With Lance Armstrong and a collection of the world's best riders exactly 100 days away from sprinting into Downtown Modesto, the official call has gone out for volunteers to help make the Amgen Tour of California's third visit the best yet.
"We need 400 local volunteers," said Andy Johnson, the city's liaison for the Tour. "If all goes as according to plan we won't have any trouble getting that number. We've had a lot of local go-getters come on board as people have come out in force to support the Tour."
The official Web site for the local committee, www.tourofcalifornia-modesto.com, went online two weeks ago and already has seen more than 100 persons sign up for volunteer positions.
The exact routes riders will be taking during the Tour will be unveiled starting Feb. 9. The announcement of a major local corporate sponsor is expected around the same time.
"We were known as one of the better host cities last year and we hope to improve on that this year," said Susan Dion, president of the Stanislaus County Bike Club and volunteer coordinator for the local organizing committee.
Volunteer opportunities include positions for course marshals, media assistants, security, setup and takedown, lifestyle festival assistants, guest surveyors and volunteer check-in personnel. The goal of local organizers is for Modesto's hospitality to stand out among all the Tour's host cities.
"It's going to be bigger than years past," Johnson said. "We want to have the biggest live festival on the tour, with more than 100 booths -- all the way from the kettle corn guy to Memorial Hospital."
This will be Modesto's second year as a finish line for one of the Tour's stages. Riders will push off the morning of May 19 in downtown San Jose to begin Stage 4, and local organizers are lobbying for a finish that includes multiple loops around Downtown Modesto.
Last year, the threat of inclement weather pushed the projected finish time beyond the window of television coverage, forcing officials to eliminate one of the two complete loops within the Modesto city limits.
But this year the threat of poor weather diminishes with the Tour of California moving from February to May, so the locals are pushing for a route that keeps the riders in Modesto for as long as possible.
"We're all hoping the weather cooperates this year," Dion said. "One of our first requests was to have all the loops restored, and my understanding is that we'll get the full two and three-quarters loops this year."
The Stanislaus Cycling Club conducts rides around the same city loop as part of its own preparation for the Tour's visit. But this year, for the first time, avid riders will be able to challenge two of the tour's courses as part of Amgen's "Breakaway from Cancer" initiative.
On April 11, the Stage 8 ride linking Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village and Agoura Hills will be open to riders, and on April 25 the Davis-to-Santa Rosa Stage 2 trail will be made available. For details on how to get involved with those runs, visit the tour's official Web site at tourofcalifornia.com.
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2300.