Tour of California won’t pedal through S.F. in 2008

First, the 49ers. Now, San Francisco has been spurned by another sports franchise.

The 3rd annual Amgen Tour of California, a Tour de France-style cycling road race, which kicked off in 2006 with a ride down the Embarcadero, will skip San Francisco in 2008, choosing instead to host its prologue race with a pedal through Palo Alto.

Race organizers announced this week the 12 official cities where the race will start and finish each day during the eight-day, 700-mile race. San Francisco, which has hosted the prologue of the race for the last two years, didn’t make the cut.

When called about the rejection, race officials said, just like it’s famous French inspiration, the Amgen Tour of California would change some of its routes and host cities from year to year.

“Each year, we’ll have a collection of mainstays but also experiment and bring in new cities, to showcase more of the state and make the route fresh,” said Shawn Hunter, managing director of the Amgen Tour of California.

While Hunter said San Francisco did a “tremendous” job hosting the opening event during the race’s first two years, he let it slip that Palo Alto officials had courted race officials.

“They submitted a great bid. Palo Alto had a local organizing committee that included the mayor, local leadership and Stanford University,” Hunter said.

Large sporting events are not just fun and games — they are also big economic boosters for the host cities. Earlier this month, when San Francisco hosted Major League Baseball’s All-Star festivities, city officials estimated that the weeklong event would bring in about 100,000 visitors into The City and generate about $60 million in extra revenue. While the Amgen Tour of California was only in San Franciscofor one day, race organizers estimated the crowd at close to 300,000 fans.

City officials were caught off guard by the news that San Francisco wouldn’t start the race next year.

“The 300,000 fans that came to San Francisco last year are going to be disappointed,” said Jesse Blout, director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development. “We wish we could have been given the heads up and given the opportunity to keep them here.”

The City can also pin hopes on the Amgen Tour returning, Hunter said.

“We love San Francisco,” he said. “In future years, we plan to return.”

The Amgen Tour of California is presented by AEG, the parent company of Clarity Media, which operates The Examiner.

beslinger@examiner.com

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