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Amgen to continue with Tour of California

Amgen, the biotech corporation that has been the title sponsor of the Tour of California since its inaugural event in 2006, will continue with the race through 2013, Sports Business Daily reported Thursday.

Amgen, the biotech corporation that has been the title sponsor of the Tour of California since its inaugural event in 2006, will continue with the race through 2013, Sports Business Daily reported Thursday.

The Thousand Oaks-based company is rumored to be investing $3.6 million per year into the biggest pro bike race in the U.S. Amgen director of corporate communications Mary Klem confirmed with VeloNews that the biotech firm would return in 2012.

“Amgen is excited for the opportunity to continue as title sponsor of the race, which continues to grow in popularity and prominence in the U.S. and around the world,” she said.

Owned and operated by Los Angeles-based AEG Sports, the future of the event had been uncertain after a chain of events surrounding this year’s race brought its stability into question.

For a second consecutive year doping controversy shadowed the event, held May 15-22, though the race has never produced a positive drug test.

In 2010 the race was the epicenter of doping allegations, lodged by Floyd Landis, that Lance Armstrong, who was participating in the event, had used performance-enhancing drugs at the U.S. Postal Service team. In 2011, the race was again overshadowed by accusations against Armstrong, when a 60 Minutes interview with former Postal rider Tyler Hamilton aired on the night of the race’s final stage, with Hamilton repeating Landis’ claims as a firsthand witness to Armstrong’s doping.

The 2011 event was the final year of Amgen’s second three-year commitment, meaning the race was without a title sponsor — and also without its longtime figurehead when AEG Sports president Andrew Messick left the entertainment group in July to head the World Triathlon Corporation.

AEG Sports vice president Kristin Bachochin has since taken over primary responsibilities in running the event.

Messick’s departure came as Amgen was weighing the return on investment of its title sponsorship. Sources close to the event said that Amgen could not stomach another doping scandal surrounding its event.

A kill-clause is believed to be part of Amgen’s renewed partnership, allowing the biotech company the option to pull out of the sponsorship if there is a doping controversy in or around the race.

‘We are happy and pleased to confirm that Amgen will remain as the title sponsor of the 2012 race,” Bachochin told VeloNews. “As we have done in past, the contract details will remain private.”

In the 1980s Amgen was the first to isolate the gene for erythropoietin, the hormone that controls red blood cell production, which led to the production of recombinant human erythropoietin — developed to treat anemia in cancer patients but also abused in endurance sports such as cycling.

Amgen has used the California stage race to launch an anti-doping educational campaign, targeted at riders and fans, as well as the opportunity to launch its Breakaway From Cancer initiative, aimed to increase awareness of resources available to cancer patients.

The eight-stage race is believed to cost over $1 million per day to operate. AEG meets remaining costs through various partnerships, VIP packages and merchandising, although the race has not yet proved profitable.