Lodi, known more for its wineries than its cycling culture, will be the only town on next year’s Amgen Tour route to never have hosted a leg of the race.
By KENT HOHLFELD
Business Journal writer
LODI – Lodi will get its first exposure on the international sports stage in May when the Amgen Tour of California bike race visits the city.
Lodi was chosen as an end point for Stage 2 of the race on May 11, 2015 which will take cyclists from Nevada City to Lodi. The race’s 10th edition, which will run May 10-17, will start in Sacramento, covering a nearly 700-mile, north-south route ending at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
Lodi, known more for its wineries than its cycling culture, will be the only town on next year’s route to never have hosted a leg of the race.
“It is a great platform to tell the story of Lodi,” said Bob Colarossi, co-chair of the Lodi organizing committee and owner of Estate Crush Winery. “We will be the backdrop for a race seen all over the world.”
The Amgen Tour of California draws global recognition as one of the most anticipated cycling events of the year. It attracts Olympic medalists, world champions and top Tour de France competitors. Other cities that will host stages this year include Pismo Beach, Avila Beach, Santa Barbara, Santa Clarita, Big Bear Lake, Los Angeles and Pasadena.
“We are going to create a memorable finish for the riders,” said Colarossi.
After more than a year of study by a working group of wineries and city tourism officials, Lodi put together a proposal for the race. It was a chance to showcase the city to those beyond the Central Valley.
“We know the value of bringing thousands of people to town to sample Lodi so to speak,” said Lodi Chamber of Commerce CEO Pat Patrick.
Those visitors will also help to fill local hotels and restaurants as the race moves through the city.
“We will have a large portion of the of the delegation in Lodi the night before and the night the race ends in Lodi,” said Colarossi. “The races moves on the next day to San Jose, so it’s hard to say how many involved with the race will stay in the area that night.”
The biggest reason Lodi wanted to host the race is that it gives the city a chance to show off the area’s wineries and city.
“The race will be great exposure for Lodi wine country,” Colarossi said. “It’s a chance to get our story out there and increase our brand.”
It will also further solidify area wineries’ relationship with the cycling community.
“The bike riding community is a big customer base,” said David Phillips, president and co-owner of Michael David Winery. “They spend a lot on our local wines.”
Several of the local wineries also sponsor rides and local teams. That connection helped make this the right time for Lodi to host a leg of the race.
“We looked at this six years ago, but the timing wasn’t right,” said Nancy Beckman, president and CEO of the Lodi Conference and Visitors Bureau, who co-chairs the organizing committee with Colarossi. “You need to have a lot of people on board. Now we have a lot of momentum, moving forward.”
Lodi will join Stockton and Modesto as area cities that have hosted the race in the past.
“We had the opportunity to host a finish and a start,” said Modesto Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Executive Director Jennifer Mullen. “Working with Amgen, they are a really well oiled machine. They lay out the steps that you need to take.”
Mullen said that the race brought a lot of attention to the city. Modesto hosted a stage start in 2008 and stage finishes in 2009-2011.
“It’s a great way to get positive international attention,” she said. “When the press comes to town, they come from around the world.”
It wasn’t cheap exposure however. Mullen said the Modesto organizing committee raised nearly $360,000 to cover race expenses.
Patrick said that he expects Lodi’s stage to be significantly less expensive than what Modesto had to spend.
“Our costs won’t be near that much,” he said. “We have some preliminary numbers, but we want to approach our funders.”
He said the Lodi business community will be called upon to pick up the tab.
“We have a very diverse business community,” said Patrick. “And the city makes a big contribution by keeping the streets safe.”
Even with the challenges and costs, Mullen said Modesto got a lot of exposure that would have otherwise been impossible. Lodi hopes to match that experience.
“It’s great for agri-tourism and that is what it’s all about,” said Phillips.