Santa Rosa will host the overall start of the eight-day Amgen Tour of California next May, with stages in five other Northern California cities before the bicyle race heads south, organizers confirmed Thursday.
It is a prestigious designation for Santa Rosa, which has hosted starts or finishes for five of the tour's six years.
And it sets the stage for a week of events, from concerts to parties.
"With the overall start, everyone will be assembling in Santa Rosa a week out," said professional racer Levi Leipheimer of Santa Rosa, who has won the tour three times.
"You will have the entire media, teams, organizers and sponsors a week beforehand," Leipheimer said. "We will get more attention as well, people will talk about it.
He said it is an indication of how much support Santa Rosa gives to cycling.
"Santa Rosa has a passionate bike community and the community has always been open to hosting the race," Leipheimer said. "They put on a great race every year and that is something the organizers ... have commented on. Santa Rosa is the gold standard."
The first stage will be in downtown Santa Rosa on May 13, a Sunday, and the tour ends 750 miles later, on May 20, in Los Angeles.
Thirteen other cities also were designated Thursday to host a start or finish, of 100 that applied, according to AEG Sports of Los Angeles, the owner of the event.
The second stage is from San Francisco, with a backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge, along the coast to Santa Cruz County, followed by San Jose to Livermore and Sonora to Clovis.
In Southern California, a time trial will be held in Bakersfield and stages from Palmdale to Big Bear Lake, Ontario to Mt. Baldy and in downtown Los Angeles and around the Staples Center.
The exact routes will be announced next spring, but Santa Rosa's organizing committee said it is planning for the stage to start and finish downtown.
"We have a strong indication it is possible," said Raissa de la Rosa, Santa Rosa economic specialist who is leading the local organizing effort.
The Amgen tour has become the premiere race in the United States, attracting a field of top international teams.
Santa Rosa organizers have raised $260,000 so far towards the cost of putting on the event, which is budgeted for $500,500, mostly for housing and feeding the teams and event staff for three days and turning the downtown streets into an event arena.
The economic impact is expected to be $6.6 million, which includes spending by race fans, event organizers, the teams and sponsors as well as the salaries for local workers and suppliers.
De la Rosa said that because it is on a Sunday, the event won't have a negative impact on downtown businesses or traffic.
Between the start of the race and when riders return, which could be as long as four hours, there may be other events, such as a women's or children's bike race.
"There are things we can do to entertain people while they are waiting," de la Rosa said.