For eight days starting Sunday, May 12, millions of California residents will not need passports to experience a major European sporting spectacle. It’s coming to a town near them.
Inspired by the Tour de France, the legendary multistage bicycle race that celebrates its 100th running this summer, the 2013 Amgen Tour of California (ATOC) will send 16 international and domestic teams of professional cyclists from mountain-rimmed Escondido, through the Coachella Valley desert landscape, and to the coast of Santa Barbara, where it turns north past vineyards and strawberry fields to Avila Beach, the summit of Mount Diablo, and across the Golden Gate Bridge.
It’s fitting that Santa Barbara, which bills itself as “the American Riviera,” has a position of prominence in this eighth edition of the California race, hosting both the finish of Stage 4 on Wednesday, May 15, and the start of Stage 5 on Thursday, May 16. The riders return to Santa Barbara for the first time since 2008 because AEG, the sports/entertainment conglomerate that owns the race, opted for stunning scenery rather than just the highest bidding cities. “AEG wanted a great coastal backdrop for the race,” said Barney Berglund, cochair of the local organizing committee. “They worked with us to make it affordable.”
The Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau is backing the event in hopes it will bring tourists to town — in addition to the 600-strong delegation of cyclists, support crews, and race officials — and shine an attractive global spotlight on the city during the worldwide telecast. For residents, it’s an opportunity to see world-class riders up close and personal as they race over two days through the entire county, from Carpinteria to Guadalupe.