Cyclists from all over the world gathered at Centennial Plaza Friday evening to register and devour pasta in preparation for the 6th Annual Tehachapi GranFondo to commence early Saturday morning.
Vendors skirted the plaza selling their wares as Bri Brubaker of Bri Music provided live entertainment while diners ate and chatted in anticipation of the big ride.
Jennifer and Ed Bottorff of Simi Valley have traveled to Tehachapi for the past three years to participate in different levels of the ride.
"I have done the 65-mile; tomorrow I am doing the 77-mile, and both of us have done the 100-mile," said Jennifer. "We mostly come because we love this little town, and we love how everyone comes out to put on this big ride, which is so well supported."
Both of the Bottorffs are avid cyclists — in fact, Ed came in fourth last year.
Since Cory Lockwood will not be defending his title as King of the Mountain in Saturday's race, Ed said he was going to give it his best shot as a solid contender.
"We do four or five big rides a year. This is actually the best one because it is so well organized. It's top notch," said Ed.
The Bottorffs said one of their favorite aspects of the race is how everyone comes out to stand on their porches and cheer on the cyclists as they pass by.
Said Ed, "It's kinda like the Tour de France in a way. People are sitting outside on their lawns and handing out water from coolers."
Matt Masters said he has been cycling in Tehachapi's MedioFondo for the past four years. Masters, who is from the Bay Area, said he has enjoyed his previous rides, which is why he keeps coming back.
"It's challenging without being overly demanding, and scenic," Masters said of the course.
Escaping the sonic boom testing heard in Ridgecrest Friday were Mike Rockdale and his father, Ed, who traveled to Tehachapi to participate in Mike's first PiccoloFondo and Ed's third.
"It took my dad two years to talk me into coming with him," Mike said of the race.
Ed said he continues to return each year because he finds the city of Tehachapi to be really pretty.
"The first year, I enjoyed it, and the second year, I enjoyed it more," said Ed. "I really liked the ride down to Keene."
Tehachapi's annual GranFondo has not only been well received by avid cyclists, it has also had a significant impact to the city's economy since its inception.
"It may be 1,000 riders, but I have been all over downtown since about noon today, and there are people EVERYWHERE, filling up the restaurants and eating," said Tehachapi Mayor Susan Wiggins. "It's such a wonderful thing, even if you don't ride a bike, for our economy. It's put us on the map."
The GranFondo Festival will continue Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and will include a beer and wine garden and kid-friendly activities. All levels of the ride will begin at 7 a.m.