2011-05-05 / Front Page

Local officials in race to finish preparations for Tour of California

By Michelle Knight

For the second year in a row, Thousand Oaks will be the final stop in the country’s largest professional cycling race, the sixth annual Amgen Tour of California.

But this year, cyclists in the eight-day, 800-mile world-class race will sprint the final few miles entirely in T.O. Last year portions of the course included Westlake Village and Agoura Hills.

The Amgen Tour begins May 15 in Lake Tahoe. Cyclists—many of whom have competed in the Tour de France—tackle a 75- to 130-mile leg each day, gradually making their way from Northern to Southern California.

On May 22, professional cyclists from around the world will ride the final 80 miles from Santa Clarita through Moorpark and enter T.O. via the Norwegian Grade.

Racers will sprint 5½ times in a five-mile figure 8 around the city to the finish line in front of the Civic Arts Plaza and city hall.


BE PREPARED—The above map shows the scheduled road closures in Thousand Oaks during the final stage of the Tour of California on Sun., May 22. BE PREPARED—The above map shows the scheduled road closures in Thousand Oaks during the final stage of the Tour of California on Sun., May 22. “We’re pleased with the route, because it will give spectators opportunity to see the riders six times (as they ride the circuit),” said Andrew Powers, assistant to the city manager and member of the local organizing race committee. “If you’re open, it’s a real opportunity for exposure for your business.”

Jerry Jayne, co-chair of the organizing committee, who’s been involved in the race since its inception in 2005, has been working with city staff and local businesses to prepare the big event, which is expected to attract national and international media coverage and some 100,000 visitors to Thousand Oaks.

For the final hour leading up to the finish, visitor and media attention will focus on the race in T.O.


Stages for 2011 Amgen Tour of California 
Courtesy Amgen Tour of California Stages for 2011 Amgen Tour of California Courtesy Amgen Tour of California “That type of coverage, it’s priceless,” said Jayne, an Amgen senior project manager and 12- year T.O. resident. “One hundred percent of the burden falls on T.O. and 100 percent of the exposure . . . so it’s a risk and benefit.”

Preparations

During the race, tens of thousands of spectators are expected to converge on the Lifestyle Festival at the T.O. Civic Arts Plaza and neighboring shopping center, The Lakes. The festival will feature vendors of bicycles, sportswear and equipment who travel with the tour along with local healthfocused businesses.

Large-screen TVs will be set up at the Civic Arts Plaza for spectators to watch the race.

To alert T.O. businesses of street closures on race day, Jill Lederer, president of the Greater Conejo Chamber of Commerce, and Mary Lech, T.O. public information analyst, have been pounding pavement. Lederer and Lech have so far talked to 150 businesses along the five-mile race circuit and expect to meet with every business operator along the route before race day.

“They’ve really just been fabulous about it, and I really think they recognize the overall benefit,” Lederer said. “They were definitely supportive of it.”

Serge Bonnet, owner of Cafe Provencal, a French restaurant near The Lakes, said he’s unclear whether the section of Thousand Oaks Boulevard in front of his 15-year-old business will be closed on the day of the race. He said it won’t be good for business if it is, because it could drive away customers.

“We still have to pay the rent,” Bonnet said. “On one end, it’s going to affect business, and on the other end, it’s going to promote it.”

Bonnet suggests local organizers have race visitors park where there is plenty of space, such as The Oaks mall, and shuttle people along Thousand Oaks Boulevard to the Civic Arts Plaza.

Businesses that will likely see an immediate boost in their bottom line are convenience stores, hotels and restaurants, Lederer said.

Andy Tang, manager of La Quinta Inn and Suites on Newbury Road, said race enthusiasts have so far reserved 42 of his 122 rooms.

“It looks like we’re going to sell out for that Sunday,” Tang said. “It’s a high-demand . . . weekend.”

Last year, The Oaks mall reported a 20 percent sales surge on the day of the race, Jayne said

Conejo Valley businesses could see residual economic boosts in the months following the race, he added. Local organizers hope race spectators and cycling fans watching on TV might consider a future trip to T.O. when in the Los Angeles area.

But without a costly economic study, it’s difficult to measure the financial benefits T.O. will reap from the national and international exposure, Lederer said.

Lessons learned

Los Angeles-based AEG Sports owns and operates the Amgen Tour of California, named for its biggest sponsor. The first race in 2006 finished on the biotechnology giant’s Thousand Oaks campus.

But T.O. was not on the Amgen Tour map for the next three years.

The city didn’t make a bid with AEG to be included in the 2007, 2008 or 2009 race because of the expense and commitment of man- power involved, Powers said.

That attitude has since changed.

“As the race grew in prominence, we recognized it was something we wanted to be a part of, especially partnering with one of our largest employers,” Powers said of Amgen, which has a workforce of around 6,000 in T.O.

The race returned to town last year, when city officials teamed up with their counterparts in Westlake Village and Agoura Hills to host the final leg of the tour. But the large organizing committee had a difficult time moving through permit procedures in a multitude of agencies in the three cities and two counties.

“We’ve learned a lot of lessons from 2010,” Jayne said “We’re a thousand times more prepared this year than last.”

The organizing committee is smaller and decision-making procedures more nimble this year, he said.

Last year, volunteers picked up the trash that about 40,000 spectators left at the finish line on Townsgate Road, working for about an hour until city workers showed up at the location. City street sweepers had to wait for the multitude of race sponsor and VIP tents to be torn down. This year, cleanup crews include an additional street sweeper.

“We underestimated the burden that came at the end (last year),” Jayne said.

The organizing committee has learned the advantage of competitive bidding for the legion of services a host city must provide, among them food and beverages for the hundreds of race dignitaries along with room and board for the dozens of tour cyclists.

The committee saved $80,000 overall this year through bidding out some of those services, Powers said.

Also, a host city must ensure adequate public safety for the throngs of spectators on race day by having emergency medical, fire and law enforcement personnel on hand.

The finish line must be outfitted with Porta-Potties and dozens of trash and recycling receptacles and the race route with hundreds of barricades.

Covering operating costs have been the biggest challenge for the committee, Jayne said.

Expenses are expected to be about $200,000, Powers said

The committee is paying for race expenses through sponsorships. Booths at the Lifestyle Festival run from $1,000 to $25,000, for example. So far, the committee has secured $100,000 in sponsorships, Powers said.

Despite all the work that goes into the race, Jayne said, it’s well worth it.

“This is showcasing the community that I live in, and I want the rest of the world to know about the beautiful area that we live in,” Jayne said. “I think it’s one of the nicest places on the planet.”

For information on the Amgen Tour of California, visit the city’s website at www.amgentourconejo.org or www.amgentourofcalifornia.com. The city also provides race updates on Twitter and Facebook pages.

The race will be televised live on the Versus network.

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