AA hot but breezy afternoon combined with months of detailed preparation to deliver what many said was a successful showing for Bakersfield at Thursday’s stage of the Amgen Tour of California bike race.
The event went off without any major complications, although early-morning chaos forced some creative problem solving around the start and finish area by Bakersfield College. There was also a report of a spectator nearly getting struck by a race vehicle near the start.
Overall, organizers said the race showed Bakersfield in a positive light, which they hoped would deliver tourism dividends for years to come.
Dave Hook, interim executive director of the Kern County Board of Trade, the county’s tourism agency, said the race served as an “incredible live advertisement” for the county that will pay off in terms of visitors.
“It’s one more way we can attract people,” he said.
The race’s executive director, Kristin Bachochin, said Bakersfield showed a lot of support. She didn’t think the weather posed much of a problem for the riders.
“Yes, it’s hot, but they’re used to these conditions,” Bachochin said.
It was a slightly different story for spectators, even locals used to the heat. A couple of Bakersfield women set up a canopy near the finish line early in the day.
They said the canopy was necessary given the heat and sporadic shade by the route.
“We had no choice,” Valerie Monsibais said.
Bakersfield Sports Foundation Vice President Jay Rosenlieb, another of the main local organizers, said shortly after noon that the course looked great and everything was running smoothly. He said about a thousand cowbells and 50 pounds of chalk had been handed out to spectators along the course.
“Everybody’s cooperating really well,” Rosenlieb said.
So it was between 6 and 8 a.m., when the tents and other temporary structures were being set up, Bakersfield College spokeswoman Amber Chiang said, likening the race crew’s set-up team to concert “roadies.”
“They roll in, they do their thing and they roll out.”
Still, there were “various hiccups” early on, she said, like when staff determined the college’s water lines would not extend far enough down Mount Vernon Avenue to fill up water tanks needed to anchor tents.
Fortunately, the Kern County Fire Department came through with enough water to save the day.
“It was very creative, instantaneous problem solving,” Chaing said.
While no official crowd estimate was expected to be released before Sunday, local race organizer Kerry Ryan pegged the spectator count at 20,000 or more people based on helicopter shots. That would beat Bakersfield’s 2010 Amgen high-end estimate of 15,000.
Some media watchers suggested the crowd was much smaller, perhaps in the 5,000-7,000 range.
Bakersfield resident Vicki Holubeck turned out for the race and was glad she did. She was particularly appreciative that announcers told the crowd names of approaching riders — though she might have preferred it if spectators had been given a free program with riders’ names.
“Other than that,” she said, “it was awesome.”