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Nevada City Amgen Tour of California start ups hopes for Auburn leg

Foresthill Bridge, Placer County Courthouse seen as scenic visual backdrops for Lance Armstrong, other world-class cyclists
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Some prominent business owners are hopeful the Amgen bike tour will wind through Auburn next May. Word came Thursday from organizers that the Nevada County city will be part of next year’s Amgen Tour of California bike race. Now it’s Auburn’s turn to wait to see if the Nevada City-Sacramento route will include the peloton swinging through Old Town and Downtown Auburn, past the Placer County Courthouse or over the Foresthill Bridge. Nevada City will play host to the start of the first stage May 16 in an eight-day tour covering 750 miles. The first stage will end later that day in Sacramento. The route between those two points is still open to speculation – and hope from Auburn-route supporters like Downtown Business Association board member Harvey Roper. “We hope it will be coming through Auburn but there’s nothing in concrete,” Roper said. “We’re waiting anxiously to hear but we don’t know.” The actual presence of Amgen Tour cyclists in the community would be short-lived – with riders from frontrunners to laggards passing through in from seven to 15 minutes – but it would be an opportunity for the city’s landmarks and rustic business districts to shine in front of a global audience. The biggest cycling event in the United States, the Amgen Tour is televised in more than 100 countries. “It’s up there with the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia now,” said Dan Tebbs, owner of Victory Velo bike shop in Downtown Auburn. “And it has a broad following in Europe.” Tebbs said he’s guessing the route will also include a stretch along Auburn Folsom Road. International cycling stars like Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Dave Zabriskie and George Hincapie have already committed to the tour. “I think it’s coming through Auburn,” Tebbs said. “It will definitely happen. Having the Foresthill Bridge going for us is big. The world will be watching.” Thursday’s announcement provided start and finish locations along the Amgen Tour route but was short on details. Tebbs said he suspects the actual route – and which towns the tour will go through – has yet to be worked out and could be adjusted up until the last minute. Tebbs said representatives from the city and business community have been actively seeking a spot in this coming year’s Amgen Tour. Last year, the announcement that Sacramento would be a start and finish point touched off speculation that a circular route might take cyclists through Auburn or parts of Placer County. But that didn’t materialize. The June appearance of Lance Armstrong at the Nevada City Classic race sparked discussion that the Amgen Tour was on its way to Nevada County. The race is also being moved from February to May, which means better weather and more opportunities to cycle in the Sierra without battling winter storms. “For the 2010 Amgen Tour of California we had the unique opportunity to move our race to a part of the year when we are almost guaranteed great weather in California,” said Andrew Messick, president of event organizer AEG Sports. “The timing will help us to better showcase the beautiful features the state of California has to offer, while allowing us to travel to parts of the state that just weren’t feasible in previous years.”