Excitement is building around Tuolumne County for Stage Four of the Amgen Tour of California, which kicks off Wednesday morning in downtown Sonora.
Candace McDonald, manager of By Hand Yarn on Washington Street, stands behind the “yarn bombed” bicycle that she, employees and members of the community made in preparation of the race. Alex MacLean/Union Democrat, copyright 2012
Local organizers have spent months mapping out details for parking, merchandise and entertainment, with thousands of spectators expected to be on hand for the event and its related festivities.
Dozens of local businesses on Washington Street have also participated in the preparations by dressing up their facades and display windows with race-related posters, artwork and bicycles.
“Everyone wants to embrace this, and we feel it’s a privilege they chose downtown Sonora to host this event,” said Joe Impink, owner of Sonora Joe’s Coffee Shoppe, at 140 S. Washington St.
In addition to placing a bicycle and cyclist jersey in the front window, Sonora Joe’s also made its monthly art exhibit within the shop a showcase of local photographers’ works from other cycling events, including last year’s Amgen Tour of California, which wound its way through Copperopolis.
While business owners are doing what they can to attract potential customers on race day, local government employees and event organizers have been undertaking maintenance and beautification projects for the past several months to make a good impression on the international stage.
Tuolumne County Facilities Management crews have been overhauling the landscaping in Courthouse Square, in front of which the 128 riders will race across the starting line.
“It’s routine management. But with Amgen coming in, it seemed like a good time to do it,” said Ed Sampson, senior housekeeper with the county’s Facilities Management department.
The work being done in anticipation of the event is not only to ensure everything goes off smoothly, but also to woo Amgen back for future tours, according to Darrell Slocum, marketing director for the Sonora Local Organizing Committee.
“One of our goals is to bring them back next year and beyond,” he said. “One way we can do that is by showing our area’s enthusiasm for having the tour here.”
One way the committee plans to display this is by distributing hundreds of “red gear hearts” — a computer-generated graphic made up of bicycle gears in the shape of a heart designed by Chris Wilkinson of Sabre Design — on race day for spectators to hold in the air as the racers whizz past. They are also asking local residents to display the image as their Facebook profile pictures.
Merchandise commemorating the event will be sold at the Local Organizing Committee’s tent on race day, the proceeds of which will go toward helping pay for the planning efforts. Any leftover funds will be used to attract Amgen’s return next year.
Some of the memorabilia that will be available will include T-shirts, hats, water bottles, cowbells, train whistles, and more, Slocum said.
With multiple states and countries represented by cyclists in the race, Slocum said it’s expected that there will be spectators from around the nation and world in attendance.
Slocum said organizers are expecting the event will be a boon to the local economy based on the experiences of other cities that have hosted stages of the race in the past.
“They saw not just an increase in revenue the day of the event, but also a follow-up wave from spectators who may have never visited the area before and schedule trips here afterward,” he said.
Some local businesses not expecting a huge boost from the cycling crowd have devised other ways to attract potential customers.
Candace McDonald, manager of By Hand Yarn, at 106 S. Washington St., spearheaded a project to “yarn bomb” a bicycle, which has been displayed in the shop’s window since late-April.
The act of “yarn bombing,” also known as “guerilla knitting,” is a form of graffiti or street art seen mostly in metropolitan areas where people knit designs around objects such as trees or lamp posts.
McDonald said she knew she wanted to yarn bomb a bicycle after it was first announced the tour would be coming to Sonora, so she called upon fellow knitters through Facebook to help with the project. The result is the colorful display that’s been bringing curious passers-by into the store the past several weeks.
“Visitors for the race might not be interested in coming to a yarn store, but that bike is an attention grabber,” she said.
Extra parking, free shuttles
Local organizers don’t want anyone to be discouraged from attending the event because of parking restrictions within downtown Sonora and have rented out 2,000 additional parking spaces across 12 different locations throughout the county. Tuolumne County Transit shuttles will give free rides into town.
Designated off-site parking areas are:
• Columbia Airport parking lot on Airport Road
• South Airport Road parking lot
• Mother Lode Adventist School on North Forest Road
• Woods Creek Rotary Park on Woods Creek Drive
• Mother Lode Fairgrounds parking lot on Stockton Road
• Mother Lode Fairgrounds south parking lot
• Sonora Elementary School on Greenley Road
• Walmart/Crossroads Shopping Center on Sanguinetti Road
• The Junction Shopping Center on Mono Way
• Standard Field Park on Standard Road
• Sierra Bible Church on Tuolumne Road
• Rocha Park parking lot on Smoke Street
Race day events and special event ticket prices
• 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. — “VIP Train,” Railtown 1897 State Historic Park. Guests will be shuttled from Railtown to the train site off Campo Seco Road where they will have breakfast prepared by Seven Sisters and view the race from a rail coach. Tickets cost $100 each and are available at the park or by calling 536-5029.
• 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. — “Mayor’s VIP Brunch,” Sonora Opera Hall. A hosted brunch following the start of Stage 4. Tickets are $25 each and are available by calling 536-5029.
Special deals being offered by local businesses, where visitors can go to watch the rest of the race that airs at 2 p.m. on NBC Sports (as posted on the Amgen Tour of California’s Stage Four official website):
• Standard Pour, 19040 Standard Road, Standard. Pedal over to receive a free New Belgium beer or T-shirt and watch the race on seven big screen TVs.
• Applebee’s, 851 Sanguinetti Road, Sonora. Drink special every day in May and half-price appetizers from 3 to 6 p.m. Four large screen TVs and four medium screen TVs.
• Artisan Pizza, 83 S. Washington St., Sonora. One large screen TV and discount specials specifically for the race.
• Banny’s at Mountain Springs, 17566 Lime Kiln Road, Sonora. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and offering draft beer and bar menu specials.
• Black Oak Casino, 19400 Tuolumne Road North, Tuolumne. Daily specials and Amgen Tour of California specials.
• Gus’s Steakhouse, 1183 Mono Way, Sonora. Open 2 to 10 p.m. with early bird specials and one free beverage.
• Willow Steakhouse and Seafood Grill & Saloon, 18275 Main St., Jamestown. Free appetizers with purchase of two regular menu items (excluding petite dinners) and a free beverage with lunch.