Area hotel rooms and restaurant tables are rapidly being staked out in advance of the Amgen Tour of California bicycle race in downtown Sonora on May 16.
Businesses in the hospitality industry hope the fourth stage of the world-class cycling race, as well as the Mother Lode Roundup and Calaveras Jumping Frog Jubilee, will kick start a busy and lucrative tourist season.
Some hotels are already booked up, while others are approaching capacity as cycling enthusiasts prepare to descend on the Mother Lode. Restaurants are taking early reservations and planning outdoor food service for customers on the go.
While exact figures are hard to pin down, as many as 10,000 people are expected to line Washington Street and the race route, according to Darrell Slocum, marketing director for the Amgen Local Organizing Committee.
Chris Link is regional supervisor for a number of hotels in the area, including the Days Inn Sonora and Best Western Plus Sonora Oaks Hotel and Conference Center.
He said that while May is typically a big month for the local hospitality industry, the trifecta of events will likely kick start the season in spectacular fashion.
“I imagine that most lodging will get very close to 100 percent occupancy during this period,” Link said.
Washington Street hotels like The Gunn House and the Days Inn are booked solid the day before the race. There are still rooms available at the Inns of California, the Best Western and the Gold Lodge on West Stockton Road, but managers at those hotels expect to be fully booked soon.
The Inns of California has recently hired new front desk clerks, housekeepers and maintenance workers ahead of rising business expected this month, according to hotel general manager Amy McKeon.
“I’m very excited, there are lots of good things happening in the county to bring in business,” she said.
Restaurant owners too are preparing for an influx of people this month due to the cycling race.
Cindy and Steve Zelinsky are owners of Emberz Restaurant which will be a backdrop for the starting leg of the race. Cindy Zelinsky said her restaurant will open early on the day of the race in order to serve breakfast to hungry cycling enthusiasts.
The eatery is taking reservations for a back dining room and will provide open seating in the front. She said reservations have come in as early as a month ago.
Zelinsky said there is the possibility of famous cyclists coming into Emberz to chow down.
“I can’t tell you who, but we are expecting a guest appearance,” she said.
Link said he has been talking to hotel owners in other communities that have hosted the Amgen Tour to try to prepare, but the impact of the race on the local economy is still hard to gauge.
He said Tuolumne County has already received accolades from Amgen race organizers who chose the region to be a backdrop for the 130-mile mountain stage.
“Just imagine the riders shooting down Washington Street and on those Campo Seco turns, wow!” Link said.