Blink and you'll miss the racers at this month's Grand Prix

Tim Larkin, a veteran pro cyclist with the Kodak Gallery/SierraNevada team, calls the San Francisco Grand Prix "the hardest singleday of racing all season." For Larkin and a hundred or so otherelite cyclists, the one-day race, held each September, is agut-wrenching, gear-crunching, lung-busting course over hills sosteep they have stairs carved into the sidewalks.

For spectators, it's a chance to watch some of the world's bestathletes streaking 108.1 miles (51.6 miles for the female racers)through North Beach, the Marina, and Pacific Heights. "With half amillion people watching, it shows how far cycling has come," Larkinsays. Many of the racers are international team riders, includingsome from Tour de France teams (you probably won't see LanceArmstrong―he retired from pro racing after winning hisseventh straight Tour).

Best spots to take in this year's action: the Ferry Building(where the race starts and ends) and the brutally steep ascents ofFillmore and Taylor Streets, which the racers tackle 9 and 14times, respectively. And all you have to do is watch!

INFO: San Francisco Grand Prix starts at the Ferry Building (Sep 4, 7 a.m. for the women's race, 10 a.m. for the men's;Embarcadero at Market St.; www.procyclingtour.com);the race lasts about four and a half hours.

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