After being denied a finish in San Luis Obispo about two weeks ago, Tour of California organizers have chosen Avila Beach for their fifth-stage ending after a handful of local hoteliers decided to support the event.
The news was announced Tuesday by AEG, the Los Angeles-based company that owns the Tour of California.
It will mark the first time that the 8-yearold race has gone to Avila. Previously, San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles hosted finishes .
Bob Stapleton, one of the key local organizers who helped attract the race to the beach town, said cyclists will sprint to a finish along Front Street with the Avila Beach Pier and the ocean as a backdrop.
“Avila will look spectacular,” Stapleton said. “It will be one of the postcard images of the race.”
The May 16 stage of the weeklong race will begin in Santa Barbara. From there, cyclists will head north, most likely through the Santa Ynez Valley before reaching Highway 1 and continuing through the South County to the finish at Avila Beach. Exact details of the route are still being worked out.
Stapleton owns High Road Sports, which promotes cycling and triathlon events. He was the former founder and owner of the pro cycling team under the same name that competed internationally at the highest level of the sport. He lives in San Luis Obispo, which was home for Team High Road as well.
AEG approached Stapleton in October seeking his help to get a local city on the route of next year’s event, which starts May 12 in Escondido and finishes May 19 in Santa Rosa.
For a time San Luis Obispo was in the running, first as a place where a stage could start.
Then organizers asked San Luis Obispo if it could host a stage finish. City officials and members of the tourism business improvement district declined that option, saying it would cost too much.
Stapleton then began working with hoteliers John King, Noreen Martin and Rob Rossi on a plan to include Avila Beach on the route.
The three could not be reached to comment Tuesday, and Stapleton declined to comment on the cost of the event.
San Luis Obispo’s Tourism Business Improvement District had committed to spending $30,440 for the event — mostly in donations of hotel rooms and city services — had it been selected as a stage-start city.
But being a finish city could have cost “considerably more,” Clint Pearce, chairman of the city’s Tourism Business Improvement District, said earlier this month.
An outreach was also made to Pismo Beach officials, Stapleton said. But the decision would have needed City Council approval, and AEG wanted to finalize the route faster than the city could respond.
“It’s a great event,” said Pismo Beach City Clerk Elaina Cano, who heads the city’s special events committee. “It would be something that we may be interested in doing in the future, but not five to six months before the event.”
Another idea Stapleton worked on was holding the time trial part of the race at Hearst Castle. It would have come the day after the Avila stage, he said. Competitors would have lined up at the castle’s visitors center and individually raced up the six-mile road to the castle as fast as they could climb. The finish would have been at the steps up to the main building and the Neptune Pool.
“What a moment that would have been for television,” Stapleton said.
But, he said, approvals from State Parks and other agencies could not be reached, so the idea was scrapped. The time trial will instead be held in San Jose.
Stapleton said Avila Beach will have opportunities for marketing the event to visitors who want to see the finish and then stay for a long weekend. He noted that each day’s stage is aired live in 200 countries and on an NBC sports channel in the United States.
However, not all local business owners were thrilled to hear the news. Micheal Kidd, who operates Joe Momma’s Coffee Shop, the Inn at Avila Beach and Avila La Fonda Hotel, said the event could negatively impact the town by clogging streets with traffic and blocking access to local businesses.
“People come here to get away from that kind of craziness,” Kidd said. “We don’t need impacts on folks who come to get away. The whole reason they come to the beach is ruined — they’re back in L.A. traffic.”
Because the route is still being worked out, it’s too soon to know how local law enforcement officials will plan to handle the traffic impacts in Avila Beach and elsewhere in the county, CHP spokesman J.W. Townsen said.
"It is a big event, but it’s well coordinated,” he said.
Usually, the tour organizers meet with officials at CHP’s headquarters in Sacramento to coordinate staffing for the route, he said.
“We’ll work with the folks putting this on locally to lessen the impact as much as we can,” said county Supervisor Adam Hill, who was informed that the event was a done deal Tuesday. “Typically we’d prefer coordination, but I think this is a good thing, and I’m hoping to be able to work out whatever aspects on our end we need to do.”