SOUTH LAKE TAHOE - The eighth, and final, stage of the 2010 Amgen Tour of California wraps up in Southern California on May 23. But efforts are already underway to bring the first leg of the 2011 edition of the professional bike race to Lake Tahoe.
The Tour of California entered its fifth year in 2010, and typically includes elite athletes of the cycling world like Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer.
The Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority and North Lake Tahoe Resort Association are drumming up community support for the race, an initial step in attracting the tour to Tahoe, said LTVA Executive Director Carol Chaplin on Thursday.
Douglas County Commissioners approved a letter of support to bring the race to Lake Tahoe's South Shore during a Thursday meeting. Chaplin said she hopes to get a similar item on the South Lake Tahoe City Council's June 8 agenda.
"What we need to do is demonstrate to Amgen the level of community support, so that's the process right now," Chaplin said. "That does not guarantee the tour selects us, but it lets them understand this is a community that is accepting of this event."
Next year's host cities are expected to be announced at the end of June.
A change in the dates of the race from February to May this year was the major factor in making a Tahoe leg of the race a possibility, Chaplin said.
Avoiding rainy months, better positioning the tour on the professional bike racing calendar and showcasing all of California were the reasons the Tour of California switched from a winter to spring event, said Andrew Messick, president of tour owner AEG Sports, at a press conference prior to the start of this year's race.
"In February - you know California is a mountainous state - there's just a lot of terrain that is inaccessible due to snow and cold and shifting to May will open up the Sierra Nevada, various mountain tops and areas like Lake Tahoe for the race," Messick said.
Despite a planned closure of Highway 50 over Echo Summit next summer, such a high profile event could help area businesses during a traditionally slow time of year, Chaplin said. Caltrans expects to close the highway to replace its crumbling guard rail for approximately three weeks in April or May next summer, depending on weather conditions.
An estimated 15,000 people attended the opening of this year's Tour of California in Nevada City this year, according to race organizers.
Other cities that have hosted Tour of California stages have placed the economic benefit between $1 million and $1.5 million, Chaplin said. National and international coverage of the event would also be "pretty priceless" for the area, Chaplin added.
But the bike race won't come free.
Host cities are financially responsible for several aspects of the race, including hotel rooms and meals for athletes and their support crews.
An exact cost estimate wasn't available Friday, but Chaplin said it would probably cost several hundred thousand dollars to fund tour requirements.
Bringing Stage 5 of this year's Tour of California to Visalia cost about $100,000, according to an article in the Visalia Times-Delta.
Despite the cost, the prestige of the bike race could put it on the same level as the annual celebrity golf event at Edgewood-Tahoe Golf course, which attracted a a record 37,205 spectators over six days last year, Chaplin said.
The effort to bring the Tour of California to Lake Tahoe is in its initial phases and is working on a short timeline, but Chaplin is hopeful about securing the event for the region.
"The community, so far, is really enthusiastic about the tour selecting us for one of their cities, but there are a few other hoops we have to jump through," Chaplin said.