MOUNT DIABLO -- A few cycling fans drove to this mountain from San Jose to cook breakfast burritos on camp stoves while waiting for the world's best cyclists to thunder by.
Two fans drove from Canada with camp chairs and an ice chest to find a viewing spot in the shade of an oak tree.
A 10-year-old Lafayette boy rode his bicycle more than half way up Mount Diablo to see the racers, and then pedalled downhill straight to soccer practice.
Adventurous, hearty, and passionate cycle fans gathered by the thousands on Mount Diablo on a hot day May 13 to see the third leg of the Amgen Tour of California.
It was a festival-like atmosphere for many at the event, the second consecutive year that the tour featured a leg with finish atop the 3,849-foot-tall mountain with sweeping views of Northern California.
Paul Draper, of San Jose, and four friends from the South Bay and Bakersfield found a shady spot along the road to set up their camp stove and cook breakfast burritos in the morning hours before the peloton raced by.
They relaxed in Tommy Bahama beach chairs on a day when temperatures reached the 90s at the base of the mountain, 83 half way up, and 70s at the summit.
"We've seen Amgen races before, but this is the first time we've gone this far," Draper said. "We've got plenty of water, shade and good seats."
Their motivation for coming: a free up-close view of some of the world's best cyclists toiling up the steep mountain.
Faith Leather and Frederic Robinson, from Vancouver, BC, came to the U.S. to see all eight legs of the Amgen race.
"It's an awesome setting on the mountain," Robinson said from his camp chair along Summit Road, " I love the sunny climate and the smell of the pine trees and the oak trees up here."
The heat didn't bother them, they said, because it had been raining in Canada for days before they had reached California ... to find sunshine.
"It's great to have predictable weather, and in California you get sunshine," Robinson said
Steve Hainlen from St. Paul, Minn. rode his bike most the way up Mount Diablo and walked the rest of the way to get a prime viewing area near the summit finish. The heat didn't bother him.
"This is normal Minnesota summer heat, believe it or not, but I wish I would have brought a hat," Hainlen said. Seeing the pro riders is humbling, he said. "I've been interested in riding since I was child, and seeing them ride like this ... these guys are out of this world."
One fan pedalled to the top in a bright Wonder Woman costume, her cap flapping as she chugged up the mountain.
Roadside fans rang cowbells, blew horns, and displayed signs supporting their favorite pro racers. One sign repeated an answer that veteran racer Jens Voigt gave when asked how he continued riding up a steep mountain when his legs were in pain: "Shut up, legs."
State park officials said they were pleased so many fans visited the park that day, and none had major medical problems due to heat exhaustion or bike crashes.
"Overall the event went very well," said Dave Matthews, the state parks district safety program coordinator. "There were no (major) accidents and only a couple minor heat related medical issues."
Race volunteers sold bottled water to some fans, and gave it away to a few recreational cyclists who were running low.
State park officials have not yet estimated the crowds at Mt. Diablo State Park for the race, but Matthews said he thinks the numbers were "pretty close" to the race a year ago. Matthews estimated that last year some 8,000 people came to the state park, including about 4,600 recreational cyclists and some 1,000 people associated with race teams and event organizers.
Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff.