Thursday, July 26, 2007

City to host Amgen Tour again


For the third year in a row, Santa Barbara County will host two races in the 2008 California Amgen Cycling Tour, an event which drew nearly 1.6 million spectators last year.
Solvang and Santa Barbara will each host one segment on Feb. 22 and 23, respectively, in Amgen’s 12-city tour which spans nearly 700 miles. While Santa Barbara serves as the starting place for stage 6 of the Tour’s 7-stage race that starts in Palo Alto on Feb. 17 and ends in Pasadena on Feb. 24, the cyclists involved will also engage in a single time-trial race held solely in Solvang. Last year’s event brought Santa Barbara County 15,000 spectators and $1 million to local businesses.

In a press release issued yesterday, both Solvang Mayor Ken Palmer and Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum, said that they were excited to see Amgen return to their cities.
“I would like to express our great delight that our fine city has once again been chosen for a time trial stage,” Palmer said. “We hope you will enjoy the hospitality here in the Danish Capital of America."
Blum stated that she was greatly anticipating travelers to Santa Barbara.
“I am excited for our residents and visitors to see world-class cycling and for the cyclists to enjoy the beauty of Santa Barbara again,” Blum said.
The race which generated $100 million for the state, attracts several world-renowned cyclists and is the largest bicycle race in the U.S. Last year’s winner, Levi Leipheimer, placed fourth in 2006’s Tour de France. The Amgen Tour also benefits the Breakaway From Cancer education and funding initiative, which donates money to cancer patient support groups and programs.
Both Santa Barbara and Solvang issued bids to Amgen in order to host legs of the tour, competing with various other California cities.
Santa Barbara Conference and Visitors Bureau Communications Director Shannon Brooks said the city’s bid included proposals covering costs for cyclists’ hotel stays, police, local marketing and promotion and road maintenance. She said a local organizing committee helps finds sponsors such as Cox Communications to assist with expenses for the Santa Barbara race which, last year, included 125 cyclists and 5,000 spectators. Last year’s event began on Cabrillo Blvd. near East Beach and went through Montecito on Hwy. 192.
Meanwhile, Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Tracy Farhad said that her city’s bid from last year included five sponsors such as Firestone Vineyards, Figueroa Farms and Union Bank. She said Solvang’s organizing committee had an $88,000 budget and gave $11,500 to charity groups.
More than 10,000 spectators and 300 cyclists arrived in Solvang last year for the six-hour race. Farhad said the city had valets for cyclists and held contest-fundraisers, including one in which participants decorated the race courses’ port-a-potties.
“One was decorated as a horse barn,” Farhad said. “Another was a tea-potty.”
She said this year’s race will take into account complaints from residents made last year.
“There was concern about access through the town and roads being closed down for so many hours,” Farhad said. “We plan to have an east-west detour route.”
In a statement issued yesterday, Amgen California Tour Managing Director Shawn Hunter said he promised an exciting cycling race.
"From the world-class riders and aggressive and challenging competition, to the tremendous amount of support from the fans and host cities, the Amgen Tour of California has grown to become a highly anticipated event within the international cycling community in only two years,” Hunter said. “Now in our third year, fans can expect the best race yet."

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