By Ken Stone
The best seats in the house for the Amgen Tour of California may have been the Mission Village Drive overpass of Friars Road.
“Tour de Qualcomm,” said Tom Smith of Serra Mesa. Devoted cycling fans, he and his wife, Diane, were the first to arrive Sunday and the last to leave. (How devoted? Before they made the 5-minute drive to the stadium parking lot, they had been watching the Giro d’Italia on TV.)
On the concrete bridge, they claimed a perfect place for their Costco lawn chairs. Looking east, the Smith saw a lead pack made up of Jacob Rathe, Oscar Clark and Dan Patton.
The Smiths were among two dozen cycling fans on the span, some following the race on their smart phones via an app or getting texts on the race progress from friends watching live at home.
“We love cycling,” said Diane, 56, an auto claims adjuster, calling the athletes “amazing” as they pursue their grueling sport. “This was the closest place for us.”
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Tom, 57, a mortgage broker, confessed: “We’re very bad bike riders,” especially if they had to go back up the steep hill to Serra Mesa.
Diane drew Tom into the sport back in the Lance Armstrong days. They both have hopes that the new generation of racers is not using performance-enhancing drugs.
“We’re 99 percent sure they’re clean,” Tom said an hour before the nearly 140 riders pedaled west under their vantage point.
Afterward, the Smiths were effusive.
“We loved it,” she said.
“Best seats in the house,” he said.
“For years, we wanted to go to the Tour de France,” Diane said. “And someday when we retire, that’s what we aspire to do.”
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