Tour of California won't spin through valley, Lode

bvanderbeek@modbee.comNovember 27, 2012 

DB Amgen Final 09 .jpg

(DARRYL BUSH/dbush@modbee.com) - A large group of cyclists enter downtown Modesto on I Street, as they go through Modesto near the finish of the Amgen Tour of California cycling race, in downtown Modesto, Calif., on Tuesday, May 17, 2011.

The Amgen Tour of California will skip Modesto for a second straight year, but Modestans shouldn't feel as if they're being singularly excluded.

The 2013 race skips the entire Central Valley.

Tuesday's announcement of host cities by tour owner AEG Sports revealed a route that will bypass the valley for the first time since the inaugural race in 2006. It also will not visit the Tahoe region or Mother Lode.

"I am a little discouraged," said Julie Hannon, co-chairwoman of Modesto's local organizing committee as well as the city's director of parks, recreation and neighborhoods. "I thought the information submitted with our bid was excellent. Any time you don't get something you've put so much effort into, it is discouraging."

There was a direct answer to that from Kristin Bachochin, the tour's executive director and AEG's senior vice president: If you're starting to feel discouraged, don't.

"None of our cities are viewed as short-term relationships," Bachochin said. "We have a great long-term relationship with Modesto and they know we want to come back."

The May 12-19 race will move south-to-north for the first time, spending five days in Southern California and hopscotching most of the central coast before regathering in San Jose for three final days in the Bay Area. It ends with a run from San Francisco to Santa Rosa.

The race route changes each year, but missing in 2013 are most of the small towns and all of the Mother Lode that AEG has claimed adds a great deal of scenery and flavor to the event.

"I saw the towns they selected and I know they like to go different places every year," said Sonora City Councilman Bill Canning, whose city was host of a starting line in May. "There's no doubt in my mind that we'll get it back someday, so I'm not disappointed."

The chain of cities revealed by AEG created a route that for the first time will move south to north, causing some cycling bloggers to dub the event the "Headwind Tour."

Also missing is one of the country's most spectacular stretches of road — the 140 miles of Highway 1 from Avila Beach and Monterey.

Instead, the riders and their entourages will be loading into vans for the 190-mile drive north on Highway 101 from Avila Beach to San Jose between Stages 5 and 6.

"There are many different things we look at when we pull together a route for eight days," Bachochin said. "It's all about what we're trying to achieve from a competitive standpoint while highlighting different areas every year."

Modesto became a part of the tour in 2007, acting as a starting line host for a run from the downtown arch to San Jose. In 2008-10, Modesto served as a proud and excited finish line host, its streets lined by tens of thousands of fans.

"I know that AEG still feels strongly toward Modesto and I know we've been a really good host city," said Jennifer Mullen, the co-chairwoman of the Modesto Tour effort and chief executive officer and director of the Convention & Visitors Bureau. "I know they like the route options we give them and our wide streets. It looks to me like it's a different direction they're moving with all the Southern California cities. I do feel good for all of those cities selected, but I'm bummed."

Turlock also applied to be a first-time stage host for 2013.

City Manager Roy Wasden said when Turlock was asked to submit its bid by tour officials, it was told there was no guarantee. He said the route and host city selection groups were working separately. "We knew that going in, but we were still disappointed it won't come anywhere near the valley this year."

Turlock Chamber of Commerce CEO Sharon Silva, who put together the bid request also stayed positive.

"We're sad, obviously. But there was such a wonderful thing that happened in this community when we put our bid together. Everyone in this community came together — the hospital, City Hall, university, school district, everyone. So we know if it ever came to the valley again, this community would respond. We'd apply again for sure."

Tuesday's route announcement was the latest since the race moved from February to May in 2010. The delay could have been caused by several late bid withdrawals.

Bakersfield pulled out, citing the cycling doping scandal for its difficulty in raising finances. San Luis Obispo was on target to be host of a start line, but balked at the expense of being a finish line site.

In October, Livermore pulled its promised $100,000 city contribution and was thought to be out of the running, but city officials, after meeting with AEG, voted Monday to authorize $35,000 for motel rooms and meals.

There are other clouds hovering over the tour. Amgen, the only title sponsor the event has known, is not committed past 2013. In addition, AEG itself is for sale, and if sold there would be the question of whether a new owner would be willing to continue the event.

Bachochin stressed that none of those situations will have an impact on the 2013 race.

"It's business as usual," she said. "We're looking forward to putting on a fantastic 2013 Tour of California and continuing to do so year after year."

But for 2013, the tour's definition of "California" does not include the valley.

"They've restructured the route to include more of Southern California and are only visiting the population centers in the north," Hannon said. "It looks like a new philosophy to me.

"If they don't want to come to the Central Valley anymore, we'd like to know up front."

Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at bvanderbeek@modbee.com or (209) 578-2150. Follow him at twitter.com/modestobeek


THE ROUTE

2013 Amgen Tour of California

Stage 1: Sunday, May 12, Escondido (loop)

Stage 2: Monday, May 13, Murrieta to greater Palm Springs

Stage 3: Tuesday, May 14, Palmdale to Santa Clarita

Stage 4: Wednesday, May 15, Santa Clarita to Santa Barbara

Stage 5: Thursday, May 16, Santa Barbara to Avila Beach

Stage 6: Friday, May 17, San Jose (individual time trial)

Stage 7: Saturday, May 18, Livermore to Mount Diablo

Stage 8: Sunday, May 19, San Francisco to Santa Rosa

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