I don’t have the faintest idea why my former hometown – technically, I grew up 10 miles south in a hamlet called Fowler but I’ve never been able to extricate Fresno from the deepest recesses of my heart and soul – has been cruelly shunned for the second straight year, but I must sheepishly confide that I’m not exactly a connoisseur of cycling. Indeed, my knowledge of it is quite limited, since it’s not exactly a pursuit that ever has ranked high on my priority list. The only time I ever bothered to use a bicycle on a regular basis was to ride it from my home to my elementary school, which, to put it mildly, was so long ago that memory of the experience has become hopelessly clouded. I do know that a lot of guys get kicked out of the sport for using illegal substances. I do know that Lance Armstrong won all sorts of Tour de France titles – I think it was seven in a row – and that he, too, has been relentlessly shadowed by dark accusations. I do know that cyclists are a different breed with their garish apparel that looks as though it has been designed by those who once served as haberdashers for Bozo the Clown. I do know that there is almost a tribal attitude among its practitioners, who savor training together, as well as breakfasting together after early morning workouts and also have a haughty disregard for joggers who happen to share their pathways. I do know Amgen is the world’s largest biotechnology company, and that its title sponsorship has been a source of, eh, increased blood pressure among critics because it happens to be the company that pioneered the genetically engineered form of EPOGEN, the recombinant form of erythropoietin that stimulates the body’s production of red blood cells. Popularly known as EPO, it has proved to be a successful remedy for those cancer and kidney patients suffering from anemia. But it also the past 16 years has proved to be a successful additive for a variety of athletes, especially cyclists and long-distance runners who have illegally used it to increase their oxygen uptake. There are those who feel having Amgen as a title sponsor for a major cycling event is roughly tantamount to, say, Jack Daniel’s serving as a title sponsor at an Alcoholics Anonymous convention. That might be a slightly extreme view, although it seems as though a good portion of those cycling in recent years have wound up being suspended, including last year’s Tour De France victor, Floyd Landis, who is appealing that drug test he took that came up positive moments after his stirring win. Landis won’t be in Long Beach this weekend, but there will be a lot of other guys who are quite skilled in pedaling a bicycle at extraordinary speeds, as they will do 10 laps around the 7.75-mile course here that starts at Ocean and Shoreline Drive and winds around Belmont Shore. There figures to be a Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach ambiance to the proceedings, especially in the restaurants up, down and around Pine Avenue on Saturday evening when all sorts of festivities are going to be staged in the area. Of course, a bicycle race doesn’t quite have the same riveting mystique of an Indy car race where the drivers hit nearly 200 mph on the straightaways and where more than 100,000 patrons can line the Long Beach circuit, but it still should have intriguing drama, especially as one awaits the results of the winner’s post-race drug test. Still, one can’t help but shed a tear of despair for beleaguered Fresno, Paris by the Sierras that continues for some unfathomable reason to be ignored by those sporting mandarins lacking the sophisticated discernment to detect its bejeweled persona. Doug Krikorian can be reached at [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Of course, I’m talking about Fresno, the stunning metropolis that holds the sacred distinction of being located right in the middle of the fertile San Joaquin Valley in an area where perhaps more grapes are grown and more fast-food outlets are located per square block for the ravenously hungry, diet-disdaining populace than any locale in the world. So, while the cyclists go merrily through their stages – doing the Stockton-to-San Jose destination today – poor Fresno finds itself stuck in its eternal oblivion despite its multitude of offerings such as, well, a vast array of upscale strip malls, a modern baseball stadium for its Pacific Coast League team and a bewhiskered gentleman named Pat Hill who looks more like a Grand Ol’ Opry performer than a football coach, which he happens to be for the local university team that I believe racked up four big victories for him last fall. Billed as an event in which the participants are able to navigate through some of the treasured garden spots of the state, the Amgen Tour of California, not to be confused with the Geologic Walking Tour of Building Stones of Downtown Baltimore, has committed a serious oversight in its eight-stage, 640-mile race that climaxes Sunday in Long Beach. While including such pearls of culture enhancement as San Francisco, Sausalito, Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, Solvang, Santa Barbara and our fair city in this titillating affair, those who administrate it somehow once again have snubbed one of the more alluring venues on this planet for reasons that confound those fortunate enough to reside in such a place of exotic beauty.