Tour of California bike race could come to SLO in 2013

acornejo@thetribunenews.comOctober 15, 2012 

Tour of California cyclists pedal up Nacimiento Lake Drive near Heritage Ranch in Paso Robles during Stage 5 of the 2011 race.

NICK LUCERO — The Tribune Buy Photo

San Luis Obispo is once again a contender to host the Amgen Tour of California professional cycling race.

The city would act as a starting point for cyclists on Friday, May 17, if San Luis Obispo is selected by race owner AEG to host the tour, which is touted as the nation’s largest professional bicycling race.

The host cities for the 2013 race won’t be announced by AEG, the Los Angeles-based sports and entertainment company, until early November.

AEG approached the city through Bob Stapleton of High Road Sports on Oct. 8 to seek its participation, said Michael Codron, assistant city manager. The request is a departure from past practice, which required cities to apply and raise more than $100,000 to be considered.

Last week the city’s Tourism Business Improvement District committed to spending $30,440 for the event. That money would mostly be in donations of hotel rooms, city services such as police, road blocks, permits and trash pickup, and meals for the tour crew and teams.

Clint Pearce, chair of the city’s Tourism Business Improvement District, said the board would reimburse the city for any direct costs, which are estimated to be about $7,800.

Additional costs such as an anticipated $11,000 in hotel rooms and $11,640 in meals could be partly covered by corporate sponsors, said Pearce.

The tour skipped the Central Coast this year, bypassing former host cities San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles, after officials of both cities declined to participate because of the $140,000 fund-raising commitment required.

The tour had a stage finish in San Luis Obispo in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2009 and 2011, Paso Robles hosted stage finishes in its downtown.

Hosting a morning start versus a stage finish will have a positive impact on the city, said Codron.

“It will be less impactful in terms of street closures and the time of day but still be a great benefit by bringing people to San Luis Obispo,” he said.

Pearce said that the race is another key event to add to the city’s sports involvement, such as the San Luis Obispo Marathon, the annual triathlon, the City to Sea Half Marathon and the SLO Gran Fondo, a cycling event.

The deal will include an advertising spot on NBC Sports Network, which airs coverage of each stage of the tour — giving San Luis Obispo national exposure, said Pearce.

The race attracts huge crowds of people in metropolitan areas and local businesses such as restaurants, hotels and shops reap the benefits.

The race’s time trial stage will likely be held in Solvang the day before the race is set to start in San Luis Obispo, said Pearce. That will give San Luis Obispo an added boost of tourism as cycling fans arrive from Solvang.

“I don’t know the exact return on our investment, but I am confident that we will get a lot more value out of it than what we are putting in,” Pearce said.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.

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