Auburn’s place on Amgen Tour of California route holds promise

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn’s place on the Amgen Tour of California route between Nevada City and Sacramento is a definite maybe. But the status of that “maybe” is shrinking as cyclists connected with the tour test routes that invariably include a scenic, historic Placer County community that would welcome it with open arms. Last Wednesday, three cyclists working with the Amgen Tour took a 100-plus-mile ride that started in Nevada City and rolled through Downtown and Old Town Auburn about halfway through their test trek. Cool resident Jim Northey, who has used GPS to map the route for the tour, accompanied the group – professional cyclist Yuri Hauswald and cycling journalists Carlos Perez and Greg Fisher – on the ride. Northey promotes and organizes several biking events in California. “I can’t say what the route is but as far as I know, Auburn is still on course,” Northey said. While Northey declined to divulge the full route for Wednesday’s test ride, he did say that it did not include the 730-foot-high Foresthill Bridge. Northey has worked with cycling star Levi Leipheimer of Santa Rosa in organizing his Kings Ridge Grandfondo 100-mile ride. He’s encouraging the city to embrace the Amgen Tour this coming May and get out as many people to the May 16 event. Enthusiasm for the event displayed May 16 in Auburn could translate later into a future position as a start or finish point on a stage of the ride. “You have to show the tour director you’re behind for the long haul,” Northey said. “It’s about who you know.” The Nevada City start was announced last month and Auburn was immediately included in the mix of towns a route to Sacramento would run through. Northey said his preferred route would take Lance Armstrong and other tour participants along Highway 174 and through Colfax before traveling Iowa Hill Road and Foresthill to Auburn. A Foresthill Bridge crossing would also be part of Northey’s planning. Supporters of Auburn’s presence in the Nevada City-Sacramento stage were also given encouragement by Duane Strawser, who is working with tour organizers in Southern California on testing routes. He indicated to the Grass Valley Union last week that the route would almost certainly run through Colfax and Auburn, although nothing official has been announced. Lisa Kodl, Auburn Bike Works owner, said she’s certain the Old Town and Auburn route will be chosen. ”I’m sure it’s going to happen,” Kodl said. “It will be awesome for Auburn and the little towns in between.” Auburn can make an enjoyable time even more enjoyable for the thousands of spectators from South Placer County and beyond by providing shuttle buses, parking areas and business specials, she said. Mayor Mike Holmes said that he was very much in favor of the Tour of California traveling through Auburn. “I know that there are several different routes under consideration,” Holmes said. “I’ve had calls from people outside the Auburn area suggesting Auburn will be part of the race.” Holmes said biking in Auburn has been bolstered this past year by the re-introduction of the Auburn Criterium event through the Downtown area. “That’s attracted a lot of interest from racing officials throughout California,” Holmes said. An Auburn tour presence would probably mean street closures, shuttle buses and other means to keep people and traffic moving safely, he said. “The city of Auburn stands buy to facilitate whatever is need to be part of this great event,” Holmes said.