By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County might as well go ahead and name the week preceding the Amgen Tour of California as its own Bike Week, with a growing list of events tied to cycling and the race itself.

The first stage of the eight-day Tour of California will start and finish in downtown Santa Rosa on May 13.

Hosting the first stage is a coveted position for Santa Rosa, which will have the 16 professional teams and riders coming in during the week to train and bring in a crowd of 35,000 for the race itself.

It is estimated that hosting the first stage will mean $6.6 million for Sonoma County’s economy.

The first stage of the tour itself starts in downtown Santa Rosa on Sunday, May 13, where the riders will do a few parade laps before the race starts with a loop to Windsor and back downtown.

From downtown, the race goes west, through Graton and Occidental, to Cazadero and over the climbs of Fort Ross Road, down Meyers Grade to Highway 1, a climb over Coleman Valley Road, through Occidental and back to downtown Santa Rosa for the finish.

The 116-mile race is expected to take about four hours.

On Saturday, May 12, Team Swift, the Fulton-based development team, is hosting the Team Swift Junior State Criterium Championships.

The route will use the streets around the Sonoma County Administration Center.

Also on Saturday, Life Time Fitness is hosting the Life Time Gran Fondo California, which are 15-, 31- and 62-mile rides from downtown Santa Rosa.

The registration fees will benefit Breakaway from Cancer, Amgen’s program to increase awareness of the resources available to those affected by the disease.

Life Time Fitness, headquartered in Chanhassen, Minn., owns a chain of fitness centers, although none in California. Information is available on www.ltgranfondo.com.

On Friday night, the Tour of California holds its gala dinner, where the teams and riders will be introduced. It is being held at Sonoma-Cutrer Winery in Windsor.

The emcees for the dinner event are Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, who are the TV announcers for many of the major cycling races, including the Tour de France.

The party is from 5 to 10:30 p.m. Individual tickets are $200 and available at www.santarosa2012.com/soiree.

Thursday, May 10, is Bike to Work Day, an annual event throughout the San Francisco Bay Area that encourages commuting by cycling.

In Sonoma County, it is coordinated by the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition and in the past has drawn 3,000 participants.

There will be rest stops at a dozen locations from Healdsburg to Santa Rosa, including the Sonoma County Administration Center and in front of Santa Rosa City Hall.

The KRSH radio station will host a free concert in downtown Santa Rosa beginning at 6 p.m. as part of Bike to Work Day.

Wednesday is the first Downtown Market in Santa Rosa, which local tour organizers are planning to somehow tie into the race too.

The cycling teams themselves will be in Sonoma County no later than on Thursday, but many are expected even earlier for training on the route and other race-related activities.

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com.