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Tour of California Paused

The Tour of California won’t happen in 2020 with the organisers AEG declaring a “hiatus” for the race and with the women’s race too. The reasons aren’t given directly but further comments to Velonews cited the business model, presumably code for saying the race ran out of money rather than being stopped for other reasons. It’s bad news for US cycling but doesn’t come in isolation.

It’s not cheap running a race in the US with road closures, paying for TV and more, it can cost close to a million dollars a day. It’s not cheap in Europe either, but it’s cheaper. For comparison published accounts show the Critérium du Dauphiné’s budget is €2.6 million ($2.9 million). Plenty of European races are struggling. The Volta a Catalunya has needed some financial lifelines to keep going. Tirreno-Adriatico is said to lose money but RCS can cross-subsidise it with the money it makes from the Gulf races; ditto Paris-Nice thanks to the Tour de France chez ASO. Many stay afloat thanks to public subsidies and volunteer committees.

It’s a “hiatus” as in a pause. It won’t happen in 2020 but could come back again. Only once a race stops it’s hard to get it going again. It can happen but if the Tour of California has stopped because it’s losing money this implies a structural problem, not a one-off issue forcing a postponement.

It’s been a strange kind of race, perhaps it’s just conservatism in a sport where the Amstel Gold Race is still seen as the upstart intruder of the spring classics because it was first run in 1966 rather than the 19th century but the Tour of California took a while to take root. It’s had four challenges. First was the calendar slot, it started out in 2006 with an early season slot but icy rain was not good for the riders nor tourism business. A move to May corrected this but meant competing with the Giro and if the calendar clashes happen on the World Tour it’s awkward, not quite Tour de France vs Tour of Austria every July but a headwind. Second it wasn’t a must-win race, it tended to see the classics riders and sprinters ease back into racing after their holidays and the field was never stacked with big GC contenders, come May and they’d often prefer Mount Teide over Mount Baldy which left the door open to the likes of Julian Alaphilippe, George Bennett and Egan Bernal in recent years. Riders liked this relaxed vibe but as a race promoter you’re not in a prime position if people treat your event as a warm-up. Third, it’s not been the Californian dream for fans either. Writer Paul Fournel once remarked US landscapes don’t always suit cycling as scenery is so big it takes a long time to change. You sensed this watching the Tour of California, the scenery passes differently and slowly and TV never quite captured the landscapes – cinema is better – and the crowds were often spread out sparsely. Lastly California seems too big an entity for the race to be embraced by the whole state and so it felt more like the circus coming to town for a day and then going out the next, it didn’t have a local identity and the grassroots capacity that races concentrated in a smaller space can acquire, think of how important the Tour of Basque Country is for locals.

Sorry for the downer tone in the paragraph above only we’re not done yet. The Tour of California hasn’t gone in isolation. Take the men’s pro peloton over the years. The chart below shows the position of the best ranked US rider on Cycling Quotient for the decade.

That’s Tyler Farrar as the seventh best rider in 2010 and by 2019 it’s Tejay van Garderen who is the highest ranked US rider in 161st place. Readers of a niche cycling blog probably know Lawson Craddock is strong, Sep Kuss impressive, Brandon McNulty promising but none are the household names with the pulling power to bring out the non-cycling public and sponsors.

You fear for the US teams too. The Tour of California offered media exposure to US teams. Hagens Bermans-Axeon even went up to Pro Conti to help guarantee a start in the race. Now things have got that bit harder for the remaining teams who have to tell their sponsors for 2020 that a giant shop window has just seen the shutters come down.

There’s also the effect on the peloton in Europe. For starters being able to tell sponsors that they’ll get exposure in the US is a valuable calling card for teams, this is now reduced. Think of the riders too. Seven riders on 19 teams raced last year and now in May they’ll have to find something else to do. There’s time to plan for this but teams have been recruiting on the basis of racing across multiple fronts and now may not need as many riders.

 

Conclusion
A hiatus but it’ll be hard to restart. It’s not as simple as removing this one race from the calendar either, there will be side effects. Some are direct such as the loss of a useful race on the calendar, some harder to measure such as the uncertainty over the race for 2021 and beyond could make some sponsors draw back, especially for the US teams. But the race’s problems go wider, US cycling as a whole is struggling with a shrinking calendar, fewer teams and no stars.

Photos via Getty / ASO / AMGEN Tour of California 2018

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • MattF Thursday, 31 October 2019, 10:45 am

    Without the massive government support that it enjoys, you’d figure that the Tour Down Under would disappear too – likely for many of the same reasons.

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 31 October 2019, 10:47 am

      I think the massive support helps more than anything else… but the TDU has a more local identity as it sticks to quite a small area and there are some bigger Australian names, eg Dennis is the World TT champion, Caleb Ewan wins Tour stages etc

      • Sidamo Friday, 1 November 2019, 2:40 am

        TDU is doing pretty well. It gets a full complement of WT teams, the Aussies are in great shape as our National Champs are on at the same time, the weather is great and lots of cyclist fly in for the week. My club usually go down for the week, treating it as a sort of training camp where you ride every day and intersect with the race at key points.

        At this point it seems like the state Govt. subsidies are more than offset by the tourist dollars.

      • Augie March Friday, 1 November 2019, 12:50 pm

        All this plus its position on the calendar means it’s not competing with major European races, and the way the event is structured with the central location and more relaxed racing, these are great for pros getting back into things after the off-season. Yes, the TDU really should be called the “Tour of Adelaide and Surrounding Hills” but even that is more of an identity than the state of California.

      • spicelab` Saturday, 2 November 2019, 9:18 am

        Despite the generally uninspiring parcours and lacklustre racing, TDU is a delight to visit as a cycling fan.

        Logistics are a cinch, access to the riders is high and the short stages allow plenty of time to explore the under-rated food and wine scene. It’s a relaxed and low stress affair that feels like a holiday in the truest sense.

        • Pax Saturday, 2 November 2019, 6:19 pm

          From far away the TDU is great advertising for Australia. It reminds every year that it is on my bucket list.

  • Richard S Thursday, 31 October 2019, 10:56 am

    Its a good point about the wide open scenery but I’d say from my limited time watching the ToC that the roads are an issue too. They tended to be nearly always large, beautifully surfaced and easily graded. That’s great if you’re a family of tourists in a huge American SUV or ‘Truck’ but doesn’t tend to lead to great bike racing, or at least bike racing that looks good on TV. The whole thing seemed to lack a bit of character, which I suppose it may have developed given a bit of time.

    Vaughters’s points about making bike races in the US mass participation events to allow them to make money seemed reasonable but surely that would work a lot better for single day races to be combined with a Gran Fondo/Sportive, rather than a stage race. Everyone loves a bit of gravel it seems, why not trade the farcical puncture inducing new ending of Paris-Tours for the first all gravel UCI road race with that Dirty Kanza thing or something similar.

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 31 October 2019, 11:05 am

      I saw Vaughters’ point and it’s worth adding that a lot of European races have mass participation events, like the Tour of Flanders’s event on the Saturday, the Etape du Tour where places sell out in a day, this year’s Giro even has a stage copying the Nove Colli’s route. It’s a model to explore but is there crossover, eg if you’re selling 10,000 places for a gran fondo at $100 per ride and then charging companies for sponsorship, marketing access on top… then as you say why bother with a costly week-long road race along the side? It’s all a bit Catch-22, people will pay to ride up the Tourmalet or Koppenberg because pro races have made it famous but California hasn’t been around long enough to create these priceless myths.

      • Paul Friday, 1 November 2019, 7:14 pm

        I liked Vaughters’ thought here. Would there be any $$ in the ToC partnering up with Haute Route? Their events popular and cost thousands. And hard-core amateurs would be thrilled to start ten minutes after the pros each day.

        • Chris Fisher Monday, 4 November 2019, 7:08 pm

          As someone who has ridden nigh on 20 Haute Route events I think the answer to that it no. Their US events have never really taken off in the same way as in Europe. They stopped the one week Colorado event due to lack of numbers for example, and the 3 day San Francisco event has been pulled next year for the same reason.

          Participant dollars seem to be more biased towards gravel and MTB events in the US from what I can see.

    • JaimeRoberto Thursday, 31 October 2019, 3:58 pm

      As a California resident I can tell you that our roads may be large, but they are not beautifully surfaced.
      There are some narrow one lane roads in my area that have been used for the race, but by the time TV coverage starts the riders tend to be back in town on the wider roads.

    • plurien Friday, 1 November 2019, 11:06 am

      Can’t find reference now, but wasn’t there a couple of years where the race went on gravel roads and in some awful weather too? I seem to remember one stage being stopped/ not stopped.
      Or was that Utah?

  • Hammarling Thursday, 31 October 2019, 12:27 pm

    Also we see ASO quietly putting out there their new race in Saudi Arabia. So at least the rich keep getting richer.

    I know you’re a Mens cycling focused blog, but in this instance I feel I have to bring in the Womens race as well. That goes as well, and that’s a huge loss as well (even if ASO would rather have not had to keep it going… didn’t mean to bash ASO quite so much in this). TVG sits outside the Top150 riders, Chloe Dygert-Owen is 16th on CQ Ranking courtesy of a WC ITT title and 4th in the WC RR and has dominated the competitive domestic scene. Coryn Rivera is in the Top20 as well, having been in the Top5 two seasons ago. Both Arlenis Sierra and Leah Kirchman are also in the Top20 as North Americas, with another three North Americans (1 Canadian, 2 Americans) in the Top30.

    You start to see a pattern here. Hoping that something/someone comes in and keeps what has been a successful and well attended womens ToC going!

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 31 October 2019, 12:33 pm

      Good point about the women’s race, I’ve added a mention above. Also from the sounds of things the Saudi race isn’t owned by ASO, they’re being paid to run it instead… presumably a lot too. From the accounts in the past RCS was earning more per day from the Dubai Tour than the Giro.

      • DaveRides Thursday, 31 October 2019, 1:13 pm

        I don’t think it’s possible to talk about the demise of AToC without talking about the women’s race and the state law which required it be lengthened to 7 days.

        If the race is to return, it will be in a different state where it’s easier to do business.

        • Larry T Thursday, 31 October 2019, 2:39 pm

          Yes, yes..of course “different state where it’s easier to do business”.
          Just ignore: “The economy of California is the largest in the United States, boasting a $3.0 trillion gross state product as of 2018. As a sovereign nation (2018), California would rank as the world’s fifth largest economy, ahead of India and behind Germany.” in favor of right-wing propaganda about getting rid of “job-killing regulations” and the like.

          • Ettore Bombino Friday, 1 November 2019, 8:51 pm

            Larry T I have lived in this State all my life and it is not “Right Wing Propaganda” that we also have the largest “homeless population” in the entire nation! Compare that to the Countries you just mentioned. I run a large Engineering firm here in Los Angeles and my company is looking at a possible move out of State due to business chocking regulations and the toxic political environment in this State. Last, there is more to it than Googling facts and figures.

  • DaveRides Thursday, 31 October 2019, 1:00 pm

    > Think of the riders too. Seven riders on 19 teams raced last year and now in May they’ll have to find something else to do. There’s time to plan for this but teams have been recruiting on the basis of racing across multiple fronts and now may not need as many riders.

    This only serves to make the UCI’s decision to increase minimum team rosters for the 2020 season look even more absurd. Teams may not need as many riders, but they are stuck with them anyway.

  • jcgmd Thursday, 31 October 2019, 1:38 pm

    INRG- as you written about in the past, this is just another example of teams that think race organizers need to share the proceeds of events is not a revenue stream to depend on. Races are struggling to stay afloat, let alone five share their limited revenue.
    Personally, I rarely watched the race, as just keeping up the Giro filled all my viewing time.

    • Pax Saturday, 2 November 2019, 6:31 pm

      Jegmd – this a fallacy. Each race like the TOC builds the value of the TDF. So it with great pleasure the ASO can’t get paid to grow the value of their crown jewel. To be clear if the only way to get media rights to the TDF was yo buy all they would do it.

      Further more they have to work to create an appetite- which rationally means more appealing formats( and team affinity). The they would be smart long term focused UCI/rider Union/ event management.

      The NFL, NBA etc are smart about building their value. Many Olympic sports not so much.

  • Larry T Thursday, 31 October 2019, 2:49 pm

    Well done Mr, Inrng. I think you summed things up well. My only complaint (and you knew there had to be something) is the photo of the boob who runs in the road far too often during this race. Publicity like this encourages these idiots. The sport does NOT need them.
    I view this race as a dot.bomb as in the creators had a “start-up” mentality: create something they could sell to someone with more dollars than sense as has happened so often with Silicon Valley venture capitalists. Burn through cash like there’s no tomorrow, hoping and praying you can sell the thing to Google, Facebook, etc. before you go down in flames. In this case AEG flamed out – my guess after ASO said “No, merci” to their buyout plea, they decided it wasn’t worth throwing any more of their own (and Amgen’s) money at it. Because of those origins the race never had any real character (unlike the Coors Classic for example) so its demise for me is a ho followed by a hum.

    • thesteve4761 Thursday, 31 October 2019, 8:35 pm

      Calling the demise of the largest race, in one of the largest world markets, ho hum is pretty sad. The origins of, and modern support for, of many of the elite EU races you seem to prefer are every bit as commercial as TOC’s was, if not more so. Cycling needs to evolve beyond the “classic races” if it wants to survive. Evolve or die, so the saying goes. At least TOC put a proper effort into doing that (evolving, though not rapidly enough to prevent death). Seeing it go is far more than just ho hum, it’s a huge blow to domestic racing, domestic road riding, and on some level the interest in international bicycle tourism.

      That said, if AEG couldn’t make it happen, not sure anybody could.

      • Larry T Thursday, 31 October 2019, 9:01 pm

        “Evolve or die, so the saying goes.” Yet the races that have lasted, some for more than a century don’t really evolve, do they? They retain the passion, heritage and culture they were founded under rather than being born as a vehicle (or brand) to be sold once established and popular as in the case of AEG and ToC. Did anyone connected with AEG have a passion…for anything other than…MONEY? IMHO these people are all about business rather than sport. If they cared about sport they’d spend some of the loot their other operations make to keep ToC going as ASO does to keep Paris-Roubaix and La Vuelta alive. I’m sure we’ll eventually know how/if ToC was offered to them and how/why they turned it down.

        • Davesta Friday, 1 November 2019, 10:35 am

          But ultimately the ‘classic races’ were born as a vehicle to be sold, only the selling was of newspapers rather than a company’s product or the race itself. I’m sure l’auto didn’t care too much about cycling in 1903; only about selling newspapers…
          Most (if not all) of our favourite bike races originated as commercial ventures, only they lasted long enough to become something of cultural and historical significance…The Tour of California could well have gone the same way, in a large market far away from the historical centre of cycling, had it not encountered these current struggles…

  • David Thursday, 31 October 2019, 3:25 pm

    The problem of dull scenery on the ToC is entirely attributable to the fact that wealthy towns along the coast did not want the race to come anywhere near them. It is very hard and very expensive to get closure permits for roads in these areas.

    This is why the race spent so much time in the brown, hot, undifferentiated center of the state. Nobody cares about those areas so permits are easy to get.

    • SYH Thursday, 31 October 2019, 3:40 pm

      It really was a shame- if you had infinite money you could make a dream parcours for a 10-day stage race in California, but when you’re dependent on who will pay to host stage finishes, and who will approve to have road closures at all, you get riders touring along massive divided highways by characterless suburban strips.

    • Ronin Friday, 1 November 2019, 9:53 pm

      “TV never quite captured the landscapes”

      This is something a resident of CA noticed right away. I always thought the race was never fully taking advantage of CA.

  • SYH Thursday, 31 October 2019, 3:38 pm

    Is there a specific reason the US always seemed to be set on stage races? A city circuit isn’t the greatest for exciting tactical racing (unless it’s Montjuich Part at the Volta a Catalunya), but that seems like a much more likely way to showcase top names to a captive audience- not to mention that it’d be far more practical to get admission costs for those.

    • Davesta Thursday, 31 October 2019, 6:12 pm

      I’ve wondered that myself – the two Canadian races seem to do a good job of presenting the sport in a neat (presumably lower-cost) package, and there’s been some great city centre circuits in other areas of the sport – montjuic of course, and Glasgow Euro champs come to mind too.

      Perhaps it’s down to cost again – would American cities be more costly to shut down for a bike race? And perhaps impossible to gain approval from the authorities?
      And I suppose ultimately whilst it sounds like a good idea, it still needs somebody to actually do it, and there’s not a long queue of suitors for hosting bike races these days…

      • Sam G Thursday, 31 October 2019, 6:28 pm

        Given the size of the country there is almost an unlimited supply of amazing roads to chose from. I cant believe ASO or RCS have not developed a 1 day race that is great to watch. Something that ends in a city or town, but is not a crit (as crits are not allowed on the pro-calendar, (and in my view are boring to watch on TV)).

        • Andrew Thursday, 31 October 2019, 6:41 pm

          They’re welcome to have a World Tour race here in Rochester, MN. We have fantastic gravel, then they could come into the “city” and finish on the steep climb that tops out right near my house. I’d put out some lawn chairs and a few beers, no charge.

        • SYH Thursday, 31 October 2019, 6:42 pm

          When does a city circuit become a crit, anyway?

      • The Inner Ring Thursday, 31 October 2019, 6:43 pm

        The Canadian races are expensive, I don’t know the situation now but they’ve lost money in the past with the idea being of building up the races and establishing them, but they’re also underpinned by the host towns.

    • thesteve4761 Thursday, 31 October 2019, 8:08 pm

      Giro di SF, Philly and the various east coast one day races associated, Tour de Leelanau (UCI in Michigan 10 years ago), Tour of Battenkill, etc. etc. etc.

      All one day races that died a financial death too.

      The key problem is that road racing closes roads. Americans are addicted to driving. Road racing makes feeding our addiction harder. Uphill battle. This is an inherently anti bike country, especially when those bikes occupy space that most believe belongs to an SUV.

      • Larry T Thursday, 31 October 2019, 8:52 pm

        +1

      • Anoldfan Friday, 1 November 2019, 7:23 am

        You mean a gun totting SUV driver 🙂

  • KevinK Thursday, 31 October 2019, 7:36 pm

    Nice article. Sad, but true. I’ve been too aware of that CQ rating chart, and hoping with enough time (and distance from the LA shadow) that things would turn around, with the ToC as a centerpiece of US cycling. Now I’m less sure things will improve much, at least on the men’s side, unless and until another Greg Lemond comes along.

  • thesteve4761 Thursday, 31 October 2019, 8:18 pm

    Good article, thanks as always.

    One aspect not discussed, and pretty key to the larger picture IMO, is the general demise of amateur and low level pro road racing in the US. The domestic racing scene in the US is in abysmal condition. Boring office park crits, very few stage races, and almost no one day road races, led by the same exact “pro” races in the same exact formats we’ve had for 30 years with no change, all managed by a fairly inept governing body who seems to only focus on the top 0.05% of their users. Leading to no real supply of new riders and races to support said 0.05% of riders and races. Topped by absurd license and entry fees ($50 to go in a circle in an office park, after $100+ for a license) for said low quality races.

    Seeing CA go is pretty sad, but is no more surprising than when Missouri, Utah, and Colorado (Coors, USA Pro, and the last version) fell off the calendar. Way too many resources given to the elite level without enough support for the foundational structures that can support the elite level in a more holisitic way. In a sense, I think there are mirrors of this in the lack of Spanish 2nd and third tier teams. Maybe, and I doubt it, the folks behind Tour of Utah can make some lemonade out of this one and step up. Vaughters ‘concept is a good one, particularly as we see the participatory/charity events taking off (Sagan Fondo, GFNY, charity tours, etc.), though that has it’s limits too.

    • Mad Black Friday, 1 November 2019, 12:41 am

      Agreed. I was thinking they may be better of downgrading the ToC to allow local continental teams to compete. IMO the move to WT is what started the demise.

  • Cc Thursday, 31 October 2019, 11:54 pm

    Seconding the comment above about the race mostly taking place in largely unpopulated parts of California. It was more like Tour of California that no one visits. Would never attract interest outside of ardent pro cycling fans. And, as for the racing, seemed like 1/3 race, 1/3 training week, 1/3 vacation for the riders.

  • Bruce Hildenbrand Friday, 1 November 2019, 4:00 am

    The Tour of California had a mass participation race for years, the Etape du California. I was the event announcer for the first five years and we were never able to attract more than 800 or so riders even though the stage selected always seemed to be one of the most interesting(Mt Baldy, etc). That’s clearly not the solution to this problem. They had 14 years to attract a title sponsor other than Amgen and couldn’t do it.

    • Chris_SK Saturday, 2 November 2019, 12:19 am

      Assuming that it would require a large company to come in and take over the financial burden like AMGEN; is this still Lance’s lasting legacy? That no major company in U.S. would be interested in investing in bike race sponsorship?

      Seems that this hasn’t impacted too badly to bike manufacturing companies like trek, canondale, who have proper roots in the sport. But it’s understandable the household negative criticism condemning Armstrong sits fresh in the memory of Corporate America.

  • Othersteve Friday, 1 November 2019, 4:19 am

    Sad day for stage racing in the US. We here in the states just don’t get it, and we have no history in providing funding or support for a national road racing program.

    We don’t have government monetary support like many other Euro countries.

    We are are country of pro sports which is more commercial NFL, NBA, MLB

    Lance perhaps has poisoned the well?

    wo

    • Anonymous Friday, 1 November 2019, 12:58 pm

      Surprised it took this long to get to the drugged up elephant in the room, but I’m sure you’re correct on that. If there was a star American rider who had won the Tour de France returning to California every May then I’m sure the race would still be on. With all respect to TGV, Lawson Craddock and Sep Kauss but they’re not big draws. In fact a few years ago the ToC made Peter Sagan the face of their marketing pitch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHyaaAQyGhA

      • Augie March Friday, 1 November 2019, 3:18 pm

        Apologies, the above was me.

        • Larry T Friday, 1 November 2019, 6:25 pm

          Really? I hate BigTex as much as anyone, but by now he’d have hung up his wheels for sure so I’m at a loss as to how he could have saved ToC unless he ponied up some of this riches to cover the financial losses. OTOH there are plenty of his supporters out there still claiming the biggest fraud in sporting history’s sad saga was a net gain for the sport in the USA. Seems to me ToC was TdU without the tourism folks throwing massive amounts of money into it, but Mr. Inrng probably knows the amounts government/tourism organizations put into the two events?

          • KevinK Friday, 1 November 2019, 6:43 pm

            I think you misread AM’s post – if there had been a hypothetical superstar American rider showing up these recent years, the race would likely have succeeded. I think this is probably true, and I think road racing in the US would be in a different place. It wouldn’t even take someone winning repeated TdFs, just a real USA star or three for the last 5-6 years would put US cycling on a dramatically different footing.

          • Augie March Saturday, 2 November 2019, 3:59 am

            Kevin, K, yes, thank you, that was exactly what I meant. Not sure what comment Larry was reading but it wasn’t mine.

          • Larry T Saturday, 2 November 2019, 8:07 am

            Sorry, you didn’t mean BigTex with “If there was a star American rider who had won the Tour de France returning to California every May then I’m sure the race would still be on”? Someone else? Does Cadel Evans fill that role for TdU? Does that really make a difference? Contrasting the two I think TdU is popular because a) nothing much else is going on in cycling then b) it comes in the summer for them vs ToC which (stupidly) put itself up against the Giro, competed in a stick-and-ball saturated sports/entertainment market and was conceived from the start as a “product” to be developed and then sold at a profit.
            But more than tinkering around the edges (have a sportive event, have or don’t have racing for women, etc.) the bottom line is bicycle road racing is just not something enough Americans care about, like cricket. Throw all the money you want at a North American Cricket League – it’ll go nowhere in competition with NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA and even WWE. If any USA cyclist wants to learn the sport and compete against the best, he/she has to do the same as the Aussies – move to Europe. JV and Velon are not going to change that.

          • KevinK Saturday, 2 November 2019, 10:01 am

            @ Larry: I think on a global scale, the ToC was at least as popular as the TdU if one looks at the teams and riders coming and the worldwide coverage. But the failure of the ToC wasn’t about the “popularity” of the race.

            Comparing the ToC to the TdU: cycling is much bigger in Australia than the US, and Australia has many more star riders, so the TdU is a bigger deal there than the ToC ever was in California. This translates to more local corporate sponsors, more local fan engagement, and less local opposition to being inconvenienced. Probably more importantly, the South Australian government partially funds the TdU, so it doesn’t lose money. The TdU is pitched as a generator of tourism and jobs in the area, something one couldn’t claim for the ToC. The ToC was a money pit. If a Greg LeMond type rider had emerged in the US in the last 5-6 years, it might well have been different, but even casual US cycling fans struggle to name a single American pro rider, and as a result don’t have much interest in the sport on a professional level.

          • Larry T Saturday, 2 November 2019, 3:42 pm

            Kevin K –As noted by the Australian Bicycle Network: “The latest results from the Cycling Participation Survey are shattering. While bike riding across the world grows, Australia’s participation languishes and falls away – we should be embarrassed.” OTOH you pointed out a key difference, the fact the government and tourism people in OZ bankroll the TdU. Unlike ToC it wasn’t conceived as a “product” to be sold once established. I would guess OZ doesn’t have the equal of NFL, NBA, MLB, etc. to compete for TV viewers either?

          • KevinK Saturday, 2 November 2019, 10:30 pm

            Regarding popularity of sports, I found one list where cycling ranks 28 in the US, just ahead of cheerleading and kickball, and behind fishing, rugby, bowling, and ultimate frisbee. It’s not the NBA and NFL and MLB that are more popular, most everything is more popular. When I look up similar lists for Australia, cycling is generally in the top 10. Of course, there’s a big difference between spectators and participants. In Australia, apparently participation in cycling is much more common per capita, though as a spectator sport its probably pretty low. In the USA, is low on both scores. Put simply, even if your quote is correct that cycling participation has declined recently in Australia, there still seems to be a substantial interest in the sport and in participation. In the USA, road cycling participation is fairly low, and spectator interest in cycling races, since LA’s interview on Oprah, is almost nil.

          • Larry T Sunday, 3 November 2019, 8:41 am

            KevinK – you might attribute TdU’s success to those statistics, but one thing is certainly different from ToC, the level of funding from government and tourism interests. The only way to test whether this was the reason one is still going and the other dead would be for the OZ folks to pull their funding and see how long TdU survives. But instead I wish the CA folks might have put more (some?) money into ToC but kept it in the original time period rather than putting it up against my beloved Giro d’Italia. The next question is whether anyone else will step up to try to replace ToC with another stage race in the USA? I won’t hold my breath.

          • KevinK Sunday, 3 November 2019, 10:58 am

            My point is that the two are linked (local interest/involvement in cycling & public support for cycling racing). In the US, local governments are often happy to us public funds to build or upgrade stadiums and arenas and provide tax breaks that will provide profit for professional teams and owners, but only if the sport is popular. Sure, if the TdU lost government funding, it would likely be in trouble. But for now, it appears the Australians think it’s a reasonable use of their tax money.

            This also comes back to Augie March’s comment. If a new Greg Lemond emerged and galvanized US attention (the way I see Tom Dumoulin and Van Der Poel have in the Netherlands), it would be a different climate in the States. Both corporate funding and public funding would become more likely. Development teams and races alike would have an easier time finding those precious $$$s.

          • Larry T Sunday, 3 November 2019, 12:16 pm

            OK, you (and Augie?) believe the two things are linked while I do not. We should probably leave it at that as there’s no evidence to prove your theory, which brings me to your “galvanized US attention (the way I see Tom Dumoulin and Van Der Poel have in the Netherlands), ”
            What are the government and tourist promotion offices doing in Holland that would indicate this?

  • Adam Friday, 1 November 2019, 9:04 am

    Very sad. It was only in 2014 when Wiggins won that it was being touted as the potential ‘4th Grand Tour’. Good battle that year between Wiggins and Dennis.

  • Anonymous Friday, 1 November 2019, 12:55 pm

    “…touted as the potential ‘4th Grand Tour’. ” Nobody said they weren’t good at hyperbole, exceeded perhaps only by a certain future President of the USA.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbHNk5oZQK8

  • The Inner Ring Friday, 1 November 2019, 4:53 pm

    One observation between the Tour Down Under and the Tour of California is that if you criticise the TDU you get a legion of proud Aussie fans brandishing pitchforks (or BBQ tongs? 😉 ) at you… but question the Tour of California and sadly US readers often agree.

    • cd Friday, 1 November 2019, 9:08 pm

      As an East Coast American, ToC never held much allure for me. Never did I think of going out there to watch it and the tv coverage never was that exciting for whatever reason. I never knew where the race actually was in California as it seemed to move too much, both intra-race and from year-to-year (oh that’s big sur, now they’re in SD?!) I went to World in Richmond which was great and have been meaning to go to the Montreal race. One day circuit races seem much more appealing to me as a spectator. Maybe ToC needed a home community to adopt it. I was disappointed that Richmond never followed up the Worlds with a one-day race as rumored but I am hopeful for the recently announced Baltimore race.

    • sam Saturday, 2 November 2019, 6:24 am

      i think we’re just realistic. over here cycling is super based around grass root racing in the Cat 1-5 arena and even more hyper focused around the Cat 2-4 races.

      if you know about cycling beyond the tour de france and maybe roubaix, you probably race(d) and care more about the weekends crit or cx race.

      with tv competition like the nfl, nba, and mlb—not to mention collegiate football and basketball—it’s little wonder bike racing can’t find a foot hold.

  • SilverSurfer8 Friday, 1 November 2019, 4:59 pm

    Surely they will take a look at what the Tour of Colorado (or whatever it’s called now) did to survive. They cut huge costs by gambling on new, much cheaper broadcast technology, and cutting the men’s race. This seems like a smart move, making the race smaller, developing new tech, and then (hopefully) growing into something better.

    • Ronin Friday, 1 November 2019, 10:05 pm

      The original Colorado race did not survive. It failed. And, this new women’s race is only a year old and hasn’t proven itself. The strategy of demoting men’s racing and promoting female racing was a disaster for the Philly Classic. Did you write this just to say “cutting the men’s race”?

      The Tour of California almost certainly handicapped itself by adding females to it. They cut the number of stages back on the men’s race and stopped experimenting with new routes after they started adding females to the race, leaving the race stuck between Sacramento and LA. If there’s any lesson here, it’s, Don’t add females to your race. It’s all cost for no financial gain and nothing but headaches as feminists and their allies constantly whine and complain about how they don’t have “parity” with the men’s race.

      Utah nixed it’s female racing and still survives. Smart move.

      • KevinK Saturday, 2 November 2019, 10:05 am

        Yeah, everything was just great till those uppity women starting burning their bras and stealing our spandex.

        • Strictley Amateur / The GCW Sunday, 3 November 2019, 2:40 pm

          KevinK,
          Ronin, makes a valid point.
          Suddenly, plain old capitalism twisted by special interest groups teeter something already on the ropes, strangling it to death. If that’s the case, I’d like to thank the women movement; yeah right. Artificial? Can capitalism survive under those kinds of circumstances?
          Burning bras? No, however, demanding capitalists extend themselves in unhealthy ways will cause the same outcome most of the time. No?
          That in itself insures T0C not return.

      • Eskerrik Asko Sunday, 3 November 2019, 6:38 pm

        Did the ToC cut the number of stages of the men’s race because they added a women’s race alternatively so that they could add a women’s race?
        Or was the number of stages cut for entirely different reasons. such as the relatively large costs and the general difficulties involved?
        In other words, could it be that the ToC of old was no longer feasible, women’s race or no women’s race?
        If that was the case, the women’s race could be seen as a move to gain new sponsors and new publicity and new audience at a relatively modest cost, couldn’t it?

        • KevinK Sunday, 3 November 2019, 10:33 pm

          I think this is more likely. AFAIK, ratings in the US for sports where American women do really well tend to be high (tennis, soccer, Olympic events, winter sports like skiing and figure skating, etc.). And Americans spectators are uninterested in sports where there are no American stars, as is sadly the case in men’s cycling. Meanwhile, there are a few US stars in the women’s peloton.

          Regarding the ToC going on hiatus, I have a few questions. How much money did the ToC lose each year? Which editions of the race cost the most, and how was that impacted by the presence or absence of a women’s race? Was the race more attractive or less attractive to corporate sponsors (Amgen, Lexus, TAG, SRAM, Visit California, Rally Health, etc.) because of the addition of women’s races? Has it been revealed if Amgen, the primary sponsor, has decided to end their long sponsorship of the race? Is it possible Amgen got what they wanted out of the arrangement, and their board made a business decision to put their advertising money elsewhere, and no other major sponsor would step up? In the few other UCI races in the US, are the others that also feature women’s races also going on hiatus? Is the addition of women’s stages in the ToC also the cause of multiple US Conti and Pro Conti teams losing sponsorship in the last few years?

          @Strickly Am, has professional bike racing ever been about plain old capitalism? Unless their initials are ASO, no right thinking capitalist would ever get within a mile of the sport! It’s a money pit, and always has been. It seems to have long existed as equal parts vanity project, nationalist indulgence, and a very funky advertising platform. I think the answer is that after a very long and expensive period of sponsorship, Amgen’s board felt like they’d paid back their debt to US cycling after the EPO/LA era, and felt like now was a time when they could quietly let go of this little project.

  • KGB Saturday, 2 November 2019, 4:32 am

    A shame to see the ToC go. Hopefully the Tour of Utah survives. I enjoy watching the racing from North America, for the chance to see the lower-ranked teams and riders in action, plus the amazing scenery. But sadly, there just aren’t that many races to see.

  • Strictley Amateur / The GCW Sunday, 3 November 2019, 2:50 pm

    The entire time I’m reading about the demise of T0C, Colorado is entering My mind.
    When Colorado’s last race ended (before the women’s only version) I was angry. A great race, failed by (if I’m not mistaken) overspending but further, organizers had additional financial challenges.
    California and the U.S. could be understandably unhappy.
    Along with everything else, We’re competing with American football and baseball (for insight) for C’s sake.

    • Eskerrik Asko Sunday, 3 November 2019, 6:51 pm

      Cycling competes with ball sports and professional leagues *everywhere*. In Australia they have Aussie rules football, rugby and cricket (and maybe something I haven’t even heard of).
      Fortunately soccer in Europe is a winter sport and cycling isn’t, but the seasons do overlap somewhat. On the other hand, there’s tennis and there’s Formula One and…

      PS I thought the ToC was where it was in the calendar because there were no pro league final games or “madnesses” to fight against in the battle for spectators and viewers during that time slot?

      • KevinK Sunday, 3 November 2019, 10:35 pm

        There’s always some sport on TV in the US that is more popular than pro cycling. My understanding is that the ToC wanted to position itself as a tuneup to the TdF, and also there were major issues with snowy mountain passes when the race was earlier in the season.

  • GingerTart Sunday, 3 November 2019, 10:00 pm

    Hi INRNG.

    I think it’s interesting to see that the world record for the individual pursuit is dropping quickly, and by large steps each time the new record is set. Most recentl, twice in one day, shaving off 2 seconds initially and then another 2 sec in the second attempt. Is this because of new tech, new training or racing methods, or what else? Worth doing an article on this?

    Thanks

  • Larry T Monday, 4 November 2019, 8:43 am
    • KevinK Monday, 4 November 2019, 10:12 pm

      Which theory is that, and what is the test?

      • Larry T Tuesday, 5 November 2019, 7:53 am

        Your theory that having successful cyclists (like Greg LeMond) would have kept ToC alive. The UK certainly has plenty of those, yet their equivalent, the Tour of Britain just lost it’s big sponsor. If your theory holds true another sponsor will be found quickly and it’ll continue, right?

        • KevinK Tuesday, 5 November 2019, 11:49 am

          What I (and others, including Inring) suggested is that not having star riders starves interest in professional cycling in that country, and creates a hostile environment for races to find sponsorship and public support. That’s the theory, not the converse.

          There’s a long history races folding. During LeMond’s heyday (and Lance’s pre-admission stardom), there were several prominent US races that formed and died. As Vaughters has said, the cycling business model is basically a donation model (TdF and a very few other races are the exceptions that prove the rule). Even in the core countries where cycling has been extremely popular, with plenty of great stars, teams and races have gone extinct. So to put this “theory”another way: having star riders is a crucial (and likely even necessary) condition for widespread public interesting in and support of cycling in a given country, but it is not sufficient to guarantee sustainability of teams or races. Clear enough?

          • Larry T Tuesday, 5 November 2019, 2:48 pm

            “If a new Greg Lemond emerged and galvanized US attention (the way I see Tom Dumoulin and Van Der Poel have in the Netherlands), it would be a different climate in the States. ” was what you wrote. I think pretty much everyone would say those conditions exist today in the UK – so if your claim is true we should see ToB have no trouble finding a replacement sponsor, no?
            I’m still wondering what has happened in the Netherlands (already a pretty serious cycling country long before BigTom and MVdP were even born) to back up that part of your claim?

          • KevinK Tuesday, 5 November 2019, 6:27 pm

            Larry, you clearly like trolling, so this will be my last response. The climate for pro cycling is demonstrably vastly better in the UK than it is in the USA. I don’t think even you would try to claim otherwise, and the massive amounts of money that go into British Cycling and Sky/Ineos and the recent World Championships are evidence of that. The climate for elite men’s road racing in the US is terrible. Public interest is low, and it doesn’t take a genius to realize that the lack of star American male cyclists is a key part of that. You can call that a theory; I’d say it’s common sense. If you want to disprove it, show me a time when road cycling was popular in the US but there were no American stars. Alternatively, show me that when LeMond emerged, and LA after him, that American viewership of televised races declined, that American attendance at racing events dropped, and sales of road bikes and equipment in the US went down.

            LeMond and LA created a LOT of fans for cycling in the States. I was one of them. I’ve seen the same thing here in the Netherlands. I was surprised when I came here that I knew much more about Dutch cycling than most Dutch. Despite this being a cradle of cycling, most Dutch don’t care about bike racing, even those who ride road bikes. When I do find someone who follows the UCI races, they’re usually excited about Dumoulin, because of his exploits winning the Giro and doing well at the Tour and Vuelta.

            In the last few weeks I’ve had people who have never expressed any interest in road cycling telling me they and their families were glued to the television watching MvdP at the Worlds. Everybody likes a winner. Doesn’t mean teams and races still don’t go kaput. The business model for cycling is terrible, even in the best of times.

  • Jeff Monday, 4 November 2019, 3:59 pm

    Personally I’d love to see the US try a different tack, e.g., worldtour teams lining up at a self-supported race like Dirty Kanza, changing their own flat tires, crossing creeks, etc. for 8 hours.

    EF’s recent foray into these off-the-beaten-path races (DK, Leadville) was well received here in the US and gravel, in general, is exploding in popularity.

    • Larry T Monday, 4 November 2019, 5:05 pm

      What you describe sounds a lot like early bicycle racing under draconian rules set out by guys like Henri Desgrange. Does this mean pro cycling has lost some of its “epic” quality due to weather protocols, electronically controlled and hydraulically disc-braked machines that weigh less than 7 kg, electronic measuring of every body function along with team mechanics and helpers who do pretty much everything but pedal the bike and wipe the rider’s arse for him or her? You might be onto something here!!!

  • BC Monday, 4 November 2019, 7:06 pm

    I confess to having as much interest in the ToC as the desert races so will not mourn the loss of a race I know next to nothing about. Sorry for the USA contributors and the sport in the USA if that sounds a little harsh.

    I came across a book on a recent long hall flight which if I am allowed to recommend, (inrng please delete if inappropriate) has some really interesting reading for Larry – and anyone else interested in old school Belgium (Flanders) history – country and riders, art, beer, cafe’s, characters, myths, spring classics, attitudes, fans……. A really interesting read from a real fan if you want to learn more about Flanders its history and riders. It also includes some of Desgranges less well known but equally extreme views by today’s standards ! ‘The Beast, the Emperor and the Milkman’ by a dour Yorkshiremen with a wonderful sense of humour. Harry Pearson. Pub: Bloomsbury: ISBN HB 978-1-4729-4504-4. Highly recommended for an informative and humorous read.

    • Larry T Monday, 4 November 2019, 8:20 pm

      Grazie! On your recommendation alone I just ordered the Kindle edition. Timely suggestion as I was recently looking for something interesting to read other than the various “How Donald Trump is ruining the US (and world’s) Economy” tomes.

    • BC Monday, 4 November 2019, 9:38 pm

      Opps, sorry for using the wrong type of Hall – long HAUL.

  • Wayne Tuesday, 5 November 2019, 12:06 pm

    I would say I’m sad to see this race go but the truth is I never watched it. It was up against the Giro, ok there was the time difference but still, and I can’t see how a race can grow to a decent size when up against one of cycling’s biggest races. As part of a bigger picture it’s a shame to see races disappear, especially as they’re replaced by desert trundles through totalitarian theocracies. But is it a symptom of cycling trying to overexpand? Do people like JV have unrealistic expectations by constantly chasing this pot of gold they seem convinced exists in cycling?