A major kick-off event for the Tour of California bicycle race in early 2009 received an enthusiastic reception -- with some caution -- from the Palo Alto City Council Monday night.
Efforts to host the prologue for the third Tour of California bike race in Palo Alto in February 2009 received the council's unanimous support -- minus Vice Mayor Larry Klein and council members LaDoris Cordell and Dena Mossar, who are affiliated with Stanford University. Councilman John Barton was out of town.
The 3-mile initial stage of the week-long professional race would begin at Palo Alto City Hall and finish on the Stanford campus. It does not pass any residences, Councilman Bern Beecham noted.
The race is expected to draw about 50,000 people and could cost the city and Stanford between $100,000 and $250,000 for crowd control and other expenses, according to a city staff estimate. But those costs could be more than offset by increased revenues to the city and local businesses, and much of the cost could come from donations.
A local group -- led by Chris Ewert, a marketing director with race-sponsor Adobe, Stanford Professor J.G. Manning and Stanford's Frank Scioscia -- is already raising funds and support, Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto said.
"Both Stanford and Palo Alto and the bike community have basically jumped on it," Kishimoto said of the race. "There's a lot of excitement. … I'm very excited about it myself. It seems to capture the spirit of Palo Alto and Stanford."
But Councilwoman Judy Kleinberg cautioned against being too optimistic about the potential for the event to make money, based on experience she has had with similar events.
Ewert said he floated the idea to move the prologue, a time-trial held on the first day of the competition, from San Francisco to the Peninsula with race-organizers AEG.
This year, AEG invited Stanford and Palo Alto to host the event about a month ago, Kishimoto said.
The city, Stanford and AEG would need to create a contract to specify funding arrangements and limit the city's liability before the route and details of the event are finalized.
"We're very excited about this possibility," said Manning, a longtime competitive cyclist. "This is a great event. It's only been two years, but it's already a world-class event." He said it already draws about 10 percent of the turnout generated by the famous Tour de France bicycle race, which has existed for decades.