Professional cyclists say the Amgen Tour of California is second only to the Tour de France when it comes to fan support.
During a news conference with reporters Friday, they talked about the men's tour -now in its tenth year.
This is the fifth Amgen Tour for England's Mark Cavendish.
"I remember when it was in February and we raced in rain and snow. And then we moved to May and the race got bigger and bigger. It’s a big race for a lot of the riders and sponsor. You’ve seen how the passion for the sport has grown in California.”
Cavendish is a sprint specialist. He won the first and eighth stages last year.
He is not one of the favorites to win the tour. But, Andrew Talansky is. He lives in Napa and says winning in his home state would be especially sweet.
"The Amgen Tour of California is really a home race. My wife drove me over this morning. When I first started training in California I’d watch the race and I aspired to be like those guys.”
Talansky finished tenth overall last year.
One-hundred-forty-four riders on 18 teams are scheduled to compete in this year's race.
Stage One begins and ends Sunday in Sacramento. Stage Two begins Monday in Nevada City and Ends in Lodi.