Turnout turning point for Auburn's start to Amgen

Route details still under wraps
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Auburn’s “extraordinary” turnout when Amgen Tour of California riders raced through town this May helped sway officials into making the city a start of a stage for next year’s competition. Auburn was one of 15 cities selected as a host city out of a pool of 50 communities vying to be a beginning or end point of a stage in the internationally known race. On Thursday, race officials said they are still trying to pin down route details and don’t plan to release which cities will be along for the ride until the end of this year at the earliest. The second stage will travel from Squaw Valley to Sacramento and the third stage from Auburn to Modesto, which possibly leaves other Placer County cities open to seeing some of the action. In a Thursday morning conference call with the media, Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports, said race officials were impressed when they saw an estimated 15,000 people line the streets of Old Town and Downtown Auburn to watch cyclists. “Frankly the turnout in Auburn when we passed through on Stage 1 this year between Nevada City and Sacramento was just extraordinary,” Messick said. Messick said in addition to the number of people, the organization of the city and the parties surrounding the about 12 minutes that cyclists were in city limits stood out. “It was the kind of party and festival that we hope for in every community,” Messick said. “We were very impressed that Auburn had taken its role as a pass-through community seriously.” Messick said that officials were “flattered and delighted” when they heard Auburn wanted to be a bigger part of the Amgen Tour. “It’s a pleasure for us to create a stage that features Auburn and will feature the beauty of the western Sierra foothills,” Messick said. Messick was mostly mum on route details. He said officials plan to release details at the end of December or the beginning of January. A general map of the routes has been released on the race website and shows the second stage running along or near Interstate 80 on the stretch from Squaw Valley to Sacramento. When asked if Roseville will be part of a route or near one, Messick said, “I don’t want to answer that quite yet.” Messick said the route from Auburn to Modesto, which will be Stage 3 of the eight-stage race, will include Highway 49 to highlight the Sierra to the bicycling community. However, Messick declined to go into detail about how much of the highway would be used during the race. “It’s gorgeous back there,” Messick said. “It’s a place not too many people outside of the people in the Auburn, Modesto, Sierra foothills, have been. For us, it’s about bringing attention to it and showcasing it for cyclists around the world.” ---------- Fast Facts: Amgen Tour of California 2011 Source: Thursday media conference call with Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports - 50 communities submitted proposal to be the start or end of a stage, “which was an all-time high,” Messick said. “In 2006, when we were just starting, it was a lot harder,” Messick said. “No one knew who we were. No one knew whether this crazy notion would work. Every year we have more and more cities that are interested and that are vying to be a stage start or a stage finish for our race.” - The first two stages will take place in Lake Tahoe for the first time in the race’s history. Messick said moving the race from February to May allowed the Tour to race along the scenic backdrop of the area. - Messick touched on the economic value of hosting a stage of the tour. He said the race brings an entourage of riders, their crews and the “thousands of fans” who follow the race to each city. He added that the tour is broadcast internationally and highlights communities as destinations for other cyclists. - Messick said various factors will go into the decision of which cities will be along the routes of the eight stages. Currently organizers are working with the host cities and counties, the California Highway Patrol and Caltrans to work with road closures, bridge repairs, construction work and more. - The route selection process took about five months before officials made the announcement Thursday. “We’re delighted with the route we have for the 2011 race,” Messick said. “We think it’s the best route ever.” - The 2011 race will have comparable mileage (about 800) and elevation gain as the 2010 competition but organizers are putting more challenging climbs at the end stages of the eight-day tour. “For stages where there’s going to be climbing, we’d like the climbing to be as divisive as possible,” Messick said. “There are fewer stages with big climbs early and more stages with big climbs later.” - When asked if the tour would ever expand past eight days of racing, Messick said it’s a possibility. Messick said tour organizers are considering down the road possibly expanding the competition to nine, 10 or 11 days. However, he said he does not foresee turning the Tour of California into a three-week competition like the Tour de France, which takes place in July. “I don’t think we’d get the riders,” Messick said. He added that he doesn’t think a three-week Tour of California would be “the right thing for the sport of cycling.” “Part of what we want to do is position ourselves as a race that’s going to be one that’s important and helpful to people who want to do well at the Tour de France,” Messick said. ----------