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Could Lake Tahoe’s Amgen bike race bid wash Auburn’s away?

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Lake Tahoe is making a bold move for both the first and second legs of next May’s Amgen Tour of California. And that puts a big question mark on whether Auburn will be along for the ride in 2011. But local proponents remain upbeat that the city’s chances are excellent for a return visit to the city after a successful ride through Auburn during this year’s race. Auburn was in the middle of the ride’s first stage May 16 from Nevada City to Sacramento – the first time in the Tour of California’s five years that the city took part in the hoopla. Amgen organizers AEG Sports are consistently tight-lipped before official announcements about what communities will play host to the start and finish lines but it appears Tahoe is making a bid to advance to the front of the pack. At the start of the tour two months ago, AEG Sports President Andrew Messick indicated strongly that Tahoe was a target destination – naming it by name as an area that is now available for the race after this year’s switch from February to May. And while the snow was still swirling in the Sierra around race day on the Nevada City-Sacramento leg, Tahoe tourism officials were starting their drive for not one but two legs of the eight-stage event. Andy Chapman, North Lake Tahoe Resort Association director of tourism, said Thursday that his organization is working with the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority on a proposal that would see cyclists loop the picturesque lake 1½ times after starting on the south shore. The Tahoe finish would be at either Northstar-at-Tahoe resort of Squaw Valley USA. The second leg would start at either of the two resorts not picked for the first leg’s finish line and continue through Truckee toward Nevada City, he said. “Up until this year we could never have done it,” Chapman said. “That’s why they moved it to a higher elevation.” The addition of Lake Tahoe into the sweepstakes for a coveted spot on the tour hasn’t daunted the resolve of Auburn proponents. Bruce Cosgrove, Auburn Chamber of Commerce executive director, said that Auburn’s involvement in the first leg impressed Amgen officials. And he also believes that Sacramento won’t be left out as a start point or finish line, which gives Auburn more of a chance to be on the ride route. “This is a very attractive cycling area and we had strong community involvement,” Cosgrove said. “Based on the feedback we received from Amgen, we have an excellent opportunity to have Amgen come through Auburn again – and we’re going to give it our best shot.” Lisa Kodl, Auburn Bike Works owner, is also focusing on the good vibes Amgen took away from Auburn. “I don’t know about Amgen’s frame of reference but they know Auburn can do a good job,” Kodl said. Mayor Bridget Powers said it would be just as good if the start or finish took place in Auburn on the third day. “The Amgen folks were pleased with things we did in the community to support them so I’m sure they’re going to take a good look at us too,” Powers said. Chapman said Tahoe plans – which would include a sizable portion of the route on the north shore inside Placer County – will be delivered to the AEG in the next 10 days. “We’re feeling good about the bid,” Chapman said. An announcement on choices for communities will be in late July, he said. When asked Thursday about where Auburn was in the bid process, City Manager Bob Richardson would only say that the community is in discussions “on a variety of issues” with Amgen organizers. “The city is following the same successful process as last year,” Richardson said. Richardson said that Auburn has some advantages in its corner, including a level of volunteerism that he believes was “unrivalled” among other communities along the Amgen route. And Tahoe wasn’t being seen as negative – at least, not yet. “I haven’t seen the Tahoe application but keeping Amgen in this region is positive for all properties,” Richardson said.