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Amgen Tour should pedal Auburn’s way

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Come May, cycling’s biggest names will pedal out of Nevada City in the first stage of the 2010 Amgen Tour of California. Auburn should be included in the race. The greater Auburn area features the steep hills, scenery and enthusiasm that add up to a winning stage. With last week’s announcement that the U.S. version of the Tour de France would begin in Nevada City comes hope that Auburn will get some love from the tour. Auburn deserves to be part of that first leg from Nevada City to Sacramento and city representatives and cycling supporters should be peddling all of our area’s attributes to convince organizers to bring the tour to town. Having cycling’s biggest star ever — celebrity-dating, cancer-beating Lance Armstrong — zip through Auburn would be a major coup for promoting cycling and tourism in our area. The seven-time Tour de France winner is no stranger to cycling in Nevada County — he rode in the Nevada City Classic this last June. But it’s time he took a spin in Auburn. He’d be joined by Levi Leipheimer, Dave Zabriskie and George Hincapie, who have all committed. Route details are still being worked out this week, but race officials should be well aware of the excitement and beauty Auburn can offer riders. Routing the first leg across the Foresthill Bridge, the highest span in California, and past the iconic Historic Courthouse would be a perfect backdrop to this prestigious event. Cycling events such as the Coolest 24 and Auburn Century, not to mention a network of trails and street routes, have already staked Auburn’s spot as a Northern California mountain and road-biking destination. And being the Endurance Capital of the World makes Auburn a fitting match for the Amgen’s eight-stage, 750-mile tour of the Golden State. But being able to claim “Lance rode here” would draw countless cyclists to Auburn and its environs for years. It would be publicity no brochure or infomercial could equal. And since the first stage is on a Sunday, Auburn can bet on there being thousands of out-of-towners rolling into the foothills that weekend for a glimpse of Armstrong, Leipheimer and company. Sacramento took advantage of hosting the prelude to this year’s tour with marketing and promotions to draw some 75,000 spectators to the streets of downtown. The local visitor’s bureau attributed an $8 million economic benefit to hosting the tour. And it wasn’t even an official leg. Even if the route does not feature Auburn, the wheels should be turning, so to speak, on how else to capitalize on the tour coming to our backyard. Other events can be held in conjunction to make the most of the national spotlight. Our local chambers and business associations should be coordinating “cycling weekend” promotions for lodging, bike rentals, conferences and more. Web sites can direct visitors on where to stay, dine and shop in Auburn and how to get to the action on race day. Auburn has a chance to be on the world’s cycling stage — even if it’s just for the brief seven minutes it would take to breeze past town on an Auburn-made Felt racing bike. Routing the Amgen tour near or through Auburn would lure thousands of cycling fans to town for the race. It would also mean many more cycling enthusiasts choosing Auburn for their weekend rides. It’s time to peddle Auburn to tour organizers so race participants can pedal Auburn, too.