Imagine having eight days to showcase California to friends or relatives who come visiting every year.
Where do you take them? Which places are left out? How is the itinerary changed each year to keep the visits fresh and interesting?
Heading into its sixth year, the Amgen Tour of California pro bicycling race keeps trying to answer those questions, with officials eager to tweak the route to keep riders challenged and interested.
Call The Bee's John Schumacher, (916) 326-5523.
San Jose is the only city to host a race stage all six years. Sacramento has served as a host city for the past five.
With the route constantly changing, though, and with dozens of cities applying to host stages each year, no one takes for granted they'll remain in the Amgen lineup.
Fifty communities sought host spots in this year's race, set for May 15-22.
Santa Rosa, hometown of three-time Amgen winner Levi Leipheimer, was left out this year but will host the overall start of the race in 2012, committing a reported $580,000 to secure that role.
That effort makes folks elsewhere nervous. Starting the race in Santa Rosa could cause Sacramento to be bypassed. Lake Tahoe officials also are concerned, after working long and hard to land the 2011 overall start only to discover that honor for 2012 already is locked up.
"Everywhere I go, I tell people, 'Don't expect this is an automatic every year,' " said John McCasey, executive director of the Sacramento Sports Commission. " 'Don't get smug about great concessions and great crowds. Don't get smug we're the state capital. But don't doubt for a second those things don't matter.' "
McCasey said tour officials told him early in the race's existence they would change venues and routes, mixing it up and making it unpredictable.
Sacramento has ample hotel space, a major gateway airport to the region and proximity to Lake Tahoe. But with Santa Rosa, San Francisco and San Diego among communities not in the 2011 race, McCasey and others are bracing for the year they're left out.
"It's going to come, just like it came with Santa Rosa this year," McCasey said. "I think we would be disappointed, but I think we want this race to be successful on a long-term basis.
"The win-it-all-every-time mentality doesn't work on this tour."
Carol Chaplin, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, said she's not sure how her area fits into Amgen's future plans after landing a spot in the race for the first time.
The tour's growing international prestige has ratcheted up competition to participate, she said, and continuing to change stage routes has made the race more interesting.
"What we thought we brought to the table is the Alpine environment that was similar to the Alpine environment of European races so well-established," Chaplin said. "It is a little stressful to think this could be a one-time shot."
Davis, home of the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, didn't make the field this year after serving as a pass-through city in 2007 and 2008, and as a stage start in 2009 and 2010.
City spokesman Bob Bowen said he understood the need to vary the route and expected the race to return to Davis in the near future.
"We realize the state's pretty big," Bowen said. "We want to stay on good terms with those guys.
"We're confident. Who knows when. They're on a year-to-year basis."
Nevada City, which hosted the 2010 overall start, this year settled for having the race pass through during the second stage, from Squaw Valley to Sacramento.
"You just have to wait and see if they're open to coming here," said Gene Albaugh, city manager of Nevada City. "They have like an open invitation to come here, either just passing through or as a starting leg."
Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports, which owns and operates the race, said putting together the best route each year is a challenge.
"You have to weigh the disappointment of not being able to go to places you've gone before, and had success, with the satisfaction of finding new communities," he said.
"Lake Tahoe's a fantastic place to ride a bike.
At the same time, we're not going back to Santa Rosa (this year), we're not in Santa Cruz, we're not in San Francisco, we're not in the Marin, or Sonoma or Napa communities, and that's tough, because they have a great passion for our race."
Messick said the Tour de France also varies its route to accommodate different communities and keep the race fresh, and, with 21 days, has more time to do it.
"We do traverse an awful lot of the state, and we only have eight days to do it," he said. "Part of me would love to be able to go to all my favorite places every single year.
"Another part of me says it wouldn't be as interesting."