"I've watched the first couple stages on TV," said Santa Clara resident Harrison Price. "And you just never really get a sense of the speed that they're going at on TV."
Fellow Santa Clara resident Sam Rigel added, "It's inspiring. As a collegiate racer, it's cool co come out. We all dream about it. And to see what it's like, it's awesome."
Cycling enthusiasts assembled at San Jose's Berryessa Community Center, the starting point for Stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California. The race was 105 grueling miles with multiple climbs, including Mount Hamilton.
"We've been getting lots of snapshots today and we'll probably take thousands of photos home," said Richard Ellis.
Ellis and his family are visiting from New Zealand. They've decided to follow the entire tour in their rental car.
"We've never seen anything of this scale before, excitement-wise," he said. "It's just the crowds, the big banner behind me."
Billed as "America's Greatest Race," it's an opportunity for fans to get in on the excitement.
"It's awesome," said San Jose resident Andrew Yee. "It's really a privilege and we're lucky to have that here."
"There's more of a chance, and especially at the start and the finish line, to actually talk to the riders," said Palo Alto resident Bill Straka.
Some spectators biked and hiked their way up to Quimby Road, hoping for an up-close encounter with the pros.
"And you can see all the people that come out here who are not necessarily racers, they're just bicyclists who are excited about seeing the sport take hold," Oakland resident Rick Rickard said. "And it's another way to expose people to cycling."
It's an experience unlike any other in the American cycling world.
The next stage starts in Pismo Beach on Wednesday.