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Tour of California Stage 4 timeline

4 a.m.

Amgen construction crews arrive in downtown Merced and begin setup for Stage 4 of the Tour of California. City officials join the crews around 5 a.m. Mike Conway, Merced public information officer, calls the Amgen outfit "magicians."



6:30 a.m.

Streets outlining the course are barricaded. Merced PD redirects traffic.



8 a.m.

Tents pop begin to pop up along N and Main streets. Two stages are built along 18th Street and the starting line is dressed in the Tour's trademark yellow. The streets are covered in a chalked-out messages. A popular message: "Hope rides again." Meanwhile, Amgen officials have begun their trek down Highway 99 from Modesto to Merced in a 10-plus caravan of vans and Toyota Tundras.



9:25 a.m.

Fans begin to matriculate into the stage's epicenter, carrying noisemakers and coffees. Cowbells drown out the chit-chat coming from the booths and tents.



9:40 a.m.

Teams begin to arrive, slowly tracing their way down 18th street. Team Ouch and star rider Floyd Landis is the first to arrive. Team Type I -- and its documentary film crew -- isn't too far behind. There's no sight of Landis, but his mechanics can be seen working on the team bikes. It's a meticulous process.



9:50 a.m.

Riders begin to sign in on the main stage. Riders are given an hour to complete the sign-in process. Many of them, including Astana teammates Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer, take their time. No rush.



10:15 a.m.

Merced mayor Ellie Wooten delivers a welcome speech on the main stage, announcing that "Merced is the first city to deliver a blue sky."



10:50 a.m.

Waiting until the very last minute, Lance Armstrong finally arrives on the main stage to sign-in. The seven-time Tour de France champion is met with a hearty round of applause.



11 a.m.

The race begins .... slowly. The peloton -- or pack -- turns the corner from N to 18th street at a cruising speed. Mere feet separate the peleton from the fans lining the streets and corners.



11:04 a.m.

The peloton completes the first of two laps and begin to pick up speed. Team Ouch star Floyd Landis holds a slim but meaningless lead.



11:15 a.m.

And they're gone, headed for the Sierras down Bear Creek Drive, and eventually Highway 140.



11:30 a.m.

Merced Mall Fun Ride begins. Kids on BMX-style bikes dominate the field. Fun Ride nearly turns disastrous, though, as a pack of kids -- and one Sun-Star reporter -- veer off course and into downtown traffic. A motorcycle cop stops traffic and gets the junior peloton back on track.



-- James Burns, sports editor

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