Did Solvang seem quieter this year? That may have been because the estimated 15 thousand people who turned out in 2009 for the Amgen Tour of California were missing.

In 2010, the tour swung inland and away from Solvang, where the time trial stage of the event had been held for the previous three years. The streets may have been less crowded and the air quieter, but the economic boost from the event was also gone.

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The revenue from the event has been estimated at $1 million for each of the three years it was held in the Valley. Although the local response to the event was mixed, the Solvang City Council voted unanimously Monday to allow the city staff to submit a letter of support along with a stage application for the race scheduled for next May.

“I’ve had a number of people who have talked to me over the last year, where they complained about the Amgen tour the first year, all of a sudden they missed it this year and wondered why we didn’t have it,” said councilman Edwin Skytt. “It definitely puts Solvang and the Santa Ynez Valley on the radar.”

The Amgen Tour of California is the largest cycling event in the United States. It draws dozens of professional cycling teams. In 2010, more than 500 million worldwide tuned in to watch the cycling, surpassing even the Super Bowl in worldwide viewership.

Many of the organizing responsibilities will fall to the Local Organizing Committee. The committee was formed as a stipulation of hosting the event. In the previous three years the committee was co-chaired by Max Hanberg and Carol Petersen, both local business owners who have again volunteered to lead the committee in 2011.

The committee would be responsible to raise all the funds necessary to host the race, as well as work with the city staff to prepare Solvang for the riders. Past efforts by the committee proved so successful that more than $30,000 was left over from previous rides. That money could be put to the 2011 tour if Solvang is selected.

Capturing the time trial stage for Solvang would mean more than just another bike race. Many are hoping the tour would become another event to add to Solvang’s centennial roster. A lineup of parades, events and possible visits from prominent Danes already litters 2011’s calendar. Adding the Tour of California could be the icing of the cake.

“It would be a great addition to the centennial to get Amgen back,” said councilman Hans Duus. “It’s the kind of advertising the city of Solvang can’t go out and buy,” said Skytt.

Solvang could be up against some stiff competition this year if it wants the time trail back. In 2010, the stage was held in downtown Los Angeles. The route put riders and thousands of audience members in the middle of race sponsor, Anschutz Entertainment Group’s home territory. AEG is an entertainment promoter that owns the STAPLES Center and is headquarted in the downtown Los Angeles arena.

Solvang’s time trial course tested riders for three years in a row, but city officials are considering changing it in order to better market Solvang. Besides offering sweeping landscapes and charming towns, City Manager Brad Vidro said the city would present two additional routes with increased difficulty and distance, to increase their chances of securing the stage once again.

Solvang also has the advantage of playing host to some of the world’s top cyclists who come to train, and the city has quickly become a recurring destination for household names such as Lance Armstrong and his under-23 team.

Ultimately, the decision will come down to several factors, according to a report prepared by Solvang city staff. Route, exposure, ability for the tour to grow with the city, financial opportunities and support of both city officials and the public. Proposals from cities hoping to host the next Tour of California are due in mid-August, and award letters will be sent out in September.