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Morro Bay leaders thrilled to host first Tour of California

Riders in the 2014 Amgen Tour of California travel south on Highway 1 near the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse. The 2016 edition of the race will also trace San Luis Obispo’s North Coast, but in the opposite direction.
Riders in the 2014 Amgen Tour of California travel south on Highway 1 near the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse. The 2016 edition of the race will also trace San Luis Obispo’s North Coast, but in the opposite direction. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Showing off his cycling “swag” on Thursday at the Inn at Morro Bay, Mayor Jamie Irons and other city officials celebrated the news that on May 18, Morro Bay will stage a leg of the 2016 Amgen Tour of California race.

Irons displayed his Amgen cycling hat, a bell to cheer the cyclists and a poster of this year’s event presented to him by Pismo Beach Mayor Shelly Higginbotham.

The poster shows a cyclist with the backdrop of Pismo Beach, commemorating its role as a host city in May, joining Avila Beach as the two local staging communities.

“In 2016, we’re going to have one of these posters for the city of Morro Bay,” Irons said. “I’ll be very proud to send one to the city of Pismo Beach.”

The 2016 race will begin in San Diego on May 15 and finish in Sacramento on May 22.

In Morro Bay, riders will start the day at Morro Rock and travel along Highway 1 north to Monterey. The specific street route from Morro Rock hasn’t been determined yet.

“That’s one of the fun things we get to do in the weeks and months ahead, is figure out where we want this to go,” Morro Bay City Manager Dave Buckingham said.

This is the first time Morro Bay will host a stage of the race, and it will be the only city in San Luis Obispo County to do so in 2016.

City officials say they expect about 3,000 spectators and anticipate the international exposure will be a boon to tourism and bring economic benefits to Morro Bay.

“The great news is that we’re a start city,” Buckingham said. “We won’t have hours and hours of tired bikers coming in through closed streets. We will have a rolling closure of streets for about 15 minutes. As soon as the last guy passes, we’ll open the streets back up again. ... People will be flooding into restaurants and shops and galleries.”

Morro Bay officials noted that the event draws about 1.1 million viewers each year, exposing the picturesque community to a global audience of potential tourists and travelers whose money could boost the local economy.

“Many of us came here because the first time we saw the Rock it was like a beacon to us,” said Joan Solu, a member of the Morro Bay Tourism Business Improvement District Advisory Board. “That is going to be shown worldwide.”

Visit San Luis Obispo County, a nonprofit organization that promotes the county, has allocated $30,000 to help cover costs associated with Morro Bay hosting the event. And the Morro Bay Tourism Bureau, which uses a percentage of city bed taxes to help promote tourism, has allocated up to $16,000 for the staging.

The city is responsible for various costs and provisions, including guaranteeing 80 hotel rooms the night before the race for organizers and riders.

The city of Morro Bay also would be responsible for security, managing street closures, all permits that may be required, and providing restrooms and meals at various times and locations.

“This is a great honor for Morro Bay and an exciting opportunity for us to show off our spectacular natural beauty to the world,” said Red Davis, a Morro Bay bicycle safety advocate. “The Rock, the bay, the breathtaking coastline, plus the exceptional support groups in our community, will come together to make this a memorable event.”

If you go

Morro Bay’s Stage 4 of the Tour of California will be May 18, starting at Morro Rock.

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