DANVILLE -- Tim and Janet Howes took a short bike ride from their Danville home to get prime free seats to watch some of the world's best bike racers zip up Mount Diablo last week in America's most prestigious bike race.
David Moirao pedaled some 20 miles from his Pleasanton home to get there.
Charlotte Mann and her golden retriever walked about 30 seconds from their Diablo home.
"It's a big event just few feet away," Mann said. "I wouldn't miss it."
Several of the estimated 7,000 to 10,000 people who came to and near Mount Diablo State Park said they were excited by their up-close exposure to the Amgen Tour of California racers on May 15.
It didn't last long.
"They were here and gone in about 10 seconds," Janet Howes said after the tightly bunched pack of 124 racers rode past the southern entrance of the park and disappeared around a curve. "I was impressed by the energy in the group."
Despite the short viewing time to see the pack whiz by -- about as long as it takes for one pitch in a baseball game -- fans said it was worth it to see the elite racing talent.
The race group included seven world champions, three Olympic medalists, current national champions from seven countries, and six winners of stage races in the Tour de France.
Since it was the race's first attempt on Mount Diablo, fans acknowledged they were just guessing as to the best places to watch the race and when to arrive.
A few people with homes along the route in Diablo hosted viewing parties with big chairs in their driveways.
Perhaps as many as 1,000 people pedaled part way up the mountain to the Junction Ranger station to watch the pro racers compete for points awarded to the first to reach the high point in the race.
Tony and Kimberly Wilson of Alamo brought their two young children to see the race along a Mt. Diablo route that Tony regularly rides.
"My children get it," Tony Wilson said. "When we're out driving and see a bicyclist, my 7-year-old daughter calls out 'maillot jaune'' -- a French reference to the yellow jersey worn by the leading rider in a multi-day bike race.
Kyra Stockton of Danville arrived at the park some two hours before the race and easily found a good viewing spot. "Next time I wouldn't arrive as early," she said in an email, but added. "It was a very festive event."
State park officials said some visitors were already lining up before the 7 a.m. opening of park gates last Tuesday.
Steve Krome of Danville said seeing the racers along Blackhawk Road was "an awesome experience."
However, to understand how the strategy unfolded in the five-hour, 115-mile-long race, Krome said he had to watch a recording of the race later on television. "You can see more of the action on TV," he said.
Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff