"I'm really excited about the field that we've put together for both the men and women," Fluetsch said. "I think it should be an exciting week of racing. The first couple years, the riders and teams were just getting adjusted to the various courses, particularly the first leg.
"Now they have a better feel for the type of riders they need and it should make for really good competition.
"It's been a tough year for cycling in the U.S. because of the Lance Armstrong affect," he said. "Basically all the sponsors not related to the sport have been pulling out. I was worried for a while we weren't going to have a very big field.
"But it looks like our popularity is continuing to grow."
Reporter Sean Lynch can be reached at (209) 385-2476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ROLLING ALONG Merco Cycling Classic rolls into Merced County on Thursday with the first of four days of races and other events. Here's a breakdown on what's scheduled:
The Merced Irrigation District Road Race takes place at Lake McClure at 10 a.m. The course starts at Lake McClure Road and includes a 12.5-mile loop with one main climb.
The Merced Irrigation District Champions Dinner will be held at the Merced County Fairgrounds Pavilion at 900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The event starts at 6 p.m. and includes a special guest speaker, Olympic bronze medalist and Tour de France multiple-stage winner Davis Phinney. Tickets are $25 each, with a limited number available.
The Merced Boosters Time Trial takes place in north Merced at 11 a.m. The race starts north of La Paloma Road on G Street in Merced, going six miles up G Street and six miles back.
The McDonald's Downtown Grand Prix takes place in downtown Merced at 7:30 a.m. and continues into the afternoon. The race starts and ends at Courthouse Park in downtown Merced.
The United Way Community Fun Fair takes place at Courthouse Park in downtown Merced from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Vendor space is available. For more, call (209) 383-4242, ext. 503.
The United Way and Merced Irrigation District Cycling for Community Tricycle Race takes place from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event takes place in the parking lot at 19th and N streets in Merced. The team entry fee is $150 with all proceeds supporting United Way of Merced County. The first 36 teams will be admitted.
The Merced Mall Pee Wee Classic takes place in downtown Merced at 1 p.m. The race starts at 21st and N streets, and is open to riders 3 to 9 years old. Entry is free. Registration begins at 11 a.m.
The Hilltop Ranch Road Race takes place in Snelling at 8 a.m. and continues into the early afternoon. The course starts at Keyes and Olsen roads, and includes a 24-mile loop through rolling hills.