Another View: Amgen Tour events filling the calendar

Another View
By: Tony Hazarian, Auburn Journal publisher
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I can hear John Ruffcorn now. “People, we have 72 days to go,” the Auburn Police captain would say. “The clock is ticking, let’s get to work.” Step inside the war room of Bike Auburn, the local organizing committee for the Stage 3 start of the Amgen Tour of California. Every Thursday, more than two dozen business and community leaders are up at dawn, sharing myriad planning steps needed to pull off something of a magic act – a fully funded party for the world’s best cyclists and more than 20,000 fans. When the Amgen Tour rolls into Auburn the morning of Tuesday, May 17, the cyclists, crews and tour management expect a world-class event from a small city that will more than double in size for the day. They expect the race course to be secured. They expect volunteers to be at their beckon call. They expect international media to be cared for and fed. The list is long and detailed. Sponsors and fans expect a seamless sports event where they will be appreciated and entertained. They expect adequate parking. They expect to see the spectacle up close and personal. It’s Bike Auburn’s job to make all this happen. While most of the other host cities for the eight stage starts and finishes are staffed predominantly by government and paid tourism officials, Auburn’s team is composed of volunteers donating generous amounts of time and energy to put the city on the global stage. Ron Schwab, who “retired” to the Auburn area from high-tech marketing in Silicon Valley, is heading up the sponsorship sales effort. Elizabeth Sands, regional marketing manager for a rehabilitation and acute care facilities, heads up the PR effort. Owners of Auburn’s three bike shops are on the team, organizing festivals and community outreach and fundraising to help offset the costs of bringing Amgen to town. I’ve been fortunate to be invited to help, as well. While the pinnacle of planning will come on May 17, there are a number of events leading up to the big day that you’ll want to put on your calendar now, including: Bike Auburn Fundraising Dinner, Saturday, April 2, Gold Country Fairgrounds: Victory Velo owner Dan Tebbs is hosting this casual dinner with drinks, music, drawings and activities celebrating the area’s cycling community and honoring Bike Auburn on its efforts to bring the Amgen Tour to town. A live auction and drawing will feature a tour jersey signed by three-time winner Levi Leipheimer, as well as other cycling items and donations from the community. The event runs from 6 to 10 p.m. Tickets, which can be purchased at, are $30 before March 30 and $40 at the door. Sutter Auburn Faith Criterium, Sunday, May 1, Downtown Auburn: Top local cyclists will spin the streets of Downtown from 7:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thirteen separate races, including juniors and masters, will bring fans close to the high-speed talents of criterium lap racing. Free. Bike Fest, Saturday, May 7, E.V. Cain Middle School: Presented by the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency, this two-hour event will focus on bicycle safety for kids and adults, including helmet fitting and bike maintenance. Held from 10 a.m. to noon, this event is free and open to the public. Gold Country Century Ride & Family Festival, Saturday, May 14, Auburn Recreation Park: The Sierra Foothills Cycling Club has lined up a full day of cycling for all ages and skills levels. The 62-mile and 31-mile courses follow portions of the Amgen Tour route, and family rides range from a tricycle course to three-mile local loop. Longer rides range from $40 to $50 before April 15, and proceeds benefit the Auburn Community Cancer Endowment Fund. For details, click on Vino Velo Benefit Gala, Sunday, May 15, Winchester Country Club, Meadow Vista: Pre-race community activities culminate with this celebration, featuring PlacerGROWN wine and food pairings, a vintage bicycle exhibit, celebrity cyclists and a special video broadcast of the tour start in Lake Tahoe. The gala will run from noon to 5 p.m., and ticket details will be announced soon, but this will be one event you won’t want to miss. Bike Auburn committee members are calling the two-plus weeks in May as “17 days of pure energy,” embracing the tour’s tagline to build momentum for the worldwide spectacle the Amgen Tour has become. But the energy fueling the organizing effort started months ago. And while the clock is indeed ticking, there’s nervous excitement and confidence within the committee that Auburn will pull this off. With flying colors. Make your own plans to join in the celebration.