Back on the map after a one-year hiatus, the race through the city Wednesday, May 19, was part of the fourth of eight stages in the Tour de France-style road race. The route directed the peloton — the main pack of cyclists — along Sperry Avenue and into downtown Patterson just after 3 p.m. The short jaunt was part of the day’s 121½-mile run that led the 127 riders along curvy roads and steep ascents from San Jose to Modesto.
The 2010 tour is scheduled from May 16 to 23, with stops in 16 cities as cyclists travel more than 800 miles across the state.
Riders met their first challenge with a 1,930-foot climb up Sierra Road before venturing into downtown Livermore for the first time earlier in the day. From there they were again directed uphill to Mines Road, where they tackled close to 30 miles of tight, winding roads before making their descent into Patterson, with a finish in the late afternoon after two circuits in downtown Modesto.
“They go by so fast, it’s hard to tell who’s who, but it’s just so exciting,” said Jess Thompson, a cycling enthusiast who drove from Hollister with his wife, Melinda, just to see the riders pass through Patterson. “The fact that they are bringing the tour here, to California, instead of having it somewhere in Europe, is just so cool.”
Several hundred spectators turned out to line the city streets this year, hooting and hollering their support as the top four riders, followed in a pack by the rest, zoomed into the downtown.
Unlike the race in 2008, all the local schools except Creekside Middle School and Patterson High School had been let out by race time, and many students were not in attendance.
That didn’t deter the high school students, however, who lined up in droves behind Patterson High’s fences.
Tenth-grader Andrew Rodarte persuaded his mother to take him out early to catch a glimpse of cycling legend Lance Armstrong pedaling through Patterson for the first time.
“He’s such a great athlete, I really wanted to see him,” he said. “Also, I heard the cyclists would be going like 90 mph, so I couldn’t miss that.”
The winner of the third stage Tuesday was American David Zabriske, but the Stage 4 winner had not been announced by press time.
Stage 5 will be Thursday, May 20, with a route planned to run from Visalia to Bakersfield.
• Contact Kendall Wright at 892-6187