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Our View: Tour of California worth seeing again in Auburn

Our View
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Auburn, it’s time to set the stage for a return of the Amgen Tour of California. While the internationally known bicycle race only made a blink-and-you-missed-it pass through in town this year, it still drew a crowd of several thousand to Old Town and Downtown Auburn. Auburn’s impressive showing was a big foot in the door for the possibility of not only staying on the race route, but hosting a start or finish to a stage of the eight-day race. Even as the Tour of California ends today in Thousand Oaks, there are already plans in the works to promote Auburn to tour officials for next year’s event. Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Cosgrove said video footage collected around Auburn the day of the race, including aerial shots from a helicopter, are currently being packaged. Cosgrove said he hopes the video, which showcases the town’s strong turnout for about 10 minutes of cyclists speeding on local streets, will encourage race officials to bring the tour back to Auburn — only bigger and better. A race start in Auburn would be an especially promising boost for the local economy. The more than 100 racers and their large support crews could stay in Auburn hotels the night before and possibly dine at local restaurants. A start would also attract an even larger crowd to the Downtown and Old Town areas, and bring with it the increased chance of more business. A stage race finish, possibly near the Streetscape project, would result in city streets lined four and five deep, just as they did in Sacramento during the first stage. One can already see the cyclists flying down Lincoln Way from the Foresthill Bridge, turning onto High Street and sprinting to the finish on the long straightaway, the city seal marking the finish line at Central Square. Auburn city officials and employees proved the town can handle a large-scale event. Strong volunteer turnout coupled with well-executed planning made event-day activities run smoothly. Fears there would be chaos or disruption were unfounded. Auburn City Manager Bob Richardson said race planners were “extremely pleased” with their experience in town. “Their focus is on finishing this year’s event, but our relationship is strong,” Richardson said earlier this week. Auburn businesses along the tour route and those impacted by road closures had mixed results on race day. Some, such as Old Town Pizza and Old Town Dessert Cafe owner Reese Browning said business was up at his dessert café but down at the pizza parlor directly across the street. However, Browning said the excitement of the tour was worth it and hopes to see bicyclists pedal through Old Town again next year. He added that merchants can learn from this year’s event how to better market themselves next year when large crowds hopefully once again flood Auburn streets. While other business owners didn’t see a big boon such as Tsuda’s Old Town Eatery, owner Alexandra Carnahan said the event didn’t hurt her restaurant and the exposure was great. The combination of effective planning on behalf of the city, cooperation on the part of businesses and the palpable excitement of Auburn residents cheering on the world’s top cyclists make hosting the Amgen Tour of California a good thing for Auburn. Now city officials should push for our foothill town to host a start to a stage. Auburn has shown organizers it can come out and put on a good show for just 10 minutes — imagine what the city can do given 24 hours.