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Our View: Auburn should pound pavement to gain cycling event

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Hundreds of bicycles and pace cars. Crowds three, four, five deep. National TV crews, video screens and screams. This could be the streets of Auburn — it should be the streets of Auburn. Not too long ago the cycling community squarely fixed its gaze on the Sacramento region when the AMGEN Tour of California came rolling through. Famous faces like Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and Floyd Landis wove their way through the capital in the tour’s prologue. Estimates of 75,000 to 100,000 people jammed the streets of downtown Sacramento to get a view. Why not here? In the Endurance Capital of the World, what could be finer than a stage of the AMGEN tour rolling through some of the most physically demanding and beautiful roads in the Sierra foothills? “The dream has been investigated a bit. We had some talk last year about getting the first stage to at least touch in the foothills,” said Auburn’s Brad Kearns, a former professional triathlete, author and organizer of the Auburn Triathlon. “It didn’t work out. Hopefully, in the future, we can explore routing the riders through here on the tour. Hosting a stage or finish would be a big ambition and would require a budget and people spearheading it.” If not the AMGEN, Auburn should actively seek the ability to bring in its own bike race, possibly a criterium through the streets of Old Town or Downtown Auburn. A criterium is where a group of cyclists whirl through a closed course for a series of laps, usually less than a mile, while being timed. Picture it: Hundreds of cyclists riding through town as historic buildings serve as the backdrop to thousands of enthusiastic spectators crowding the streets to get a view and cheer on the athletes. Auburn can support this, we are a community of cyclists and outdoors enthusiasts dedicated to finding safe and fun ways to enjoy our community and the outdoor recreational bounty we have. But it would take a true desire from the community. “Just like any big-scale event — I spend a lot of time and energy just trying to get the triathlon happening,” Kearns warned. “So it’s a massive undertaking to close down roads and bring in an elite field of cyclists.” Not too far up Highway 49 one foothill town has already embraced the cycling culture, and it has for more than two decades. The Nevada City Bicycle Classic is a crowd pleaser and it always draws decent-sized crowds. It’s also had some pretty famous faces in the sport come through. Armstrong and Greg LeMond are just a couple of those names that have graced the gold country. “Nevada City has taken it to the next level,” Kearns said. From an economic standpoint Auburn could benefit. Money would pour in from race teams and spectators, thus giving the city a nice economic shot in the arm. And, if the race were high profile, some national and international exposure would come our way as athletes from all over the world would descend on our foothill hamlet. Hotels, motels, restaurants and stores could all see economic benefits. While getting a big-time race involved in our community isn’t easy work, it could be done, and we could use one more prestigious event to sit alongside the Western States Endurance Run and the Tevis Cup on the city’s mantle. So, who steps up and takes the reins for this effort? The City Council? Placer County? The Economic Development Commission? A local citizen? While the answer is not a clear one, there is one definite — Auburn needs a cycling race. The electricity, the athleticism and the fun of it all are something we can all get used to.