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Start of Sunday's race will start with 'thank you'

There are lot of ways to say thank you. Give a card. Give a hug. Give a box of chocolates. Send flowers. Send a text. Shake a hand. Drop $20 into the Suggestion Box. If you're a NBA player, buy the housekeeper a Porsche.

What the city of Santa Rosa did for Bill Ellis, however, beats them all.

And it didn't cost them a thing. The best thank yous are the ones that are priceless.

Tour Of California Stage Maps

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This is how the city thanked Bill Ellis.

Stand at this spot on Third Street, Bill, on Sunday. Take this starter pistol and when we tell you, fire it into the air. Someone may ask you a few questions beforehand.

"I don't know what I'll say," said Ellis, who has been the technical chair on the city of Santa Rosa's local organizing committee since the Amgen Tour of California first blew into town in 2006.

Of course, Bill wouldn't know what to say but that's how Bill is. The next time Ellis calls attention to himself will be the first time he calls attention to himself. And it will one of life's great ironies that Ellis — who you won't see dressed up as a cigar-smoking Spiderman at a Mardi Gras — will be on every Sunday telecast that shows the beginning of the 2012 Tour of California.

"Every day feels like a Sunday to me," Ellis said Thursday.

That would be a good place to start. In November, 2010 Ellis was doing one of the most common, ordinary things in daily life. He blew his nose. That's it. That's all. That's how it started. He blew his nose. And it didn't feel right.

A doctor's exam and a biopsy later, Ellis learned he had a rare form of cancer, an adenoid cystic carcinoma. It had been growing for 6-8 years. It was nearing a number of nerves, including his optic. Given the location of the tumor, surgery was going to be tricky. Only two places in the world were capable of performing such a delicate surgery, Japan and Germany.


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