OGDEN -- Monday was a great day to be a bike "geek" in Ogden, according to Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell.
He was speaking to a full Ogden Amphitheater crowd, there to greet the participants in the 2012 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, which gets under way at 10:15 a.m. today in Ogden with a 131-mile road race.
Stage 3 of the event starts in Ogden at 12:10 p.m. Thursday.
There will be 129 athletes on 17 teams competing for championships in the race that will be viewed on television and the Internet by enthusiasts from more than 130 countries.
"I've been a passionate bike racer and a bike race loser for 25 years," Caldwell said as he invited the crowd to cheer on and welcome some of the world's best cyclists to his city.
Caldwell said it was because of the fans, local volunteers, the Ogden Visitors Bureau and the GOAL Foundation that events like the tour keep coming to Ogden.
That sentiment was backed up by race organizers.
"It didn't take us long to determine that Ogden was the prime place for the start of this year's edition," said Steve Miller, a member of the organizing committee.
He pointed to some of the same groups mentioned by Caldwell.
"I hope the people of Ogden know how fortunate they are to have people like this to bring events to Utah," Miller said, as he complimented the enthusiasm of the Ogden crowd.
Some spectators were obvious cycling fans as they rode their bikes for 12 blocks to the venue.
Sara Fulks and Butch Wright parked their bikes on the grass at the amphitheater right next to the blanket they sat on.
Fulks said she's excited to have the world see Ogden and to volunteer for the event.
"I like everything in Ogden coming together for something as swell as a bike race," she said. "Hopefully, it makes people more aware of cyclists on the road."
"A lot of people are not aware of the cycling community we have in Ogden," said Don Hall, an Ogden resident who sat next to Fulks and Wright.
"The race gives us some exposure."
Barbara McConvill, of Mountain Green, said she went to the same kickoff in Park City last year and it wasn't as well-attended as the Ogden event.
"It's great to have it here," McConvill said. "It's a great place to cycle."
McConvill said she and her husband will watch the race go past their home and then they will hurry to Ogden to see the finish.
"We have a strong appreciation for all the effort all these cyclists put in for this event, so we like to watch them," she said.
Mike McConvill, 61, was a top finisher in 1965 in what he believes was the first Utah road cycling championships.
The couple talked about the local volunteers they've seen come out of the community in droves to help with this event and others.
Jan Larson, of Ogden, who was sitting next to them, said she is thankful for the ski team members from Snowbasin who will serve where needed at the event.
"All the athletes and sports people that live in Ogden are all active with the GOAL Foundation," she said.
The racing is free to all spectators. Suggested viewing spots for each stage are available at tourofutah.com.