Two cities, with a common goal
Escondido, hosting Tour of California start, has much in common with Santa Rosa
Published: Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 9:42 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 2:21 p.m.
ESCONDIDO — If Santa Rosa's looking south for a sister city, then it need look no farther than right here.
BY THE NUMBERS
Escondido / Santa Rosa
146,032 / 169,292
Median resident age:
33.0 / 36.7
Median household income:
$50,597 / $60,850
Sources: census.gov and city-data.com
There are vineyards on the outskirts of this town and micro-breweries in the city limits.
There's a diverse population of something over 100,000 and a tourism/agricultural base to the economy.
There's a teeming metropolis less than 60 miles to the south (San Diego) and growing smaller towns in the surrounding areas.
But most of all, at least for the next 10 days, it has become a fanatical cycling mecca.
Sound familiar, Santa Rosa?
“We want to be Santa Rosa,” said Alfredo Velasco, president of the local Rotary Club and past president of the Escondido Chamber of Commerce. “That's a great cycling community, and we are, too.”
Velasco and the rest of this community are preparing for the northern San Diego County town's second shot at hosting an Amgen Tour of California stage. And this one will be unique. In the TOC's eighth go-round, it will be the first time the event has started here (the last time, 2009, this was the finish line), and it will be the first time the race itself has traversed south-to-north.
“We are expecting close to 40,000 or more people downtown on Sunday,” said Michelle Geller, management analyst for the city of Escondido. “And we really don't have a way to calculate how many fans will be on the 102.7-mile route.”
With a clear, sunny day, high of 81 and low of 59, forecast for today's stage, downtown was starting to gear up early this week with banners at City Hall and preparations under way for an all-day Sunday Lifestyle Festival, positions for food trucks and a food court, big-screen TV areas where spectators can view the race, and a live-music venue.
“The race will start at 11:15 a.m. and they should be back in town around 4 p.m.,” Geller said, “so we will have plenty for people to do during that five-hour window.”
Media coverage, low-key early on, was scheduled to pick up during the week with all three San Diego-area TV networks advancing the race and covering it today and the area's largest metropolitan newspaper, UT San Diego, devoting a special advertising section to the event, and localized north San Diego County coverage all week.
The race and the subsequent exposure that Escondido got this week weren't even solicited.
“The Amgen folks came to us,” said Michael Morasco, an Escondido City Council member and avid cyclist himself. “We wanted to be back on the Tour of California, but we didn't actively pursue it. I think there is an advantage to having the start here because the interest in the race is always high then. And, yes, I think we will have somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000 fans along the entire route on Sunday.”
Morasco doesn't think the lack of well-known cyclists, namely Lance Armstrong, will affect the interest.
“There is no doubt that he (Armstrong) put the sport on the map,” Morasco added, “but people have come to love the sport for what it is, and we have moved on.”
Escondido figures the event will cost the city in the neighborhood of $500,000, but the benefit to tourism and weekend income alone should defray that cost easily.
The Stage 1 route will loop around the county, beginning and ending in downtown Escondido, with the highest elevation point being Palomar Mountain (6,140 feet), where its summit will give the stage a total elevation gain of 11,132 feet.
“Escondido (which is about 25 miles from the Pacific Ocean) sits right at the base of the mountains. In cycling, we are kind of the gateway to the east, and we have some terrific cycling areas,” said Velasco, a former kicker at UCLA. “I have ridden the course myself and it's challenging.”
That challenge was offered to any amateur rider who wanted to give the course a shot when it was open to riders on Saturday. That event was preceded on Friday with a “Cruisin' Grand event (similar to Peggy Sue's All-American Cruise in Santa Rosa), a $125-per-person gala to introduce the teams and an 8 p.m.-midnight party to kick off the weekend.
“The 2009 race was the kickoff,” Morasco said.
“Cycling has had tremendous growth here from clubs, to weekly events, to casual riders to even mountain bikers and bike shops.”
Sound familiar, Santa Rosa?