2012 Amgen Tour bypasses Sacramento

11/04/2011 12:00 AM

11/06/2011 3:47 PM

California's world-class bicycle race won't speed past the Capitol next year – or anywhere else in the Sacramento area, for that matter.

Sacramento was left off the route map released Thursday by the 2012 Amgen Tour of California. The popular event, which features some of the top bicyclists in the world, has included the area in five of its six years of existence.

Anschutz Entertainment Group, the conglomerate that owns the race, said Sacramento has been a prime location and is certain to return to the route in the future. It's being skipped for 2012 because AEG wants to get different cities involved.

"I have every expectation that we will come back to Sacramento," said AEG spokesman Michael Roth. Next year's race will begin May 13 in Santa Rosa.

John McCasey, executive director of the Sacramento Sports Commission, said AEG officials have indicated the city could get back on the map in 2013.

Missing next year's race will hurt the region's troubled economy. Some 50,000 fans attended the race in Sacramento this year and generated an estimated $3.7 million in hotel and restaurant business.

What's more, the tour gives the region priceless exposure.

"It gets great media, nationally and internationally," said Mike Testa of the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau. "The event's televised and when we've had folks like Lance Armstrong, we get a ton of coverage."

A photo of cyclists racing past the Capitol, their brightly colored outfits a blur, is featured on the bureau's website.

Also missing the 2012 race is Davis, which has been on the map four times and is home to the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame.

"It's a relatively big, multistage tour, and it's going to rotate cities from year to year," said Joe Herget, the Hall of Fame's executive director. "We certainly expect the tour will come through here again in the future."

Jim Kirstein, a longtime cyclist who lives in Folsom, said even a one-year absence will be painful.

"You've seen the huge crowds we've had around the state Capitol," said Kirstein, 69. "We will miss it. We understand we can't have it all the time, but we'd like to."

John Boyer, owner of a midtown bicycle delivery service called Edible Pedal, said he'll miss the sheer enthusiasm the race generates among ordinary riders.

"I never saw so many people riding downtown from all areas outside of Sacramento – I mean literally hundreds of people riding their bikes to see the race," he said.

McCasey said he realized months ago that Sacramento would probably miss next year's race.

He said AEG had already promised to start the 2012 race in Santa Rosa after bypassing that city this year. Santa Rosa is a strong cycling market and home to three-time Amgen Tour champion Levi Leipheimer.

Also, AEG wanted to build "a bigger presence in the Bay Area," McCasey said.

Those decisions made it very difficult to route the eight-day race through Sacramento, he said, adding: "There's no anger here, no disappointment."

Roth said AEG, the same company that might operate the proposed downtown Sacramento sports arena, also wanted to showcase the bike race in new cities.

"Every year we always add a couple of new cities, which unfortunately come at the expense of a couple of cities that have hosted before," Roth said. "Sometimes it's at the expense of some of our favorites."

The two new cities next year: Sonora and Ontario.

Lake Tahoe will miss out again. Tahoe was supposed to mark the beginning of the 2011 race. But a late-spring snowstorm forced the starting line to be moved to Nevada City.

Tahoe made a bid for the 2012 race but was unsuccessful. Carol Chaplin, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, said Tahoe officials will aim for 2013.

"Maybe 13 will be a lucky number for us," Chaplin said.

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