The San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys aka the Central Valley are frequently left out of discussions about and in California. For instance, the closest that President Barack Obama has gotten to setting foot on the valley floor was a late-campaign visit to Keene about 30 miles southeast of Bakersfield at the extreme southern edge of the valley to dedicate a memorial to César Chávez just before heading to San Francisco to raise funds for his campaign.
That largely describes the relationship that national political parties have with California to use the Bay Area and Southern California as an ATM machine only visiting to glad-hand and fill their campaign war chests.
Unfortunately, this seems to be the same tactic used by the organizers of the 2013 Amgen Tour of California go where the money is. In what might be better described as the Tour of Coastal and Affluent California, no city in the valley has been selected as a starting or ending location, which is disappointing when one considers the spacious fields, rolling foothills and bustling urban areas offered here.
How could race planners miss an area of more than 42,000 square miles, home to 18 of California's 58 counties, two-fifths of the total land area of the state and more than 5 million people a sixth of the state's population.
Race organizers insist they have not permanently ruled out valley communities, including Modesto, and as a privately-run event they have every right to select the areas that will best serve their needs. Modesto has been on the route for four of the past seven years, once as a starting location and three times as a finishing point. Each of those events were more successful than the last, with tens of thousands of spectators lining the streets to watch the blur of the peloton pass by.
Last year Sonora served as a starting point, with the route taking riders through Jamestown, along the eastern shore of Don Pedro Reservoir and then south to Old Town Clovis arguably a route that speaks to California's rich environmental and agricultural history unlike any other. In 2009, Merced served as a starting location.
With four of eight routes south of the Grapevine and the fifth along the southern central coast of Avila Beach and the riders heading from south to north for the first time, it certainly addresses the perception that past races have been too north-state heavy.
There are sure to be active, interested crowds lining the routes in each of the chosen locations. Though with growing awareness about the extent of doping among professional cyclists symbolized by the recent fall-from-orbit of cycling icon Lance Armstrong the public's tolerance for such behavior might be seen in reduced participation. The city of Bakersfield withdrew its bid to be a host city for the tour in part because of the doping cloud overhanging the sport.
We are disappointed that none of the cities in our region Modesto, Sonora, Turlock or Merced were chosen to be host of any portion of next year's event. We are even more disappointed that the tour is bypassing the valley and a significant portion of California's population altogether.
We hope tour organizers realize that it might be harder to reignite the valley's interest in the race than it would have been to have maintained it.