Paso Robles will host the fifth stage in the Amgen Tour of California professional cycling race next year for the second time.
It’s one of 15 host cities for the eight-day race from May 15 to 22, starting in South Lake Tahoe for the first time and ending in Thousand Oaks.
Paso Robles officials declined Wednesday to confirm or deny their participation in 2011, but they’re expected to make the announcement at a news conference today.
Officials with race presenter AEG Sports also declined to comment.
Paso Robles hosted its first stage finish in February 2009 when thousands of cycling fans lined Spring Street. The race skipped over the Central Coast entirely in 2010 when race organizers chose a more inland route and a May time slot for better weather and training terrain.
Cyclists will ride through Paso Robles on May 19 — the day before the Paso Robles Wine Festival.
Now in its sixth year, the Amgen tour will cover more than 800 miles. Amgen, a biotechnology firm that is the race’s title sponsor, is planning to once again raise awareness for its “Breakaway from Cancer” program during the race.
The tour, which features top Tour de France cyclists, world champions and Olympic medalists, has attracted more than 2 million spectators in previous years, according to AEG. Participants have included Lance Armstrong, Mark Cavendish of San Luis Obispo’s Team HTC-Columbia and George Hincapie, who formerly rode for Team HTC.
Before cyclists dash into Paso Robles, they will stop at host cities including Sacramento and San Jose. The sixth stage brings them to Solvang for the race’s highly popular time trial event. Solvang was skipped in the May 2010 race.
The 2011 route will once again follow Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur.
Various North County community groups, including the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, urged the City Council last month to approve the city’s stage application so they could create community marketing opportunities with the international attention the race attracts. City officials are anticipating the cross-promotional opportunities for cycling and wine.
San Luis Obispo, whose officials didn’t bid for a 2011 stage because of the expense, held stage finishes in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Race organizers revisited talks with Paso Robles this year for the 2011 race through a committee again chaired by police Chief Lisa Solomon, she confirmed in late September.
Her committee had received $65,000 in sponsorship commitments for the race at that time. City officials estimate it could cost $120,000 to host a stage finish in 2011.
In October 2009, Messick told The Tribune that AEG “had a great experience in San Luis Obispo in years past and earlier this year in Paso Robles,” and that he hoped to bring cyclists through the Central Coast again.