The city of Santa Rosa announced late Friday that it would not bid to host a stage of the 2014 Amgen Tour of California, taking a break from the bike race that passed through Sonoma County in seven of the past eight years.
The city cited donor fatigue and "the potential for greater success after a hiatus" from the race. Changes in requirements and costs from its owner and producer, entertainment conglomerate AEG, also were a factor.
Sitting out the Tour of California in 2014 will allow city staff to focus attention on other opportunities, City Manager Kathy Millison said.
"Taking this break from the Tour will allow us to focus our efforts on new prospects," Millison said in a statement.
"While this is a tremendous community event with broad participation, it does require a great deal of time and effort from our Economic Development Division, as well as resources from several other city departments,"she said.
Santa Rosa's private sector has provided funding to host the Tour since its inception in 2006. Enthusiasm and fundraising peaked in 2012, when Santa Rosa hosted the overall start of the bicycle race.
In the ensuing year, community and stakeholder sentiment has veered toward taking a break, the city said in its announcement.
Levi Leipheimer, a retired pro cyclist from Santa Rosa who won the Tour of California three times, supported the decision.
"Considering all we've accomplished here, particularly in the past two years, it just seems time to watch from the sidelines. It will be a good vantage point to see how the race develops in 2014," Leipheimer said in a statement.
Leipheimer helped create one of the major fundraisers to support the city's efforts to host the tour. His annual bike ride, Levi's GranFondo, has donated $240,000 to local Tour efforts since 2010, according to his statement.
The race generated an estimated $20 million in economic activity for the region over the past eight years and elevated Sonoma County's visibility as a center for cycling.
"Subsequently, many other options and opportunities have presented themselves. Sports-related tourism is on the rise regionally, and new events have shown an interest in the area while existing events continue to expand," the city said in the statement.
The decision to walk away from the Tour in 2014 was made by the city, in coordination with the Local Organizing Committee. Millison said the city hopes to maintain its relationship with AEG.
"Through our successful hosting of this race we have broadened our locational brand, and I believe we can continue to leverage that while retaining our strong relationship with AEG," she said.
At least one other city on last year's tour also has bowed out. Livermore, which hosted stages the past three years, cited demands on city resources and staff in reaching the decision late last month.
Santa Rosa bike shop owner Bret Gave expressed disappointment at the loss of the prestigious race. Gave, who owns the Trek store on Mendocino Avenue, said it was a key fundraising source for the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition.
Last year, he said his shop raised $3,500 by hosting an event in which fans could talk to pro cyclists for a $25 donation.
"Without that, we're going to have to find another way to raise money for the coalition," Gave said.