AMGEN Stage 5 Begins in Visalia

February 19, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
It's the longest of the eight routes; 134 miles. Riders will leave Visalia at 10am Thursday morning and make their way to Paso Robles. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Live coverage begins at one p-m on the Verses Network:

Comcast Cable: Channel 38
Direct TV: Channel 603
Dish Network: Channel 151
U-Verse: Channel 640

TRACK THE RACE LIVE ONLINE
http://tracker.amgentourofcalifornia.com/
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Stage 5 begins on Acequia Avenue in front of the Visalia Convention Center. Cyclists will do two laps around Main and Center Avenue before racing south as they head out of the city.

Before all the excitement gets started, There are plenty of last minute preparations underway.

Just as thousands watched the start of the 4th leg of the race in Merced and the finish in Clovis, thousands are expected in Downtown Visalia this morning for the start of the fifth stage.

There was lots of clanging and banging in downtown Visalia as crews worked through the night to set up for the fifth stage of the race. Riders will be assembling early. The race starts at 10am and Janet Robertson is ready. "I actually get to pull the gun tomorrow that puts the race in motion," said Roberson.

Robertson is a biking enthusiast and like racing star Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor. She said Armstrong helped inspire her to beat cancer, and get healthy. "One of my biggest accomplishments was just this past September, I completed a hundred mile country race over the coast that felt like a huge accomplishment for me coming off cancer and riding one hundred miles in a day."

The racers who start in Visalia will be travelling more than 134 miles to Paso Robles. They'll do the first mile and a half through downtown Visalia. With worldwide TV coverage, they'll join other local cities, Merced, Mariposa and Clovis in the international spotlight.

"We're excited; we're opening our doors to the world. We're excited to be able to do that. We're looking forward to a real exciting and fun day," said Glenn Morris with the Visalia Chamber of Commerce.

Cyclists will start arriving as early as 8:30 Thursday morning for the 10am start time. In order to accommodate an estimated crowd of anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 people, parking restrictions and street closures will be in place starting at 7:30am.

Visalia City Hall has a list of some of the best viewing spots for the AMGEN tour.

- Check out where it all starts at Church and Acequia.
- The team areas are just south of Acequia and Bridge Street. Riders may be available for autographs.
- The lap parade is on Main Street. It's also the route for the cyclists and race caravan.
- You can also see the cyclists off at the exit route along Main, Conyer, Tulare and Akers.

Organizers said spectators should get to Downtown Visalia early to secure a spot for the start of Stage 5.

Wednesday, 15,000 people were in Merced for the start of the 4th stage. The cyclists did two laps around the Civic Center and the Historic Courthouse before heading out to the foothills.

The cyclists took on the higher altitude in mariposa. Nearly 2,500 people gathered to see them zip through downtown.

The race in Mariposa was a sprint phase, where cyclists pedaled at fast speeds to win points for top positioning. It was then on to Oakhurst where snow plows cleared Road 426 just before Lance Armstrong and others rode through. Thousands of people lined the streets of Oakhurst as the group sped by, about four minutes behind a breakaway group of three. Spectators said the energy level was high even if it only lasted a little while.

When the cyclists arrived in Old Town Clovis, they were greeted by huge crowds at the finish line.

A photo finish wrapped up the fourth stage of the AMGEN Tour of California. More than 35,000 people lined the streets as the cyclists came racing toward the finish line. Many spectators lined up hours before the race ended to get a good spot.



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