The Amgen Tour of California bicycle race has drawn hundreds of thousands of spectators to different cities in the state over its 14-year history and has generated $3.5 billion in economic activity, according to race organizers. But the race will not take place next year.
Several California cities had expected to host the event this coming May. But there will be no colorful racing uniforms, announcers, music or impassioned crowds because race organizer AEG Worldwide has pulled the plug, citing financial pressures.
“The business fundamentals of the Amgen Tour of California have changed,” said event president Kristin Klein. “It has become more challenging each year to mount the race.”
The announcement caught the expected host cities off guard, including Nevada City and Sacramento. Nevada City Councilman Duane Strawser said his city was on track as of Monday to host the next to last stage of the men's and women's races and had hosted a film crew this past weekend to shoot promotional videos for NBC.
"Sponsorship dollars are fickle from year to year and sometimes from month to month,” said Strawser, who is also the promoter for the Nevada City Classic Bicycle Race. “You may have a secure contract in hand but if a company that is one of your sponsors either takes a big hit to their stocks or files bankruptcy, that rug can be pulled out from under your feet instantly with no recourse."
The race cancellation could deal a second blow to Nevada County businesses that have been struggling because of the power shutoffs.
"We were really thrilled knowing that some of the contracts that I would hand out for catering, for porta potties, for marketing, you name it would have made up maybe 10, 15, 20 percent of what they've lost the last three weeks in these outages," Strawser said.
Strawser has raced all over the world and attended the major cycling events, like the Tour de France. He said putting on such a race is a “massive moving beast.”
Michael Threadgall works at College Cyclery in Sacramento and is also an avid racegoer. He says he’s seen fewer people at the races in California. He wonders if more people might be drawn to the sport if they knew more about its technical aspects.
“America's different, you know. We're addicted to our cars. Bicycles are children's toys,” Threadgall said. “I live on a bike. I love bikes. I follow cycling everywhere. I guess I'm one of the small minorities."
Threadgall says races like the Amgen Tour of California used to be as big here in the states as overseas.
"There's no entrance fees and you show up and watch them go by,” he said. “It's not like your other sports. You know, the turn of the century, cycling in America was second only to baseball and every major city had an indoor velodrome cycling track."
AEG says it will study the race's business model to see if it might relaunch in 2021.
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