Amgen Tour of California promotes Lake Tahoe across the globe
When Tour of California cyclists crest Kingsbury Grade from Carson Valley and speed down into Stateline and South Lake Tahoe, live images will be broadcast around the world — exposure that local race organizers say is priceless.
The Amgen Tour of California is America’s biggest and most prestigious professional cycling race according to Kristin Klein, Tour of California president and executive vice president of AEG Sports. The multi-stage race last year was viewed by 16.6 million viewers in 200 countries, including 6.88 million on Snapchat, 677,000 per day on Facebook, 244,000 per day on Twitter and 2.4 million over 10 days on Instagram.
Altogether, the reach on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram combined was up nearly 200 percent from the 2016 race.
“It’s the second largest race in the world,” Klein said in an email. “It is the only U.S. race on the UCI World Tour calendar, which also houses the Tour de France.”
Klein says the estimated economic impact of being a host city is around $100 million, with the hundreds of people who travel with the race entourage as well as the thousands of fans who use local hotels, restaurants and businesses.
Calculating the actual financial impact from being a host city here on South Shore is easier said than done, Lake Tahoe Visitor Authority President Carol Chaplin noted.
“There is no way we have a way to confirm what kind of lodging has been specifically driven from the Tour,” Chaplin said. “We can’t quantify the economic impact, it’s too gray an area for us to hang our hats on. But once the riders cross the globe, and once the images of Lake Tahoe are broadcast around the world, that’s where we see the value.”
LTVA makes a significant monetary investment in hosting the race and local business benefit from their partnerships depending on the race configuration, whether the city hosts a stage finish or kickoffs a stage, according to Chaplin. LTVA pays for law enforcement, all the signs that have been posted regarding road closures and athlete’s meals and rooms, among other things.
But this year, Chaplin said the athletes and their entourages will finish Stage 6 in South Lake Tahoe and then travel back the same day to the Sacramento area to spend the night and prepare for the final stage in the state’s capital.
“There is some benefit to our partners, when we purchase rooms and catering, particularly in the slow time of year,” Chaplin said. “But it’s those beautiful shots of Lake Tahoe … I think it’s going to be spectacular watching them coming down Kingsbury Grade.”
Cities likely get involved for a couple of reasons, including the public relations “pop” they get and branding alignment, stated Carl Ribaudo, president of SMG Consulting, a tourism and recreation strategic consulting firm. In order to be more competitive, South Shore is moving to a more serious all-season outdoor recreation and entertainment destination and not just skiing heaven.
“The Amgen is an extension of what many of our locals love to do,” Ribaudo said. “It’s a really good fit. The men and women are so athletic, it just fits the Tahoe lifestyle.”
Maybe the race’s most famous rider, Peter Sagan, of Slovakia, who has a race-record 16 stage wins, promotes the area and wishes he could spend more time here. Sagan hosted a race, the Sagan Fondo, May 5 in Truckee and chose that area over other locations for its people and scenery, among other things.
“I love California and am never there long enough. My time in the Tour of California is some of the best of my racing season,” Sagan said in a statement. “I try to come here as often as I can. Not only does California provide some of the best roads and most beautiful scenery in the world, the warmth and friendliness of its people are second to none. I really feel at home whenever I’m there.”
There are some issues with hosting the event, mainly road closures. But LTVA posted signs well in advance of what roads will be closed and when. The visitors authority is even going door-to-door with local businesses on Kingsbury Grade and other places that will be impacted to make sure they are informed.
Chaplin said she’s had few complaints over the past few years.
“I think the community receives it really well even if there are road closures and some hassles,” Ribaudo said. “LTVA does a good job of informing everybody and the local support is critical.”
Since the city started hosting stages, road biking popularity has risen around the lake, Chaplin noted. The South Shore also is trying to become the destination for elite athletes to get high-altitude, elite training.
She points to Barton Memorial Hospital and its sports performance center. Three-time American Olympian road bicycle racing gold medalist Kristin Armstrong will be at Barton on Thursday, May 17, to check out and learn about the facilities.
“The race has been called a ‘Postcard of California,’” Chaplin said. “We’re getting the impressions, the exposure, and the message out there that this destination is unsurpassable for outdoor recreation.”