For the second time in three years, the Amgen Tour of California will bypass the Central Coast in May 2012.
Race organizer AEG Sports announced the 750-mile route for the seventh annual professional cycling race Thursday, and none of the 13 host cities are in San Luis Obispo or Santa Barbara counties.
Solvang, which had hosted the individual time-trial stage four times in five years, most recently this May, has been replaced by Bakersfield. A previous host city, Bakersfield will be the time-trial site for the first time.
The Tour de France-style race, sponsored by the Amgen pharmaceutical company, drew thousands of spectators and worldwide publicity to the Santa Ynez Valley each year from 2007 to 2009 and again this year.
However, the tour bypassed the Central Coast completely in favor of a Central Valley route in 2010. Los Angeles hosted the time trial that year.
Solvang city and tourism officials had anticipated that the tour would skip Solvang next year because organizers would not lower their financial demands, which included more hotel rooms at a lower rate, more meals for staff, and more security than in prior years, among other host-city requirements.
Citing the rising costs, city staff and the co-chairs of the Solvang Local Organizing Committee (LOC) had recommended to the City Council in August that Solvang not submit a host city proposal for next year.
However, Mayor Jim Richardson said the city should “play hardball” with AEG and negotiate a deal to pay less, but AEG wouldn’t reduce the price.
Cost of hosting the event was expected to be $150,000 — about $25,000 more than this year.
Despite not making this year’s tour schedule, Solvang will probably make a run for the 2013 race, as AEG has encouraged the city to bid again, City Manager Brad Vidro said.
The LOC is expected to be re-shaped due to the resignation of Carol Petersen, one of its co-chairs with Max Hanberg and its primary fundraiser, Vidro said.
AEG has alternated sections of the state to spotlight through the years and Solvang will be ready in 2013, said Tracy Farhad, Solvang Conference and Visitors Bureau executive director.
“It’s an awfully big state; we’re willing to share this big state of ours,” she said.
Many of the world’s premier professional cyclists have competed in the tour, including seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, and three-time Amgen tour winner Levi Leipheimer.
Considered to be America’s largest professional cycling race, the Amgen tour is scheduled from May 13-20, beginning in Santa Rosa and ending in Los Angeles.
Other host cities will be Sonora, Ontario, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, San Jose, Livermore, Clovis, Bakersfield, Palmdale, Big Bear Lake and Mt. Baldy.
More than 100 cities had sought to be named official start or finish locations, according to AEG.
Also missing from the 2012 tour will be previous Central Coast host cities such as Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.
Paso Robles didn’t bid this year, but may try in 2013, said Police Chief Lisa Solomon. This year’s cost of about $140,000 would have been a challenge to meet, she added.
San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara were not in the running this year either, said Laura Kath, a spokeswoman for the Solvang LOC. Lompoc officials briefly contemplated a host city bid but passed.