I feel for any race organiser trying to put an event on at the same time as the Giro d’Italia. How you you compete?
The answer is you don’t. Instead of wild climbs and off-road riding the Tour of California is a more classic kind of race. Many riders are wary of doing the Giro but California is much more approachable, even with the jetlag and travel involved.
There are other reasons to make the trip too. The US is the world’s largest consumer market and pro cycling is all about promoting goods and brands. These two imperatives will meet in California. Indeed several US teams exist thanks to this race, the media coverage gained from participating in this race is the deciding factor for some sponsors. The French squads do something similar, the prospect of the Tour de France is the deal-clincher for the likes of Europcar, Cofidis and Saur.
But you can’t compare the economic effects of the Tour of California with the Tour de France. But this is a race that should grow and grow. Only it’s not without its problems. Above all it’s losing money. The organisational costs are high and the promoters are running at a loss for now as they struggle to find backers for the race. I find this a worry.
After all the US deserves a big stage race and California has the advantage of varied terrain, several large cities and more. But it’s also got had a significant budget crisis and this means local municipalities are finding it hard to fund this race.
Away from the shadow of Armstrong
Like it or not Lance Armstrong’s raised the profile of the sport in the US. But increasingly his image resembles a bell curve that once rose but now it’s on the slide. Only this week stories told of how several government agencies, from the Department of Justice to the Internal Revenue Service and more are working with the FDA investigation. Even if we put this aside, Armstrong is gone as a rider, he retired for good earlier this year. New names are need. But if the French are still waiting for Bernard Hinault’s replacement, the Tour of California will see guys like Teejay Van Garderen, Ben King, Matthew Busche and Andrew Talansky and others present.
That said, for all the new names watch out for Floyd Landis. He’s said he’s going to make an appearance and deliver a press conference designed to provide further embarrassment for certain officials after they announced plans to sue him.
For the fans
Yes you can have this race for economic reasons, it can showcase new names but the best thing is that fans of cycling in America have something at home. Clearly it’s not local if you live in another state but, hey, an internal flight is way easier than jetting to Europe. We’ve seen all manner of fans beside the road, dressing in various costumes and outfits in a tribute to the race. Even the TV coverage is different as there will be English-speaking crews on the race for interviews and comments.
It can’t compete with the Giro but the race matters. Whilst it sometimes feels some are trying to shoehorn the sport into places in the world where many don’t appreciate it, this is a race that should work on every level thanks to the fans, the interest of sponsors and motivated riders alike.
Finally for all the talk of snow around Lake Tahoe, note that snow is forecast for the Alps too.