The Cambrian

Cambria, Pismo Beach to host Tour of California bike race in 2014

Amgen Tour of California cyclists are seen south of San Simeon in 2007.
Amgen Tour of California cyclists are seen south of San Simeon in 2007. The Tribune

Cambria and Pismo Beach will be host cities for the 2014 Amgen Tour of California in May.

The prestigious eight-day event, patterned after the Tour de France, draws international contestants and has become the largest and most recognized professional cycling race in the U.S.

The race will be held in stages May 11 to 18, starting in Sacramento and ending in Thousand Oaks. A total of 12 cities host starts, finishes or time trials.

The peloton has gone through Cambria before, but this time, when the elite riders get to the unincorporated community in Stage 4 on May 14, cyclists won’t just breeze on through in a 30-second blaze of spandex and spinning wheels. The stage starts in Monterey and ends in Cambria, where racers and support staff will spend the night.

“I’m very excited,” said Mary Ann Carson, executive director of the Cambria Chamber of Commerce. Race representatives “came to us and asked, ‘Would you consider it?’ The answer was, ‘Of course.’ ”

The race “will bring a lot of people,” said Marjorie Ott, owner of the Olallieberry Inn and a member of the San Luis Obispo County Tourism Business Improvement District board, “especially for the exposure from the international coverage. It has a lot of followers in Europe.”

Stage 5 starts in Pismo Beach and ends in Santa Barbara on May 15. The race has not been in the city before, although Pismo hotels provided some housing last year when Avila Beach was a host city.

“We’re so excited,” Shelly Higginbotham, Pismo Beach’s mayor, said Tuesday. “We’re thrilled. … This particular sporting event brings in media from all over the world.”

That opportunity to showcase Pismo Beach is crucial “for a city that depends so much on tourism and sales tax,” she said. The town has about 1,900 motel rooms.

Higginbotham didn’t yet know how much the city of Pismo Beach will spend on the race.

In Cambria, it’s expected that race-related visitors will occupy about 200 rooms on Tuesday, May 13, and 150 rooms on Wednesday, May 14.

Amgen representatives approached the Cambria Tourism Board and invited it to submit a proposal. On Oct. 22, the board unanimously approved spending up to $30,000 on ride-associated expenses.

That cost is similar to what Avila Beach paid last year. It’s substantially less than the approximately $100,000 it cost San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles to host the race in previous years. As incorporated cities, they also had to pay for security and police protection.

According to county Supervisor Bruce Gibson, who acted as a go-between for negotiations between the Cambria Tourism Board and Amgen, security in Cambria will be provided by the county.

About 2 million spectators are expected to see the race in person, according to Kristin Bachochin, an Amgen spokesperson. The event will be streamed online and the NBC Sports Network will cover the last two hours of each day’s race, she said.

Coverage will reach more than 250 countries and territories, race officials estimate.

This will be the seventh time the Tour has come into San Luis Obispo County. The city of San Luis Obispo hosted stage finishes in 2006, 2007 and 2008; Paso Robles in 2009 and 2011; and Avila Beach in 2012.