Our View: Amgen Tour puts Auburn in center of cycling universe

Our View
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Western States and Tevis? Meet your new sibling, Amgen. The Amgen Tour of California is coming to the streets of Auburn, providing the community with another platform to leverage its endurance sports heritage, showcase its natural beauty and reap the economic benefits of both. The Amgen Tour has quickly become America’s answer to the Tour de France, the legendary multi-stage bicycle race that made Lance Armstrong a global phenomenon. The fact that Armstrong is an Amgen proponent and a likely competitor adds even more luster to this year’s race, which begins Sunday, May 16. The weeklong stage race begins that Sunday in Nevada City and winds 104 miles through the foothills to Sacramento. Between the start and finish, it will be Auburn that gets the most face time – up close and personal – as well as a worldwide television audience of millions on the Versus network. This won’t be your regular Sunday bike ride with the kids. While these professional riders will hit speeds of 30 mph to 40 mph on some stretches of the course, Auburn spectators will be lucky to see the race slow down on some of its narrow streets. Twists, turns and bumpy city streets will test the leaders and the peloton before the pack heads to the Foresthill Bridge, across the American River and off into El Dorado County. Even so, Amgen’s time in Auburn might just be 15 minutes of fame for which we can’t afford not to be prepared. A group of local businesspeople was instrumental in lobbying for a section of the race, but it will take a community-wide effort to dress Auburn up for the big day. Here are some ideas worth considering, courtesy of Auburn Journal readers and others: Project Auburn: There has been no announced community work project this year, so why not make it a trash and power-washing cleanup along the race route from Foresthill Road to Old Town? Civic groups could organize work teams. The results would be clean streets and sidewalks that would last all summer long. Fund-raising bike ride: Hold a self-guided ride for recreational cyclists the weekend of May 9-10 along sections of the route. Donations and T-shirt sales could raise money for the city’s Endurance Capital Committee and its efforts to promote local recreation. Pave Pine Street: Professional cyclists are accustomed to riding the cobblestone streets of the Champs-Élysées, but the narrow residential street near the Elks Club is an accident waiting to happen. Now would be the time for the city of Auburn to repair the street, as one Auburn Journal reader has noted. Decorations and signage: Exciting Gold Country banners are needed for the light and power poles along the city route, and some permanent signs should be erected after so visiting cyclists can relive the drama and excitement they viewed on TV. “Think Auburn First” posters should be everywhere. Open up the river: Manage the day’s flow and allow designated whitewater enthusiasts to run the American River near the Confluence, with take out at the dam site parking lot. A river filled with kayaks and rafts would be a free commercial for the growing whitewater industry. Put out the welcome mat: Some people would prefer the race be held elsewhere, fearing others will “discover” Auburn. But first impressions are golden, and welcoming enthusiastic cycling fans will pay off for restaurants, hotels, shops and real estate agents for days and years to come. Cycling street fair: Since many of the Downtown streets will be closed for the riders, keep them shut off for a few hours after the race. Bring in some bands and big-screen monitors and watch the final couple of hours with a few thousand of your friends. Auburn has a unique opportunity to expose itself to the world. The Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run and Tevis Cup 100-mile horse ride are great events that bring in thousands of visitors over a three-day span, but Amgen is a different animal. Let’s ride.