Local News

Sunday, Oct 28 2012 07:39 PM

Bakersfield drops pursuit of Amgen hosting gig

BY CHRISTINE BEDELL Californian government editor cbedell@bakersfield.com

Looks like the Amgen Tour of California will bypass Bakersfield next year.

For a number of reasons -- including uncertainties about the logistics of the 2013 event, scandals rocking the cycling world and people just being worn out from this year -- local organizers have decided it wouldn't be a good idea to continue pursuing a bid to help host.

At this time last year, the local partners had known for a month that Bakersfield would be a host city and were already gearing up for it, especially fundraising, Rhonda Smiley, spokeswoman for the city, said Sunday.

She said city staff made the decision after consultation with the Bakersfield Sports Foundation, which did much of the heavy lifting of putting Amgen on here in 2010 and again earlier this year.

"We felt that in light of the fact (Amgen) could not let us know what our status would be ... it wouldn't be appropriate to just keep holding on," Smiley said.

The Amgen Tour of California is one of the world's most elite professional cycling events. Both times part of it wound through Bakersfield -- most recently this past May -- it fired up the local community, packed local hotels and restaurants and through international broadcasts put millions of eyes on the town.

Without wanting to get into the details, Smiley said there are a number of complex issues swirling around cycling that persuaded locals it wouldn't be a good idea "to move forward."

Those included doping and money-laundering scandals and the decision by Dutch bank Rabobank to withdraw financial support of professional bike racing because of them.

Smiley noted, though, that Bakersfield has never hosted Amgen twice in a row.

Kerry Ryan, owner of Action Sports and president of the Bakersfield Sports Foundation, said his organization was "gun shy" about hosting next year.

The fundraising for this year's event took a lot out of people, he said, and they weren't ready to turn around and fund-raise for another right away.

And it's a difficult sport to raise money for right now given the Lance Armstrong doping scandal, Ryan said.

On top of all that, he said, people get "numb" to an event held every year.

"It loses some of the magnificence," Ryan said.

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