Business was brisk at the Bicycle Trip's booth in the fair that ran all day alongside the Amgen Tour of California finish line at Cabrillo College. Customers lined up to spin a wheel and win prizes and to see top of the line bicycles.
"It's important to get the community back together," said Evan James who works at the shop and leads adventure bicycle tours. "The year it was gone it was really missed."
The Amgen Tour, the biggest bicycle race in California, was rebuffed by Santa Cruz last year, because the city didn't have the money to pick up costs.
Amazingly, a private enthusiast, Maura Noel, who got Santa Cruz County back in the running by bankrolling it, even if the race no longer passed through the city of Santa Cruz.
"She deserves a gold medal," said retired health club owner Jim Theiring, of Aptos, who came to the race with his wife, Linda.
"It's just great. I hope the community gets behind it," said the man who used to own Ronnie Lott's and Almaden Valley Athletic clubs in San Jose, and wore a shirt that said "Sea Level is for Sissies."
Dominican Hospital diatician Melissa DeVera was watching the race, while her husband, Joe, was working as a mechanic for Specialized.
"This is great for the people of Santa Cruz County," she said. "It's also great PR for Santa Cruz and Cabrillo."
A helicopter hovered overhead; so did a plane carrying a giant Lite Beer banner. A lot of people pushed bicycles and shopped at stores that sold tape to ease back pain, energy bars and drinks and hot new bicycles.
They watched the race on TV monitors all over the grounds and heard the announcers build excitement. The attendance was nothing like the 10,000s who came out the day before in Santa Rosa. Many may have been scared off by the challenges of parking and the closure of Soquel Avenue.
It turned out parking was a breeze and it was easy to get a great sight line, even as the racers headed toward the finish around 4 p.m.
Cyclist and speech pathologist Margie Biddick, 53, of Aptos, had a prime spot as the racers turned to the home stretch.
"They should have Maura Noel Day," she said.
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