Auburn buzzing in anticipation as Amgen start grows close

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Amgen Tour of California fever is hitting Auburn hard. With the Amgen Tour of California cycling race’s Stage 3 start in Auburn Tuesday, residents like Joe Hernandez are finding their community already enveloped in the excitement of a world-class sporting event coming to town. Hernandez, Sierra Foothills Cycling Club president, was putting down directional markers on the pavement in Downtown Auburn in preparation for Saturday’s Stage 3 Gold Country Century Ride – one of several events in the city leading up to the 10:15 a.m. Tuesday start. “Things are really buzzing in town,” Hernandez said. “You can really feel the excitement and it’s something that is really cool to experience.” In the amped-up Downtown Auburn area on Friday, Sacramento’s CW31 had its remote satellite tower broadcasting from in front of Victory Velo bike shop, Amgen-related banners were fluttering and a general feeling of positive anticipation was in the air. Foresthill’s Bob Corbett said he’ll be trekking to Auburn Tuesday with some traditional bike-race noisemakers to cheer the peloton of internationally known cyclists on. “We’re going to make a day of it and we’re bringing cowbells,” Corbett said. The race in Auburn includes three laps through the city in a figure-eight course that takes in Old Town and Downtown. John Ruffcorn, Auburn organizing committee chairman, said Central Square will be a prime vantage point with racers going by five times and the possibility that the Jumbotron giant-screen TV will pick up the international TV feed of the Auburn run. Rider sign-ins and opening ceremonies are slated from 9 to 10 a.m. and a Lifestyle Festival at Central Square will last from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. “More and more people are catching the Amgen excitement,” Ruffcorn said. “The momentum’s building.” It’s not only Auburn that will share in the spectacle. TV channel Versus will show Stage 3 live from 2 to 4 p.m. and will have recorded highlights showing the Auburn start, Ruffcorn said. The finish in Modesto is expected to take place around 3:15 p.m., he said. Ruffcorn said that last year he received a phone call from a friend in Macedonia who watched Auburn on the European feed of the Amgen race, which went through the city. “This is the chance for Auburn to get recognized on an international stage,” Ruffcorn said. Jim Northey, a member of the Auburn organizing committee, said that while weather questions have been creating some concern for the first two legs in Lake Tahoe, he sees everything running smoothly both for Amgen, spectators and the host community Tuesday. “There’s a little anticipation about the weather but that’s more about Tahoe than here,” Northey said. “It won’t affect our stage.” Amgen race director Jim Birrell told a news conference Friday that the decision on how to handle weather conditions – including the possibility of snow or ice – would ultimately be made Sunday morning for the First Stage in Tahoe. “Fortunately, we have a large circuit and a half. We can look at a start here and a finish at Northstar,” Birrell said. “Our experience and talent will render the right decision.”