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Sports: A Noozhawk Partnership with Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, The Lab, and American Riviera Bank

Solvang Selected as Host City for Expanded Amgen Tour of California

Pro cyclists will return in February to compete across 800 miles of the state in a nine-day stage race.

The record-setting Amgen Tour of California professional cycling road race will be expanded in 2009, and Solvang has been selected as one of the host cities, race presenter AEG announced Wednesday.

The race will include stops in 16 host cities during the course of nine days from Feb. 14-22, 2009.

Considered cycling’s most important and successful road race in the United States, the event’s fourth running will be expanded to cover more than 800 miles in nine days. Traveling almost the entire length of California, the race will begin in Sacramento and end in San Diego County (a new addition to the race) with a finish in Escondido on Feb. 22. Also for the first time, riders will cross the Golden Gate Bridge at the beginning of Stage 3.

The 16 official stage start and finish cities that have been selected for the race include eight new locales — Davis, Santa Cruz, Merced, Clovis, Visalia, Paso Robles, Rancho Bernardo and Escondido — in addition to Sacramento, Santa Rosa, Sausalito, San Jose, Modesto, Solvang, Santa Clarita and Pasadena as host cities along the route.

Solvang was selected again to host the prestigious Individual Time Trial — scheduled as Stage 7 on Feb. 20, 2009, repeating its pivotal roles in the 2008 and 2007 Amgen Tour of California.

Solvang and the surrounding Santa Ynez Valley wine country will be showcased during the race, which drew thousands of spectators and had a positive economic effect each year.

“Velkommen!” Solvang Mayor Linda Jackson said. “A hearty welcome back to Solvang on behalf of the City Council, city manager and staff. We hope you will enjoy the hospitality here in the Danish Capital of America.”

Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Tracy Farhad said, “What an honor to host such a prestigious stage of this amazing race for the third year in a row. We are thrilled to roll out the red carpet Solvang-style! Mange tak!”

“Each year, we have been able to make the Amgen Tour of California better,” said Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports, presenter of the race. “After getting input from riders and fans last year, we decided to expand the race to better showcase the great state of California. We felt it was important to return to Solvang due to the overwhelming support and unique route it has provided in previous years. We are delighted to have such a great overall mix of cities partnering with us for the 2009 Amgen Tour of California and are pleased to include the eight new stops, along with so many of our old friends.”

In its first three years, the Amgen Tour of California has become the most successful race in the United States with its attendance, economic benefits to the state, global recognition and the caliber of the cyclists participating. In 2008, the race drew 1.6 million spectators, continuing to set records for a single sporting event in the state of California, as well as any cycling event ever held on U.S. soil. Each year the race has generated $100 million in economic growth for the state.

“This year is a year of exciting firsts for us,” Messick said. “For the first time, the Amgen Tour of California will take place over nine days, we will make our first visit to the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada and visit San Diego County for what promises to be another exciting conclusion to the race.”

The Amgen Tour of California kicks off the professional road cycling season each year and continues to draw some of the world’s most renowned and respected riders, such as top Tour de France competitors, world champions and Olympic medalists that include Tom Boonen, Paolo Bettini, Fabian Cancellara, George Hincapie, Oscar Freire and Bobby Julich. Winner of the 2007 and 2008 Amgen Tour of California, Santa Rosa resident Levi Leipheimer of the Astana team has had a strong season since his Amgen Tour of California victory earlier in the year and will next be representing the United States in the Olympic Games.

Stages for the 2009 Amgen Tour of California include:

» Stage 1: Feb. 14, Sacramento.

» Stage 2: Feb. 15, Davis to Santa Rosa.

» Stage 3: Feb. 16, Sausalito to Santa Cruz.

» Stage 4: Feb. 17, San Jose to Modesto.

» Stage 5: Feb. 18, Merced to Clovis.

» Stage 6: Feb. 19, Visalia to Paso Robles.

» Stage 7: Feb. 20, Solvang (individual time trial).

» Stage 8: Feb. 21, Santa Clarita to Pasadena.

» Stage 9: Feb. 22, Rancho Bernardo to Escondido.

For more information on the 2009 Amgen Tour of California, visit www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.

Laura Kath of Mariah Marketing represents the Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau.

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