When organizers of the Tour of California decided to bypass Sonoma County in 2011, the local disappointment was widespread. But now the tables have turned as Santa Rosa, a stage host in seven out of the first eight years of the tour, has decided to bypass the Amgen — at least for next year.
Reactions to the news are understandably mixed. Why would a city that seeks to cultivate its image as a mecca for bicycling give up on being a regular stop in one of the state's most popular cycling events?
Moreover, isn't this the same Tour of California that has brought in an estimated $20 million to the local economy over the past eight years?
All of that is true. But there are other truths that make this decision justifiable, and they are not very complicated. They all relate to the fact that it's nice to come downtown to a free athletic event like this, but staging these kinds of events come at a price — and those costs were about to go up again.
The city used to pay a significant portion of the costs related to hosting the race. But as the city fell on tough budgetary times, that burden shifted to those in the private sector. According to Raissa de la Rosa, Santa Rosa's economic development specialist and co-chairwoman of the local Amgen Tour organizing committee, local organizers raised $325,000 to host the finish of the race this year. And it cost another $540,000 to pay host for the start of the race in 2012. The donations pay for food and accommodations for the racers and others who travel with the tour — more than 1,000 people in all. Local organizers say they were running up against “donor fatigue” in trying to raise the money needed to keep its sponsorship going.
While the decision to walk away from the Tour in 2014 was announced by the city on Friday, it's important to note that it was not the city's alone. Members of the local organizing committee as well as riders, including Levi Leipheimer, a major contributor to the race through his popular GranFondo ride each fall, concurred.
Whether taking a break in this area's relationship with the Tour is a good idea won't be known for some time. Either way, one thing is true. It's been a good ride.