Many of the professional bicycle racers now competing in the Tour de France will be in Palo Alto Feb. 17, 2008, for the prologue that kicks off the Tour of California bicycle race.
Palo Alto and Stanford University will be the host of the prologue, a time trial, having successfully won the bid to be the hosts. The rest of the Tour of California, a week-long race, will range from Santa Rosa to Sacramento to Pasadena.
The event is expected to draw 50,000 people to Palo Alto and the campus, city officials estimate.
"No one has signed the start-roster yet, but I guarantee a lot of big names will be here," said Palo Altan Jim Ochowicz, the president of the board of directors of USA Cycling, the group that sanctions all bicycle races in the United States.
Last year's Tour of California winner was Levi Leipheimer, an American, of Team Discovery. Leipheimer is currently fourth in the Tour de France.
Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto hosted a press conference Wednesday morning in front of City Hall to announce the Tour of California coming to Palo Alto and Stanford. Kishimoto was joined by City Councilman Sam Liccardo of San Jose, which has also been designated a Tour of California host city.
The City of Palo Alto is seeking businesses to be financial supporters of the event, which would otherwise cost the city about $65,000. The overall cost of hosting the prologue, shared by the city, Stanford and AEG, a sports corporation sponsor, is $195,000.
"Palo Alto has a world-class bicycling community as well as being a bicycle-friendly community," Kishimoto said.
"Bicycles and cycling are at the heart of what the campus is about," said Jean McCown, director of community relations at Stanford.
More than two dozen bicyclists in brightly colored team cycling shirts and shorts, including two from the Stanford team, also attended the press conference.
Penny Ellson of the PTA Traffic Safety Committee noted that Palo Alto designated its first bicycle lane in 1972 and pioneered the concept of a bicycle boulevard. She said that 44 percent of Palo Alto Unified School District elementary school students walk or bicycle to school, compared to just 17 percent nationally.
Amgen, the sponsor of the Tour of California, approached Ochowitz of USA Cycling to find out if Palo Alto and Stanford would be interested in hosting the tour's 2008 prologue.
"The Tour of California is our biggest and best race," he said.