Amgen festival attracts locals, visitors (photo slideshow, updated)
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Hundreds of cycling fans braved blustery winds Thursday morning, May 19, to watch the start of the Amgen Tour of California Women’s Race at Heavenly Mountain Resort’s California Lodge.
An enthusiastic crowd counted down from 10 to send more than 100 professional women cyclists out of the starting gate and onto the road course covering 72 miles in a counterclockwise lap around Lake Tahoe.
Several attendees to the start of the race said they planned to stick around to watch the women complete their journey and see male competitors cross the finish line Thursday afternoon after starting the day in Lodi, California. A selection of sponsor booths at California Lodge, some offering free swag, kept people entertained in between the women’s start and the men’s and women’s finish.
Tom Kolasinski and his wife Connie travelled from Glendale, Arizona, to watch the Tour of California stages in South Lake Tahoe and Folsom, California. The couple travels to watch a stage or two of each year’s Tour of California in person.
“I cycle, and I’ve been a fan of cycling for a number of years,” Kolasinski said. “It’s certainly the premier race in the U.S.”
He acknowledged the fleeting nature of watching cycling in person and said he sometimes has a hard time explaining to friends why he and his wife make the annual trip. Still, he’s a passionate fan.
“The starts are fun, the finishes are fun. I enjoy the festivals,” Kolasinski said.
The couple also hosted pro cyclist Karol-Ann Canuel during a previous race, so they have a personal connection to the cycling scene.
“The fact that we could see both the men and the women brought us out to these two specific stages,” Kolasinski said.
Charlotte Theriot came out to watch the South Shore Tour of California events from Reno. She said she and her husband are big cycling fans and were hoping to find a new favorite rider at the event.
“We watch the Tour de France every year,” Theriot said. “We’re kind of addicted to it.”
The sport’s outdoor nature, high energy, color and display of young athletes performing at their peak are among its attraction, Theriot said.
The couple also said they were considering traveling to Folsom to watch the Tour of California stages there.
Joe McManus and Lucas Velzy didn’t have to go far to catch Thursday’s events. The Keller Road residents walked over to the festival Thursday morning.
McManus said he’s been riding bikes forever and keeps track of the tour.
“I’ve been following it on YouTube,” McManus said. “I was looking forward to this race. I’ll be back for the finish.”
Seeing how fast professional cyclists travel and the razor-thin margin for error are among the excitement of watching cycling, McManus said.
“One you go and see a race, it changes your perspective,” McManus said.