Cycle city rises up in downtown Santa Rosa

  • The United Healthcare pro cycling team riders navigate Third street in Santa Rosa as the Tour of California set-up continues, Saturday May 12, 2012. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

Big-rig parking lot. Erector set. Tent city.

Downtown Santa Rosa became all of the above Saturday as a small army of workers prepared Old Courthouse Square and the surrounding blocks for today's first stage of the Amgen Tour of California, which starts and ends at Third Street and Santa Rosa Avenue.

White canopy tents were raised. A giant, red arch was being inflated, one of several that will dot the course. Elsewhere, stage platforms were screwed together. Dozens of spectator barriers were unloaded.

Nearly everywhere was the steady beeping of reversing trucks.

"We're getting them loaded in and getting them out as fast as we can," said Jack Shows, a Tour event coordinator helping guide a Team Specialized 18-wheeler at the corner of Fifth Street and Mendocino Avenue.

On the opposite corner, a crew from the Italy-based Liquigas-Cannondale team unloaded a fleet of bicycles from a U-Haul.

"It's really something how far it's come," team crew member Colby Marple said of the Tour, which is now in its seventh year and has become the nation's top cycling race. Santa Rosa has been a stop in six of those tours, but this is the first time the race has started in the city.

The eight-day event will conclude next Sunday with riders from 16 international and domestic teams having covered 733.5 miles.

Thousands of spectators are expected to clog the downtown area today to watch the start, middle and end of the 115-mile trek that extends to Windsor and Highway 1, and to participate in the accompanying festival.

Tour organizers and Sonoma County hospitality industry professionals have projected the event will pump $6.8 million into the local economy as hotel rooms, restaurants and shops fill with teams, sponsors and race fans.

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