After months of hype and thousands of man-hours of preparation, the Amgen Tour of California finally rolled through Tuolumne County today.
Though the winner of today’s race was unknown at press time, Peter Sagan of Liquigas-Cannondale began Stage 4 in the lead with a record-setting three consecutive wins in earlier race stages.
The Local Organizing Committee of the race has been making preparations for the big event since it was announced to much fanfare late last year, according to marketing director Darrell Slocum. He said volunteers have spent hours cleaning up the city, producing signs and getting the word out on social networking sites like Facebook.
“We just wanted to show our love and appreciation for hosting the tour,” he said.
More than 40,000 people turned out to see the cyclists set off from Santa Rosa on Sunday on the first leg of the 735-mile, eight-stage race. Slocum said it’s unlikely that many people will make the trek to Sonora for Stage 4, however he said many thousands were expected to line Washington Street and portions of the race on Jacksonville Road and Highway 120.
Sonora City Administrator Tim Miller said he expected 5,000 to 10,000 people to flood Tuolumne County today.
“The (Local Organizing Committee) has worked hard to stage a successful event,” he said.
The Committee organized pre-race events that included music by the Sonora High School Golden Regiment Band and Summerville High’s Jazz@8 vocal group, as well as an honor guard provided by the local Vietnam Veterans chapter.
Local shopkeepers were selling wares on the street to take advantage of the large crowds. Gini Seibert of the Out of Hand pottery shop on Washington Street was selling hand-made ceramic coasters, photo holders and trivets to the crowd.
“I thought it would be nice to make some hand-crafted memorabilia for people to take home,” she said.
Other businesses were ramping up operations and extending hours to accommodate the crowd of onlookers. Golden State Cellular deployed an additional mobile cell tower to handle extra phone traffic on race day.
More than 200 volunteers began work in Courthouse Square Park on Tuesday to set up concessions and vendor booths.
Ed Popke, vice president of operations for Save Mart said this is the second year he’s been involved in the behind the scenes preparation for the race. This year, the store donated enough food to feed 1,200 people and has supplied 43 volunteers to help serve it up.
“We’ve always been supporters of our community and events like this which promote health and wellness,” he said.
Sonora Save Mart workers Justin Coyle and Elena Golovina were volunteering to help feed Amgen workers on the morning of the race. Volunteers got up as early as 4 a.m. to begin setting up the grand blue archway emblazoned with the Amgen logo.
“We’re just hoping to see a really good turnout and for people to see what the Mother Lode is all about,” Coyle said.