Fans Line the Streets for the Amgen Tour of California

PALM DESERT, Calif. - Under a scorching mid-afternoon sun, 128 cyclists made their way down Highway 74 and into Palm Desert during Stage 2 of the Amgen Tour of California professional bicycle race.

Spectators lined Palm Desert's El Paseo Drive more than an hour before the racers would arrive.

Others drove up Highway 74 to be the first to witness the Amgen Tour of California's initial trek into the Coachella Valley.

"I think it's fantastic," La Quinta resident Martin De Clercq said of the race. "It will really help put the Palm Springs area on the map.

"I followed the race in previous years and went up to Big Bear Lake when the race was up there - one of the stages a couple years ago - it is fantastic they are coming through here."

The cyclists came down Highway 74 at a high rate of speed and barely slowed down turning north onto El Paseo.

"I can't believe how fast they went around the corner," spectator Herb Heitzman exclaimed as the break away riders zoomed onto the posh shopping boulevard.

The lead pack of riders was followed six minutes later by more than 100 in the peloton.

"It's always exciting to be at the race and watch the guys come by up close," said spectator, and amateur cyclist, Steven Sharp. "You can tell, I think they are struggling today. It's a little bit warm."

Sharp has been to the Tour de France and other elite races. He said the riders were slowed by the heat of the desert.

"They didn't come by too too quick like we are used to seeing them," Sharp said.

Sharp and his friend Brett Cherry said they rode 45 miles of the course ahead of the racers, so they know what type of challenge they competitors faced.

"Coming down it's like a furnace," Cherry said. "The wind is coming against you and it just depleted the heck out of us, so I would imagine it was the same for them as well."

Road closures - which at highway 74 and El Paseo lasted around 45 minutes - moved along with the riders from Palm Desert to Palm Springs where the cyclists rode by the forever marilyn statue on their way to make the grueling finishing climb up Tramway Road.

Javier Acevedo made a late charge to win the second stage.

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