For those who braved the forbidding Davis rain in February to watch the start of the Amgen Tour of California, the future may be looking a lot brighter.
Rumors are circulating that in 2010, America’s biggest cycling stage race will be held May 16 to 23, following four straight years of February races.
The news was first reported in Cyclingnews, which quoted AEG president Andrew Messick as confirming the change.
However, Michael Roth, Vice President of Communications, said yesterday what he can confirm is that the race date will not be in February.
“We’re waiting until later this week to make any confirmed announcements about a permanent date,” Roth said.
Weather was the main motivation behind the decision. The last two Tours were beset by storms, including heavy rain during the first stage in Davis this year.
“We would have had to make some difficult decisions,” Messick told Cyclingnews. “There was just no appetite to stay in a February race.”
Making the shift will also move the race out of conflict with the 2010 Winter Olympics, Feb. 12 through 28, in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Yet moving the race to May will create a scheduling conflict with the Giro D’Italia, the prestigious Italian tour currently being raced. Both the Amgen Tour and the Giro are high profile races that attract high profile cyclists, which could mean the Amgen Tour loses out on some big names.
Roth said he doesn’t see it that way.
“The Tour of California has achieved a great level of success and respect all over the world,” Roth said. “There are always other races going on. We think because of that respect, and discussions we have had with cycling teams, we will continue to put out a competitive field, with some of the best cyclists.”
The idea of being able to host a stage of the race in considerably better weather conditions attracts the cities of Sacramento and Davis.
Bob Bowen, Public Relations Manager for the City of Davis, said that regardless of weather, the turnout was particularly impressive.
“Even in the rain, that race has potential for huge, positive impact,” Bowen said. “Unfortunately, because of the rain, many folks stayed to watch the start of the race, then didn’t stick around as much afterward.”
John McCasey, CEO of the Sacramento Sports Commission, which helped organize the Sacramento stages of the Tour, is assuming the dates as confirmed.
“I think it will be just as impressive as it was last year,” McCasey said. “I do think the possibility of improved weather will attract a larger turnout, absolutely.”
Although the dates may be as good as confirmed, the decision on which cities will host stages of the Tour has yet to be made. Roth confirmed that bids will be sent out to potentially interested cities within the coming week. From there the highest bids are considered, and decisions are made independently to decide on which city gets to host the start of the race.
“Most often we like to pick starting and ending stages at either very northern spots or very southern spots, with selected cities along the way,” Roth said.
Bowen and McCasey both said that the cost of hosting a stage of the race would not be a deterrent.
“We were pleasantly surprised this year in our ability to raise funds for the race,” Bowen said.
“We had such a tremendous amount of success with the prologue in February,” McCasey said. “It would be hard not to go after that again.”
One potential concern is over the calendar day of the race’s first stage. Should the dates hold, and Sacramento again earns the starting time trial (as it has three of the Tour’s four years), the prologue would fall on a Sunday.
This year the prologue was held on a Saturday. McCasey sees this as an opportunity for Sacramento. McCasey envisions holding the pre-race banquet on the Friday night before the prologue, a day of cycling-themed events Saturday and the prologue Sunday.
“We’re going to sell it as a weekend of cycling in downtown Sacramento,” McCasey said.
Bowen said the scenario could be a concern for the city of Davis.
“If there are any conflicts it would be if Sacramento wins the bid to stage the prologue on a Sunday,” Bowen said. “We would then stage the first leg of the race on a Monday, on a school day. It could be a challenge, cutting into school and university schedules, and closing off streets.”
Still, the dates are not final, and Bowen is hopeful Amgen sees fit to allow Davis to hold the first leg on a Sunday.
“We hold out hope that the promoters partner with us,” he said. “Especially given the opportunity to host it on a Sunday in the bicycle capital of the nation.”
TOM MORRIS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.