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Santa Rosa to vie for Amgen Tour of California

Santa Rosa hopes to continue its involvement with the Amgen Tour of California next year, possibly as host for the eighth and final stage of the professional bicycle race.

City officials plan to formally submit a hosting bid by Friday's deadline to AEG Sports of Los Angeles, owner of the tour, which has visited Santa Rosa six times since it started in 2006.

“We're kind of old pros at it,” said Raissa de la Rosa, the city's economic development specialist who spearheads the local organizing effort.

Despite a lengthy relationship with the event, which drew a crowd of 40,000 to downtown Santa Rosa in May, there is “no guarantee” the city will be part of the 2013 tour, de la Rosa said.

Meanwhile, Escondido in northern San Diego County is seeking to host the tour's starting event on May 12, moving the eight-day race from south to north for the first time.

Escondido, a city of 168,800 residents, enjoyed a large crowd and an economic boost from hosting the tour's final stage in 2009, said Michelle Geller, a management analyst for the city.

The Escondido City Council agreed last week to spend up to $475,000 to host next year's start.

San Diego County, like Sonoma County, has become a popular cycling area, with scenic routes from Escondido to the coast and the challenge of 6,142-foot Palomar Mountain, capped by the Palomar Observatory.

Santa Rosa city staffers approved the idea of bidding for the final stage of the 2013 tour next May 19 without making any financial commitment, de la Rosa said.

“It doesn't bind us to anything,” she said.

If Santa Rosa were offered a stage to host, de la Rosa said she and David Guhin, deputy director of utilities, would turn to the local organizing committee to discuss its feasibility.

Hosting this year's start injected about $6.8 million into the local economy, primarily to hotels, restaurants and retailers, de la Rosa said.

Michael Roth of AEG said Monday that some of his best experiences in the tour's seven-year history were in Santa Rosa.

“For me, it's one of our most memorable highlights,” he said.

AEG received proposals from more than 100 cities to host stages of this year's race, Roth said. If a similar number of applications comes in for next year, AEG will whittle down the list of contenders, conduct interviews and announce the host cities in early November.

The tour, which until now has moved from north to south, and could go the other way, Roth said.

Even with Escondido seeking to host the start, it could end up with the finish since the tour's direction in 2013 has yet to be determined, he said.

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