Eight to 10 minutes — that’s how quickly the Amgen Tour of California riders will whoosh through the heart of Oakdale for a sprint line finish stationed at Con Agra on Yosemite Avenue before zooming off toward downtown Modesto to an awaiting crowd for the finish of the third stage.
But what a ride those heart-pounding moments will be, according to city officials coordinating the tour’s pass through the Cowboy Capital of the World.
There will be feather flags and a temporary line in the road for the sprint line finish and whoever is in the lead will try to be first to cross that line for extra points.
And the preparation for the May 15-22 ride is already in earnest as it will take the cooperation of city and state agencies to coordinate safe passage of 144 riders and 18 teams pedaling at top speeds of 35 mph to ensure that everything goes off without a hitch — or a crash.
Modeled after the Tour de France, the eight-day race is one of the nation’s largest and most recognized annual sporting events. Elite professional teams and athletes from around the world will traverse 800 miles of scenic California roadways, coastlines and iconic settings passing through 15 official stage start and finish communities — nearby Modesto being one of them —in the hopes of ranking among the top cyclists in the world.
Of course, before the race, there is plenty of groundwork to be laid in the form of training volunteers, preparing the route, and coordinating with California Highway Patrol (CHP), Oakdale City Public Works, Oakdale Police Department and the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce, just to name a few.
“The event itself is so fast it’s a little anticlimactic,” Lt. Lester Jenkins of the Oakdale Police Department said. “But we’re trying to get a big screen television set up so people can watch because there will be a live feed for two hours before the end with helicopter fly-overs. It’s really gaining momentum and it’s really exciting. It’s a great opportunity to showcase Oakdale.”
On Tuesday, May 17, when the riders pass through Oakdale they will be cushioned by 100 vehicles comprised of motorcycles and cars in front and back to ensure that the riders are protected. CHP will notify local police and volunteers as soon as the riders hit Twenty-Six Mile Road because there isn’t a lot of time between that moment and when they whiz past, so coordination is key.
Jenkins said it’s likely that side streets to Yosemite may be shut down 30 minutes prior to the riders coming through. The estimated time of arrival is between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.
The Amgen Tour of California is a self-contained unit with onsite doctors, physical therapists, and even miniature pit crews that jump in to change a flat tire in 15 seconds flat.
People are encouraged to come and watch but are advised to keep to the sidewalks and parking lots of businesses who’ve agreed to allow bystanders on their property.
“There will be signs at the east end of town warning people of a special event as well as at the highway exit from Escalon,” Jenkins said. “People need to be out of the street when they come through.”
In spite of the excitement created by the riders passing through Oakdale, there is a monetary impact, if even small.
“We anticipate more than 100 volunteers to assist with the ride. There’s no money for over time. We’re going to use all our reserve officers and Citizens Auxiliary Police Services (CAPS) members. Official volunteers will receive a flag and a T-shirt with the training,” Jenkins said.
The coordination between agencies is going smoothly, given the city’s experience with rodeo each year, Jenkins said.
“We all work well together in this county,” Jenkins said. “We have a long history of collaboration.”
Anyone interested in going through the training to be an official volunteer is asked to contact Oakdale City Council member Michael Brennan through city hall or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.