The local cycling scene got everything it wanted and more when the Amgen Tour of California unveiled the 2010 Stage 4 San Jose-to-Modesto route Wednesday morning.
Not only will Modesto's finish line come at the end of a complete 2¾-lap circuit of the downtown racing loop May 19, but an adjustment to the course means the riders, including Lance Armstrong, will be returning to Patterson after bypassing that city in last year's race.
Patterson Mayor Becky Campo was pleased to hear the news, saying she felt something was missing when the 2009 Tour of California chose Highway 132 as the entry into Modesto instead of a route that included scenic Las Palmas Avenue.
"I think it's awesome," Campo said. "Even though it's just like a five-minute rush through town. We all quit what we were doing (during the 2008 Amgen Tour) and gathered to watch the bicyclists."
The route through Patterson required the only major adjustment from the 2009 trail.
This year's 121.5-mile route (roughly 20 miles longer than last year) starts in downtown San Jose and climbs to 1,930 feet on Sierra Road within the first five miles, before taking Calaveras Road and Highway 84 into Livermore.
That's where similarities between the 2009 and 2010 routes end.
In 2009 the riders continued due east on Patterson Pass Road and skirted the south edge of Tracy before hooking onto Highway 132 and entering Modesto from due west.
This year, the course heads southeast of Livermore for a narrow climb and steep descent on Mines Road before turning east on Del Puerto Canyon Road, crossing under Interstate 5 and onto Sperry Avenue, then Las Palmas before bearing due north on Carpenter Road. The riders will enter downtown Modesto via the Kansas Avenue overpass.
Debbie Siniff of Modesto, a member of the Stanislaus Bicycle Club, rode Mines Road east to west during last year's Canyon Classic race.
"I've only done it once and in the opposite direction and about all I remember was that there were climbs involved but that it was a fun ride," Siniff said. "It's paved well and the road itself is nice. I don't think it will be difficult for the racers, but then nothing is difficult for those guys."
The scheduled 2¾ trips around downtown Modesto was cut short by one lap last February by the weather and the need to finish the race within the live national television coverage window. This year's staging of the event in May should eliminate most weather concerns.
The starting gun in San Jose will be fired at 11 a.m., and the peloton is expected to reach Modesto about 3:15 p.m.
Local spectators should expect the same kind of mass finish as the 2009 event. While the initial climbs out of San Jose will significantly spread out the riders, the flat final half of the race will bring the racers together for the exciting sprint finish.
Save Mart jumps on board
In anticipation of Wednesday's route announcement, Save Mart came on board at Tuesday night's Modesto City Council meeting as the local title sponsor for Stage 4.
"This community is committed to building on the success of the previous two years," said Modesto Mayor Jim Ridenour. "(Save Mart's) experience with large events will help to ensure that this year's Amgen Tour of California is bigger and better then ever."
Save Mart has made a $40,000 combination of cash and in-kind sponsorship. The in-kind contribution involves hosting the VIP tent at the finish line, box lunches for volunteers, and an anchor booth in the Lifestyle Village featuring samples from Save Mart's house brands and items from other product partners.
"This is just the kind of community spirited and family fun event that highlights 'the best' of Modesto," said Save Mart President Steve Junqueiro.
Since this is Modesto's third go-around as a host city and its second as a finish line, local organizers are hoping to build a downtown carnival atmosphere with the Lifestyle Village that surpasses the efforts of all other host cities.
"This year will be the perfect combination of elements — sunny, dry conditions, massive cheering crowds, an amazing Lifestyle Festival and special activities in downtown businesses," said Jennifer Mullen, executive director of the Modesto Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We are confident the riders, fans and spectators will have an incredible time in Modesto."
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada contributed to this report.
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2300.