned about injuries to the riders. That is why he has a doctor and two ambulances traveling with the riders at all times.

"These guys fall over sometimes. In addition, 650 miles puts a little wear and tare on the body sometimes," says Chuck Hodge, Race Director.

Maybe the most newsworthy part of the story is the drug testing program and that two of the top three teams have contracted with the Agency of Cycling Ethics.

"All three of the top leaders are in these independent anti doping programs," says Paul Strauss M.D., Agency for Cycling Ethics.

It's a sport that is catching on in America, but nowhere near as popular as Europe. The racers will be biking through Mount Tam, Bodega Bay, and Santa Rosa. Last year the biggest and loudest crowd in the entire tour was in Santa Rosa.