Mountain Communities Prepare for Tour Visit

February 17, 2009 7:51:41 PM PST
Wednesday's stage of the AMGEN Tour of California will take cyclists through Merced, Mariposa, and Oakhurst before finishing in Clovis. Some of the biggest challenges riders will face are in the mountain communities, where excitement is building.As a street sweeper made its way through Oakhurst Tuesday to clean the city's streets, businesses around town brought out the welcome banners for Lance Armstrong and the other Tour of California cyclists.

"It's really exciting to have people of that caliber coming through. They're going to be flying by. We're really excited to have them running by the front of the store," said True Value Manager Alan Bryant. The back Bryant's store had more than a dozen tents and stacks of chairs ready to go. Wednesday, they'll be set up throughout town and thousands are expected to line the streets to watch the cyclists zip by.

At Oakhurst Physical Therapy, cycling fan Tony McLean has videos of the tour showing all day. He'll be taking part of the day off Wednesday to watch the race. "I think this is a great showcase for eastern Madera County. Hopefully different countries will see this and say, 'I want to go to this area'" said McLean.

When the tour makes its way through Oakhurst Wednesday the weather will be soggy at best. Tuesday it rained and snowed most of the day and though the forecast for Wednesday looks good, the ride from Mariposa to Oakhurst will be tricky. "That's going to be fast descent with a couple of hairy twists that hopefully they know about," said Rick Garner, the owner of Yosemite Bicycle and Sport.

Garner says it's those climbs that separate the men from the boys. So Wednesday, he knows where he wants to be. "We're going to be at the top of the hill. Right when they're going to be going by at maybe 10, 15 miles an hour and taking lots of good pictures of them? because it's going to be a once in a lifetime to see Lance in our hometown," said Garner.

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