Avila Beach's Tour of California debut was far from Racemageddon

May 21, 2013 

Spectators leave the finish line area after the awards ceremony for Stage 5 of the Tour of California in Avila Beach.

JOE JOHNSTON — jjohnston@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

Well, that wasn’t so bad.

The 2013 Amgen Tour of California has come and gone, Avila Beach emerged unscathed and Joe Momma’s Coffee can go back to serving its regular customers, having closed in protest to all the rich dudes in spandex invading the town.

Fears of Racemageddon clogging Avila Beach like a coronary blockage seem to have been avoided, mainly thanks to a blitzkrieg of warnings and hand-wringing that likely scared many people away.

Yeah, it meant fewer than 3,000 people rather than 7,500 met the riders for the finishing dash to the sea, but you can count me with Joe Momma’s in judging that a good thing.

Far better for fewer people to take in the stage end and have it go well than twice as many show up and have it go badly.

Of course, I dislike all kinds of races on public streets, so I’m 100 percent for anything that lowers the profile on these events.

In fact, I think the Tour may have unintentionally hit on a bit of genius here.

We thought dead-ending 120-something cyclists and their prodigious entourage in a tiny town would be a recipe for disaster, but instead it ended up cloistering most of the hoopla in one out-of-the-way place.


This could be a model for all future Tour of California visits to San Luis Obispo County, as we have no end of meandering country roads that head off to the middle of nowhere.

How about a race end at Soda Lake, the Huasna Valley or downtown Adelaida?

Next time they come down Highway 1, instead of ending in SLO, they could hang a left out of Cambria and finish in the thriving metropolis of Harmony.

This way, only the diehards will be motivated to show up, and all those folks who would be inclined to fill the sidewalks by merely stepping outside their homes can stay inside and continue with their bologna sandwich making and daytime TV watching.

All snarkiness aside, it is a relief that Avila worked out OK, and kudos go out to the organizers for coming up with effective methods of managing the number of fans who did choose to attend.

Some 600 of those folks wisely parked elsewhere and rode their bikes into town. What better way to celebrate this event than by two-wheeling yourself?

The proximity of the Bob Jones bike trail allowed this to happen in a unique way that wouldn’t succeed so effectively somewhere else.

By controlling the numbers, organizers also showed that it is possible to finish a stage in SLO County without needing the participation of a major city, which opens up lots of possibilities for some of our other small towns.

The Tour hordes don’t have to come back every year, but it seems we can find creative ways to accommodate them when they do.

Joe Tarica is the presentation editor for The Tribune. Reach him at jtarica@thetribunenews.com or on Twitter @joetarica.

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