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Thousands turn out for Tour of California’s spin through Auburn

Spectators, business owners and officials pleased with crowd
By: Jenifer Gee Journal News Editor
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Excitement hung in the air in the hours leading up to 128 bicyclists zooming through Auburn and the awe lasted throughout the day long after the world-class riders pedaled on to their final destination. An estimated several thousand people lined the streets of Auburn Sunday afternoon to watch competitors in the 2010 Amgen Tour of California race in the first stage and first day of an eight-day tour of the state. “This is so exciting,” Auburn resident Susan Harrison said in the moments before cyclists entered Downtown Auburn. “I think all of Placer County is here, not just Auburn.” And as the racers whirled into town, spectators clanged their cowbells and let out loud cheers of support. Harrison, like many others, was excited not only to watch an international sporting event up close, but was also hoping to catch a glimpse of cycling superstar Lance Armstrong. Armstrong and his Radio Shack team mates, which include three-time defending Tour of California champion Levi Leipheimer, spent a total of about 12 minutes in the heart of Auburn before cycling over the Foresthill Bridge, up Highway 49 into Cool and onto the day’s end destination in Sacramento. Despite the almost blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pass through in Downtown Auburn, residents Brad and Shawn Baldwin, who brought along their 7-month-old daughter, Simone, said the wait was more than worth it. “I got a little adrenaline rush when they came by,” Shawn Baldwin said. “I saw Lance, I know I did.” Brad Baldwin added that was it interesting to see the racers as well as the number of support crew vehicles, race marshals and California Highway Patrol officers driving the course in front of and behind the riders. “It’s crazy to see all of the behind the scenes cars,” Brad Baldwin said. Auburn city officials said the months of planning that volunteers, city employees and various community groups and leaders put into the event paid off. “I don’t know if awesome is a good enough word,” said Capt. John Ruffcorn with the Auburn Police Department. “It went off without any complications at all.” Ruffcorn commended the effort put in by the more than 100 volunteers as well as police, fire and public works department staff members. “Everybody did their job,” Ruffcorn said. “It was flawless.” Auburn Mayor Bridget Powers said she’s already heard a positive response from Amgen race officials. “I met with an Amgen commissioner who said they’ve never had a pass through town do what Auburn has done,” Powers said Sunday. Many businesses stayed open Sunday and vendor booths filled Central Square to entice spectators to stay awhile in Downtown. Mike Zuvella, co-owner of Courthouse Coffee, said Sunday was “definitely busier than normal.” “It was not a normal day in a good way,” Zuvella said. Zuvella said he hopes Auburn will become a Tour of California mainstay either as a pass through town or a start or finish point. “I’d definitely love to have them back the same time, same way, same month,” Zuvella said. John Lynch, co-owner of Sierra Moon Goldsmiths in Old Town Auburn, said his shop was busy in the hours leading up to about 1 p.m. when racers turned the corner from Lincoln Way and blasted up Sacramento Street toward High Street. “I thought it was great,” Lynch said of Auburn’s efforts. “It was our first year to host something like this and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.” And Harrison, who said she couldn’t wait to call her sister in Montana about the race, agreed that the outcome was great. “That was worth coming here for,” Harrison said. “It was awesome.” Reach Jenifer Gee at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com.