STOCKTON -- Dozens of professional cyclists crossed the starting line on the Stockton waterfront Thursday morning for stage 5 of the Amgen Tour of California men's race.
"For us, it's just a phenomenal day in Stockton," said the CEO of Visit Stockton, Wes Rhea.
It's the first time since 2007 that Stockton has hosted a stage of the international cycling event and organizers say it's a huge opportunity for the city.
"Well it's definitely a boost for us on the dollars side when it comes to hotels and people going out and doing things in downtown," Rhea said. "But also, for us, it gives us a sense of credibility to bring more world-class sporting events to Stockton."
Some fans traveled across the globe to California's Central Valley to watch the athletes make the 110-mile trip from Stockton to Elk Grove, where the women's race began Thursday morning.
Many of the spectators and athletes alike experienced Northern California for the first time.
"It's a very nice, it's a surprising city for us just from walking around so far," said Matt Walters, who is from Desoto, Iowa.
But some of the cyclists have the advantage of calling Northern California home.
"Today, especially, is all roads that I train on pretty regularly, almost every day so," said Evan Huffman with Rally Cycling. "It helps to be familiar with the roads. It can make a big difference sometimes."
Huffman grew up in Elk Grove. Now, he travels around the world as a professional cyclist.
"A lot of the best teams in the world are here and that brings a lot of viewers from Europe and all over the world, Australia and even Asia," Huffman said. "So I think it really makes a name for California and for the beautiful riding we have here."
He said the Amgen Tour is putting Stockton on the map and giving California a reputation as a world-class destination for cycling.
"It's just a really cool place to be. A cool place to race and to train and to live," Huffman told FOX40.
The men will start racing for stage 6 of the Amgen Tour of California Friday morning in Folsom and the cyclists will climb up to Lake Tahoe. The course director told FOX40 it will likely be the hardest leg of the entire race.