Tour of California will bypass the Central Coast in 2012

The Amgen Tour of California cycling race will skip the Central Coast in 2012, bypassing former host cities Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo.

But that doesn’t mean race owner AEG didn’t approach those cities.

Officials from both cities received bid packages in the summer inviting them to join the seventh annual race. But the amount of fundraising involved — about $140,000 — led San Luis Obispo County’s two largest cities to wait another year.

“The benefit was great to the city, but it’s just a very large undertaking and we thought it best to take a year off,” said Paso Robles Police Chief Lisa Solomon, who heads the city’s race committee. Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo said they will re-evaluate in 2013.

The tour will also skip the picturesque Highway 1 route down the county’s coastline, which in past years brought admiration from race officials. The popular time trial has also been staged in Solvang for several years, but next year it will be in Bakersfield.

The tour, touted as the nation’s largest professional bicycling race, had more than 100 cities apply for host spots from May 13-20. The race, set up with multiple stages like the Tour de France, has professional cyclists traveling eight days throughout the state.

In 2012, it will span more than 750 miles.

The 13 locations selected include: Santa Rosa, San Francisco, Santa Cruz County, San Jose, Livermore, Sonora, Clovis, Bakersfield, Palmdale, Big Bear Lake, Ontario, Mount Baldy, with final arrival in Los Angeles.

When AEG selects a town to host a start or finish stage, it requests discounted meals for the cyclists and cheaper hotel rooms in bulk. It also asks for specific numbers of portable toilets, parking, security and staff time.

Cities have to raise funds to pay for the cost or make up the difference within city budgets.

In San Luis Obispo, especially considering an unspecified loss of paid parking revenue downtown, local organizers who considered the bid decided it wasn’t a good time in the economy to bring the race through, according to the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce. Local officials have to weigh such expenditures with the potential benefits to local businesses and tourism.

The San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce analyzed the tour’s soliciting bid this year, which came out in the summer.

“It’s a hard decision to make,” said Lindsey Miller, the chamber’s director of marketing. Cities want to be hosts for the race because it can be used as a marketing tool to attract visitors to the area with local businesses capitalizing on the influx of spectators.

In 2011, hundreds of spectators cheered and rang cowbells in Paso Robles as they watched the professional cyclists dash through downtown.

Nearby businesses and many hotels claimed increased day-of business, while local industries, such as the North County’s growing wine industry, hoped the national exposure gained by thousands of spectators both in person and on television would create a buzz about the area.

The Tour had a stage’s finish in San Luis Obispo in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

In 2009 and 2011, Paso Robles hosted a stage’s finish in its downtown.

Thursday’s route announcement mirrors a route change in 2010 when the tour in its fifth year also skipped the Central Coast. It also moved from February to May that year.