The celebratory sound of cowbells echoed throughout the Spinnaker Inn on Thursday morning, as it was announced Sausalito will be the starting point of the 2007 Amgen Tour of California.
The 700-mile road race will take some of the top professional cyclists in the world through 12 California cities, beginning Feb. 18, 2007, and concluding in Long Beach on Feb. 25. This will be the second year of the event, which drew 16 teams and 128 riders in 2006 and could grow even bigger in 2007.
American Floyd Landis won the first Amgen Tour, and is currently among the leaders in the Tour de France, cycling’s most prestigious race.
"We’d like to think of the Amgen Tour as the opening of the international cycling season," said Bob Colarossi, the managing director of the event. "We’re trying to create something that communities can rally around and will get people out on their bikes."
The first stage will span from Sausalito to Santa Rosa, prompting excitement from officials in both of the Marin County cities.
Sausalito and Santa Rosa are the only two locales that also served as hosts in the 2006 tour.
"This year it was colossal," Santa Rosa Vice Mayor Bob Blanchard said. "I think people are starting to realize that the cycling around here rivals anything in the world."
After Santa Rosa, the tour will pass through Sacramento, Stockton, San Jose, Seaside, San Luis Obispo, Solvang, Santa Barbara and Santa Clarita before reaching Long Beach. The exact route is still being decided, with the final course to be set by September.
The 2006 event provided a bump for local economies throughout the state, generating an estimated $100 million in fiscal growth. Approximately 1.3 million fans poured out to watch the race, making it the largest sporting event in California history.
"The riders were surprised and happy with the amount of people cheering along the course," Colarossi said. "Fans brought their cheese and wine out to the road and had their Tour de France moment here."
San Francisco will play a big part in the Amgen Tour as well, hosting the prologue before the tour begins. This event introduces the riders to the crowd and seeds the riders, determining who will start first and earn the gold jersey.
This year’s route took cyclists down the Embarcadero and up Lombard Street to the top of Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower, which drew positive feedback from riders and fans, according to Colarossi.