Amgen Tour riders battle wind, rain

February 16, 2009 6:57:57 PM PST
The weather was a major factor Monday during the Amgen Tour of California bicycle race.

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Stage two of the race got off to a wet start as the cyclists left Sausalito and rode across the Golden Gate Bridge. They pedaled their way through San Francisco, down the Peninsula, and into Santa Cruz for the finish.

Estimates varied widely from 10,000 to 30,000 on the spectators who lined the streets of Santa Cruz. Either way it was the biggest crowd the locals can remember.

Santa Cruz usually gets 300 days of sunshine a year and Monday was one of the 65 other days. But, no one with a good spot at the finish was about to budge despite the occasional downpour.

After all, the cyclists were riding in it without umbrellas.

It was sunny when American Thomas Peterson and Santa Rosa resident Levi Leipheimer crossed the finish line ranked number one and two.

For bike racing enthusiasts like 15-year old Fremont resident Andrew McIntire, the Amgen Tour is a chance to see his world class heroes including seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, without having to buy a plane ticket.

"He started watching Lance four or five years ago. He told me, 'Dad I want to do that.' So, he went and saved up his own money, got his own bike," said Andrew's father Clancy McIntire.

Lesser-known cyclist Chris Jones from Auburn had his number one fan there; His mom.

"We have a motor home with our family and his in-laws, an old coach of his. So. it's been a big family party too... all the way to San Diego," explained Cindy Jones.

This is the fourth annual Amgen Tour of California. It was the first time the race was in Santa Cruz. 16 teams from around the world are making the nine-day, 750-mile trek from Sacramento to San Diego County.

"This is an amazing crowd," spectator Patty Zoccoli told ABC7.

Amgen estimates the race brings California $100 million. Santa Cruz businesses could not be happier to have a piece of that.

Cyclists will ride 104 miles in Tuesday's stage three of the tour. The route will begin in downtown San Jose at Noon. The ride will take them past the Calaveras Reservoir, through Livermore and Tracy, and end in downtown Modesto.

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