Santa Rosa will hold the overall finish for the Amgen Tour of California, again putting Sonoma County on center stage of America's premier bicycle race.
"It solidifies our iconic presence in the tour," said Raissa de la Rosa, who heads the city's organizing committee.
"We are like Paris," de la Rosa said, referring to the traditional finish of the Tour de France. "We have always had this presence, either being the finish of the first stage or the overall start."
The tour owner, AEG Sports of Los Angeles, will not announce the cities that will be part of the race until 1 p.m. today.
However, sources with knowledge of the tour said Santa Rosa has been selected to host the final stage on May 19.
The Tour of California, which begins May 12, also will for the first time start in Southern California and progress northward.
The race draws 128 professional riders and many of the top international cycling teams.
Santa Rosa last year hosted the race's overall start and has had a stage finish or start in six of the seven years that the Amgen Tour of California has been run.
De la Rosa said she expects the finish will be held in downtown Santa Rosa, the setting for all of the previous races.
"Anytime we have the race, the likelihood of keeping it downtown is very high; we have heard from the merchants that is something they would like," de la Rosa said.
Hosting the overall race finish is the next best thing to hosting the overall start in terms of opportunities for accompanying events and for name recognition.
The overall start this past year resulted in an estimated spending of $6.8 million and showcased Sonoma County to an international TV audience.
The pre-race festivities began three days before the actual race, with banquets, riders making appearances at local bicycle shops and the teams themselves being seen training on Sonoma County roads.
"The recognition we have gotten out of this internationally, in terms of being a destination, and not just a cycling destination, feeds into our marketing and tourism in general," said de la Rosa, a city economic development specialist.
On race day, police estimated there were 40,000 spectators in downtown Santa Rosa.
The city's organizing committee raised $540,000 in donations and in-kind services to pay for food and hotel rooms for the teams and tour staff, police and fire services and the cost of setting up the course through downtown.
To host an overall finish next year is expected to cost about $325,000, de la Rosa said.
The largest contributor has been VeloStreet, the nonprofit that owns Levi Leipheimer's King Ridge GranFondo, a fall ride that attracts 7,500 riders. It contributes $60,000 to the city's cost of hosting the tour.
You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.