The internationally renowned Tour of California arrives in Cambria in a whir of wheels and a blur of cyclists mid-afternoon on Wednesday, May 14. The finish will take seconds, but preparations for arrival of 128 world-class, spandex-wearing athletes and their fans have been going on for months.
About 4,000 people are expected in Cambria for the conclusion of the Tour’s fourth stage. The race starts Sunday, May 11, in Sacramento, and ends Sunday, May 18, in Thousand Oaks.
The fourth stage starts in Monterey at 11:50 a.m. Wednesday, May 14, and ends 102.6 miles later in Cambria at approximately 3:51 p.m. The stage winner will receive a custom glass sculpture donated by artist Eric Dandurand, owner of the Cambria Glassworks gallery in Harmony and Cambria.
The estimated 4,000 visitors will be a smaller crowd than typically is in town for the Lions Club’s annual Pinedorado parade, said Guy Savage, San Luis Obispo County assistant administrative officer and co-chairman of the Tour time in this county. But it’s still a bunch of people, and Cambria’s been getting ready to host the visitors. Nearly 100 volunteers are set to act as combination security-and-safety officials and mobile, human chambers of commerce.
The hardest job, according to volunteer coordinator Susan McDonald, will be to keep pedestrians and vehicles off the race course, “because the racers are expected to fill Main Street, sidewalk to sidewalk, doing about 45 mph.”
The Sheriff’s Office will have vehicle, bike and foot patrols in Cambria.
Sheriff Ian Parkinson said Tuesday, “We believe the Amgen Tour is good thing for the county and for Cambria. The Sheriff's Office recognizes the impacts an event like this can have on a small community. Rest assured, we are doing everything we can to minimize those impacts.”
“The race will finish,” said volunteer Bob Kelley of Cambria, “with about 90 riders sprinting at 35-45 mph, shoulder to shoulder and curb to curb, from the Shell station to the Vet's Hall.”
He said his concern was that people would bring dogs (please don’t, he said) or lean out to take photos when the riders race by.
Millions of viewers
Millions of race enthusiasts worldwide are expected to watch the race on TV on NBCSN from 2 to 4 p.m. and 10:30 to 11:30 p.m. during its duration. They can also watch through a free Tour Tracker Online app available at http://amgentourofcalifornia.com.
Organizers say they’re confident all the media coverage will help put Cambria into travel plans of race enthusiasts, many of whom may see and learn about the scenic community for the first time.
“It’s all about the publicity and exposure,” said Mary Ann Carson, executive director of the Cambria Chamber of Commerce. “We’re investing in the future.”
Charlie Yates, co-chair of the Tour 4 finish and Cambria area general manager for Pacifica Hotel Company, said, “We’re throwing a party for the world to come to Cambria, and we need to put on our best face. We’d love for people to come early, spend the afternoon and then go to the East Village and party with us that night.
“One thing I love,” he said, is “this is the largest bike race in the U.S., and worldwide it is second only to the Tour de France. It’s a world-class race with more than 2 million spectators in 28 countries, 3.5 billion impressions online and more than 1.5 million visitors to the official website.”
Organizers have made adjustments to attempt to minimize impact on Cambria’s dire water supply situation. County executive and Amgen organizer Savage said Amgen aims to use “zero Cambria water.” Organizers are bringing their own supplies, and foregoing some customary practices. For instance, Savage said, they’ll use sand or cinderblocks, instead of water barrels, as ballast for tents.
On race night, as many support personnel as possible will stay in Pismo Beach or Santa Barbara lodgings, rather than on the North Coast.
Staffers at the Cambria Community Services District estimate the town could run out of water by late summer.
Residents and businesses are under stringent water restrictions and can be slammed with stiff surcharge penalties on any water usage above their allocation. Most people have buckets in their sinks and tubs, are flushing and showering less often, and are limiting their use of washing machines, dishwashers and garbage disposals, among other equipment.
Encouraging more people to visit Cambria at this time and using more of the town’s limited supply of water in restaurants, motels and restrooms, didn’t sit well with some people.
Claudia Harmon Worthen, chairwoman of the North Coast Advisory Council but speaking for herself and others who share her opinions, said in an email interview Tuesday that, “with our stage 3 water crisis, we should have cancelled hosting staging Amgen. The Chamber of Commerce and the tourist boards need to start showing restraint until we have a permanent and reliable water source.”