Like every other California city wishing to open its downtown streets once a year to most of the world's best cyclists, Modesto is playing a waiting game.
The city wants to host the Amgen Tour of California for the fourth straight year when the peloton flashes through California from May 15-22, 2011, but it will know nothing until Oct. 7, the date Tour organizers will reveal the route.
The city council approved the Modesto bid seven weeks ago, just ahead of the Aug. 13 deadline, and Andy Johnson of the Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Department said Monday that the bid reflected the local committee's desire to host the Tour in any form -- as a starting point, a finish point, or even both a start and finish line.
The latter, admittedly a long shot, would make the city the tour's entire focus for a day -- ideal in that it would keep the racers, their support groups, the world's gathered media and the tens of thousands of fans in the downtown area for hours.
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Modesto has embraced the role of a stage finish line host for the last two tours, turning the downtown area into a fitness and cycling-themed carnival for fans and curious onlookers.
The role of a stage starting point, which Modesto took on for the 2008 event, is not only less glamourous but attracts fewer people downtown for a shorter time.
If that's the only way Modesto can maintain its ongoing association with the Tour, Johnson said they'll accept the challenge of hosting a stage start.
Other regular stops on the tour are not willing to be flexible. San Jose, which was the finish line to Modesto's start point in 2008 before the route was reversed for the 2009-10 runs, has indicated it is willing to be a part of the tour only as a finish line.
And San Jose is far from the only city rethinking its role in the race. Merced, which hosted a starting line in 2009, did not submit a 2011 bid.
Santa Cruz, whose boardwalk finish line was one of the lingering images from the 2010 tour, cited the current financial squeeze as its reason not to put together a bid for the 2011 race. When Santa Cruz pulled out, Capitola tried to muster support for a bid but was not able to move quickly enough.
While San Jose and Santa Cruz both used city funds to finance its bid (the cost of hosting the tour has been estimated at around $200,000) Modesto's host efforts have been underwritten by private sector sponsorships and donations gathered by the local organizing committee.
Several host cities, including Santa Cruz, asked tour organizers to reduce the financial burden of hosting the event, but event owner/promoter AEG is claiming its own negative cash flow. Michael Roth, Anschutz Entertainment Group's vice president of communications, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that AEG is losing between $1 and $2 million annually on the race.
"The last few years have not exactly been the most advantageous time," Roth told the Sentinel. "It always takes several years to launch events. We believe in it and believe it will ultimately break even."
Amgen again will present the race, but 2011 is the final year of the two-year extension of the original sponsoring agreement.
In other Tour of California news:
• The North Lake Tahoe Resort Association is pushing hard to host the tour's opening stage, envisioning a route that would start in South Lake Tahoe and circle the lake one-and-a-half times before finishing at either the Squaw Valley or Northstar resorts.
• Santa Rosa, the only city to have played a starting or finishing role in all five tours, again is pushing for either a finish line or a route that both starts and finishes downtown.
• Auburn, which saw the racers whiz past as a pass-through city in May, submitted a bid to host a stage start.
• Chico, Paradise and Oroville have combined efforts once again to secure a stage for the Northern Sacramento Valley in 2011 after having their 2010 bid rejected.
• Big Bear Lake, which hosted the tour's first-ever mountain-top finish in 2010, placed a bid for another finish line.
• Solvang, which hosted tour time trials in 2007-09 before stepping away for a year, submitted a bid for 2011 that included several new routes.
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at 578-2300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.