No matter who wins the 2016 Amgen Tour of California cycling race, two Sacramento-area riders have made names for themselves.
Neilson Powless is 19 and grew up in Roseville. He came into Friday's stage sixth overall out of 133 riders in his first Amgen and is wearing the white jersey given to the best young rider.
Before the race, he was asked, "How's all this feel?"
"Pretty Intimidating. But, it's been a good ride so far," he laughed.
When asked about his expectations coming in, he said, "Honestly, it was just to come in here and get some experience and go for a stage if I could. Now, it's about holding a good general classification spot."
I asked when it had hit him that, "Hey, I'm actually doing this?"
"Kind of like on the way down here (today.) It was like, 'Wow, I'm coming back home now. It's a really great feeling racing at this level on roads I train on almost every day. I'm so familiar with the area," he said. "(It's) really nice. It helps me keep a level head and keep it all in perspective."
He's on the 23-and-under Axeon Hagens Berman developmental team. Two teammates, Britain, Tao Geoghegan-Hart and Spaniard, Ruben Guerreiro are second and third in the Best Young Rider category.
Each of the race's eight stages have bonus sections to reward sprinters and mountain climbers. He's tenth in sprints and fourth in King of the Mountain categories.
Evan Huffman is grew up in Elk Grove. He's on the Rally racing team and wears the polka dot jersey as the leader in the King of the Mountain category.
He says this year's race has more climbs and more opportunities for him to succeed.
"I'm a good climber and I like long, hard races. So, for me, last year, the route last year was a little more sprinter friendly. So, I didn't enjoy it quite as much, because you're just kind of cruising around on the flats all day," he said.
It's his second Amgen Tour. He said the support from fans inspires him.
"Sometimes, you get kind of caught in the little bicycle-racing world and you're just kind of going through the motions and it feels like you're doing it just to do it. So, it's nice to see people say that they're watching and supporting you. It gives you a little bit extra motivation."
There will be six climbs during Saturday's stage, which will start and finish in Santa Rosa. The race ends Sunday in Sacramento.
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