Nearly 2,000 cyclists will take over a stretch of Highway 168 for a fourth straight year Saturday as part of the California Classic Weekend's Century ride.
It's the main draw for the ride and the reason people keep returning, according to organizer Mike Herman.
"Our participants love it," he said. "It's the only opportunity for people to ride on a California freeway.
The 100-mile pedal through the foothills east of Fresno is the only race to have a freeway closed off, according to CalTrans. (Rides of 60 and 35 miles also are offered).
The ride remains a draw for out-of-town registrants. As of Tuesday, 1,500 cyclists had signed up, with 42% of those from out of the Fresno/Clovis area.
"It's an interesting trend," Herman said. "It has picked up gradually every year."
A majority of registrants are from the coast and many are from the Los Angeles basin, but Herman said he is most surprised to see registrants from nine states making the trip to the central San Joaquin Valley for the one-of-a-kind ride.
Cyclists line up at 7 a.m. along Inyo Street behind Chukchansi Park before they're escorted by police to the Highway 168 onramp at McKinley Avenue. From there, cyclists will pedal 10 miles on the closed freeway, with dozens of spectators typically standing on overpasses to cheer as the cyclists pass.
Organizers also brought back the shaved ice stand at the final rest stop in Sanger for century and metric riders -- and at the end riders will be treated with a tri-tip lunch, ice cream and massages.
Cyclists ride opposite the usual traffic flow, so westbound Highway 168 will be closed to vehicular traffic from 6:45 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. while eastbound 168 will be open for those coming from highways 99 and 180 to attend Fresno State's commencement ceremonies.
Originally a one-weekend, two-part event that also featured a half marathon, organizers moved the half marathon up in the year to spare runners from the heat. The half marathon was held March 16.
There's roughly 500 spots left for cyclists, Herman said, though they receive anywhere between 50 and 60 new registrants each day.
Entry costs $80 for the century or metric rides and $75 for the mini metric. There is no day-of-event registration.
About 50 volunteers still are sought to help with the California Classic Century.
Saturday: 7 a.m.
Start/finish: Chukchansi Park
Events: Century ride, metric century and mini-metric
Registration, more details: www.californiaclassicweekend.com
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6401, firstname.lastname@example.org or @anhelllll on Twitter.