Bike ride kicks off the Eye-Q California Classic Weekend

FRESNO, Calif.

Riders wound their way through Downtown Fresno and up to the foothills this morning before returning to the park.

About 1,500 cyclists geared up Saturday morning at the start line of this year's Eye-Q California Classic Weekend. For some like Laura Ross, peddling this distance is a first. "I set out a goal for myself. I started doing spin at the gym and I'm 50 and I thought when I'm 50 I want to do this, so here I am!"

Before the ride, organizers released white doves in honor of 29-year-old Crystel Stanford who died after a severe injury on the course last year.

"Today is a tough day for a lot of us who have been involved in Crystel's Gift this past year," said Jim Cameron of Clovis.

At 7 a.m., the riders took off. They sped through Downtown Fresno before traveling onto the normally westbound lanes of Highway 168 which was partially shut down. "It's extremely rare, we did this first time in the Fresno area last year," said John Liu with Caltrans.

Throughout the route, spectators cheered cyclists on and volunteers pitched in to make sure everyone had plenty of water. Race organizers say they handed out about 1,700 peanut butter sandwiches and more than 2,000 gallons of water.

Two Riders were injured near Herndon and Del Ray and taken to a nearby hospital. "Somebody slowed down quickly and a couple of people touched tires in front of us and they started to fall," said Larry Huebert of Reedley.

Those who signed up to cycle all 100 miles wound their way to the foothills and back before crossing the finish line back in Downtown Fresno.

"It's a sense of accomplishment for sure to think you can get on a bike and peddle 60 miles, it's just amazing," said Joely Gutierrez of Clovis.

"It was wonderful, beautiful weather, great support, great help from the CHP and Fresno PD opening up the lanes and the highway. What an opportunity to be able to ride in this area like that," said Xavier Gutierrez of Clovis.

For many, the real accomplishment wasn't the medal they earned, but the effort it took to finish the ride.

Other cyclists took part in the California Classic Criterium Race Saturday afternoon in Downtown Fresno. The race make a loop from City Hall onto city streets including Tulare.. O Street. Tuolumne, and P Street back to the front of City Hall.

The California Classic Criterium is the only actual race taking place this weekend. The cyclists are actually riding for money.

About 200 competitive cyclists are racing in a circle around the streets of Downtown Fresno. Each of the 7 races is timed. The novice cyclists start at 40 minutes a race, up to the men's pro race which lasts 80 minutes.

"We have some of the fastest guys in California here today. There are some really, really fast guys out there. We'll see sustained speeds of 35 mph, total sprints of over 40mph," said Criterium Director David Lemons.

Each race winner has the chance to take home about $150.

Lisa James of Clovis won the women's 3/4 category -- a moderate division race -- with a strong sprint in the final lap against a rider from Southern California.

"We worked together and then the last lap I sat behind her, she wasn't too happy about that, but rest up and wait for the sprint in," said James, "it's nice to win in your home town."

Runners will hit the streets Sunday for the final day of the California Classic Weekend. The route takes people from Chukchansi Park through Downtown Fresno, into the Tower District -- and even the Fresno Chaffee Zoo before ending back at the stadium.

Tune in to Action News AM Live Sunday beginning at 6 a.m. for extended coverage of the half marathon.

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