Cold, wet and windy weather wasn’t enough to stop thousands from coming out to see the Tour of California start in Davis on Sunday.
The first stage of the Amgen Tour of California kicked off in Downtown Davis, giving spectators a chance to get an up-close and personal look some of the biggest names in professional cycling.
At least 100 fans crowded around the Astana team RV waiting for seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and two-time Tour of California winner Levi Leipheimer to emerge.
Sophomore international relations major Sarah Wood got a chance to see Armstrong from 10 feet away.
“It was definitely the highlight of my day,” said Wood, who is also a member of the UC Davis triathlon team.
The team vehicles and RVs began their slow procession through a crowded downtown just after 10:00 a.m. Thursday. Eager fans were able to get within feet of the bicycles that would be used in the race, and many were able to get autographs from top cyclists.
Most who were at Sunday’s event agreed that even despite the weather, the whole thing was a success.
“Everybody is still very excited,” said Jennifer Lee, a course marshal and UC Davis alumna.
“It’s Davis, so everybody’s super into it,” said Lee’s friend Cat Purcell, who was also volunteering as a course marshal.
Lee and Purcell were two of nearly 400 volunteers who were out this weekend. Roughly 240 volunteers served as course marshals, said Davis public relations manager Bob Bowen. Another 80 worked to clean up trash, manage parking and provide security. The rest volunteered at the California Bicycle Museum, the Mayor’s Breakfast and information booths.
Even the cyclists were impressed.
Francisco Mancebo, a member of the Rock Racing team who won first place in the first stage of the race, said the cold weather was difficult, but he had praise for the spectators.
“The crowds were amazing. It was like the Tour de France,” Mancebo said at a press conference at the end of the day.
The nine-day, 750-mile race will continue until Feb. 22. Organizers expect the total number of spectators to reach 1.6 million.
JEREMY OGUL can be reached at email@example.com.