Professional bike race could generate hundreds of thousands of dollars

 Published in the December 27 – January 9, 2018 issue of Gilroy Life

Photo courtesy Amgen

Local tourism promoters expect thousands of bicycling enthusiasts to visit the South Valley and spend potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars this spring when the Amgen Tour of California teams race along rural roads.

The sporting event is expected to shine an international spotlight on the region, said Jane Howard, executive director of the Gilroy Welcome Center.

The Morgan Hill City Council voted unanimously at its Dec. 20 meeting to approve a proposal for Amgen to hold one of its time trials starting and finishing in downtown Morgan Hill. Participants and observers will need lodging, food and other necessities from Morgan Hill and Gilroy area merchants.

“It’s a great opportunity for the South County,” Howard said. “Amgen, being the largest cycling race in the U.S. and known throughout the world, does have a following. That media exposure it brings is a plus and will have awesome effects. It’s pretty exciting.”

The city of Morgan Hill staff members discussed with the San Jose Sports Authority the idea of co-hosting the South Bay portion of Amgen time trials, which is scheduled for May 16. The entire Amgen Tour of California will be held May 13 to 19 and host cities include Long Beach, King City, Stockton, Elk Grove, Folsom, South Lake Tahoe and Sacramento.

The route will require street closures in downtown and along some residential streets for about four hours on the day of the time trials, she said. A community “lifestyle festival” will be held in downtown Morgan Hill the Tuesday before the race as Amgen organizers stage the location for the South Bay portion of the prestigious bicycling competition.

“To make the event successful we’re going to have to develop a very robust communications campaign to reach out to all of the residents and businesses along the route as well as everybody else in the community. So they can plan ahead for that day and maybe consider even coming and celebrating this event with the city,” said Edith Ramirez, the city of Morgan Hill’s economic development director.

The Amgen time trials will help build the South Valley’s “brand” by bringing members of the media — including international TV, print and online — to the region. The city of Morgan Hill is invited by Amgen to provide a 30-second commercial that will be broadcast to the sports viewers to promote the region to potential visitors.

“Our community is all about sports and recreation and we also have been working to promote this area as a tourism destination,” Ramirez said. “We have a number of assets like wineries and open space and farms that people can come and enjoy. Having an event of this caliber, of this magnitude, will put us on the national and international stage.”

This event is being offered to the Morgan Hill “on a silver platter,” she said. The city’s economic development staff has for several years been nurturing a relationship with the San Jose Sports Authority to try to promote the region and Morgan Hill’s event facilities such as the Outdoor Sports Center. This relationship is paying off, she said. When Amgen went to San Jose to ask them to host the time trial race, the sports authority reached out to Morgan Hill city staff to see if they might be interested in co-hosting the trials.

“The opportunity to host the start and the finish in downtown will give us incredible media leverage. We’ll be on international news on TV,” she said. “Having the community festival here will attract thousands of enthusiasts. It’s an opportunity to showcase our (region) to really promote downtown with an international presence.”

The economic benefit is expected to be significant for the South Valley region. Thousands of spectators and the 150 bicycling teams will require lodging, food, gasoline and other items.

John McKay, president of the Morgan Hill Downtown Association board and a founder of the Tourism Alliance, sees the time trials as a way for the region to increase awareness to an national and even international audience. The media exposure will spread the message of Gilroy, San Martin and Morgan Hill as a tourism destination that is attractive for active people who might be interested in visiting the local wineries, parks, farms and restaurants.

“It really aligns well with a lot of things that are going on in town. Part of that is that we’re trying to promote the South Valley as a bicycle-friendly community,” McKay said. “We realize we’re a bicycling destination and we can highlight that. We’ll have a race on our roads that will be incredible.”