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By plan or by chance, Amgen Tour of California draws a crowd in downtown Sacramento

Watch the 2019 Amgen Bike Race get started in Sacramento

The 2019 Amgen Tour of California begins in Sacramento on May 12, 2019 with a flat stage through Woodland and Winters and the traditional three-lap finish in downtown. A fan talks about meeting the cyclists and learning what they like about the area.
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The 2019 Amgen Tour of California begins in Sacramento on May 12, 2019 with a flat stage through Woodland and Winters and the traditional three-lap finish in downtown. A fan talks about meeting the cyclists and learning what they like about the area.

Hundreds of cycling mega-fans and citizens alike gathered near the State Capitol to watch the some of the world’s fastest cyclists compete in the first stage of the 14th annual Amgen Tour of California.

Cyclists took off from the starting line near L and 9th streets at 2:15 p.m. Sunday. Athletes will face six more stages over the next six days, spanning nearly 777 miles across California.

Cycling teams parked their RVs and other vehicles on Capitol Mall as they prepared for the race. Cyclists could be seen practicing solo and in group formations on surface streets as fans cheered them on.

Fans had a few favorites that garnered extra cheers while warming up, including 29-year-old Elk Grove native Evan Huffman, riding for Rally UHC Cycling, and former Tour of California winner Peter Sagan of Slovakia, riding for Bora-hansgrohe. Sagan won the first stage Sunday.

Fans Derek Laarman and Mari Tateyama gathered at 10th and L streets to watch the beginning of the race. Laarman said he and Tateyama arrived at the starting line roughly a half hour before the race started to see the cyclists pass by.

“We’ve missed the last couple years. We wanted to come down and it worked out this year,” Laarman said. “We’re just here for the experience.”

Others in the crowd said they happened upon the event by accident, like Kris Schulz and his wife.

“We were doing Mother’s Day at Painted Cork (art studio) and cruised over here for lunch and watched the beginning of the race,” Schulz said.

As the starting gun went off, cyclists zoomed down L Street at more than 35 mph. Onlookers only got to see roughly 30 seconds of actual racing before cyclists were out of view, off to cross the Tower Bridge and complete the race circuit.

Team vehicles carrying extra bikes and other supplies followed and fans stayed for more than 10 minutes cheering on their favorite teams. Others left to enjoy a fan festival with food, drinks and other activities held by Amgen and the city of Sacramento, among others.

Daisy Gardina and her husband, Don, were among the fans who stayed to cheer on team vehicles. The two said they’ve been to every race since the Tour of California started 14 years ago and arrived at the starting line more than an hour before the event to get a good view of the cyclists.

“We actually started going the first year when the tour was in Santa Rosa, because of (Levi) Leipheimer,” Daisy said of the cyclist who won the Tour of California three years in a row. “It’s such an exciting sports event, it’s fun and I like an excuse to wave my cowbell.”

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