Mad Money

Exhibit A:
Floyd Landis, winner of the inaugural Amgen Tour of California, collects his paycheck.

Exhibit B:
Donald Trump, the original billionaire bike race promoter.

I wonder if Floyd Landis knows that the last time a billionaire put on a bike race in the US, the winner walked away with a cool $50,000? That, of course, would be the Donald Trump bankrolled Tour de Trump back in 1989 won by 7-Eleven hardguy Dag-Otto Lauritzen. Seventeen years later, the winner’s payola seems to have shrunk significantly.

The current billionaire to finance a stage race in the US big enough to entice serious Euro talent across the Atlantic is reclusive Denver-ite Philip F. Anschutz, the man primarily responsible for making the inaugural Tour of California a reality. Just take a peak at what this guy owns, it’s mind-boggling. And despite the relative frugality of this rendition’s prize-list, I think Anschutz’s AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group, the owner of the Tour of California) will very likely be the means to a long-lasting, world-class stage race in the United States. I think the reason that events such as the Red Zinger Bicycle Classic, the Coors Classic, the Tour de Trump, and the Tour DuPont had a relatively short shelf life is that the title sponsors were not really invested in the long-term health of professional cycling. For Donald Trump, it was sheer vanity coupled with the appealing insanity of shutting down streets from Albany to Atlantic City (and particularly Manhattan) for a bike race. For the corporate entities, once their marketing goals were met they just pulled the plug and walked away leaving a race infrastructure without any cash to continue. What’s different this time around is that AEG is in the business of sports and entertainment, and they see a niche in the US waiting to be filled. And AEG is serious about sports and entertainment. Just peruse the abbreviated version of their empire:

AEG is one of the leading sports and entertainment presenters in the world. AEG, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Anschutz Corporation, owns or controls a collection of companies including facilities such as STAPLES Center, The Forum (as exclusive booking agent for sports and entertainment programming), Toyota Sports Center, NOKIA Theatre Times Square, NOKIA Theatre at Grand Prairie and London’s Manchester Evening News Arena; sports franchises including the Los Angeles Kings (NHL), Los Angeles Riptide (MLL), Manchester Monarchs (AHL), Reading Royals (ECHL), Chicago Fire, DC United, Houston 1836, Los Angeles Galaxy and (New York/New Jersey) Metrostars (MLS), two hockey franchises operated in Europe, the Hammarby (Sweden) Futbol Club and management of shares of the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) and Los Angeles Sparks (WNBA) owned by Philip Anschutz; AEG Marketing, a sponsorship, sales, naming rights and consulting company; AEG Merchandising, a multi-faceted merchandising company; and AEG Creative, a full-service marketing and advertising agency. 

Cycling has already been a part AEG’s world since they also own the Home Depot Center, home to North America’s only(?) indoor velodrome. The junior and senior world track cycling championships have already taken place under their management (although Erik Saunders has some suggestions about amenities). And on top of that, the Anschutz empire includes film production companies, newspapers, and the largest chain of movie theaters in the US.

At the very least, AEG is committed to a $35,000,000 investment in professional cycling over the next 5 years. Just the technology alone in their TofC website has definitely set the standard for delivering detailed stage maps, live feeds, post-stage video and photos. Nobody, not even the Grand Tours, has anything comparable. And with the apparent success of this years’s event (based on huge attendence plus positive team feedback), hopefully AEG can leverage some better coverage on ESPN for future renditions. I think they have the muscle, if so inclined, to bump up daily coverage into a more palatable time slot than this year’s graveyard shift relegation. And please, whoever is reponsible for the ESPN2 coverage should spend some time watching Euro pro cycling, say on cycling.tv, for how a professional bike race should be covered: helicopter shots, onscreen graphics detailing who’s in the breaks, onscreen time-splits, and onscreen distance to the finish will do wonders. And while I would be perfectly content to watch live events such as Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on my computer via cycling.tv, in order to cultivate the next generation of homegrown cycling talent in the US I think a marquee event readily accessible to the public is a must. I have no idea if USA Cycling was in attendence at the start and finish locations, but I surely hope they were there to facilitate the entry of young talent into the sport. I’m pretty sure several of our current Colorado-born professionals were bitten by the bike bug while watching the Red Zinger or Coors Classic, and here’s hoping that the TofC will have a likewise effect.

Comments (2) to “Mad Money”

  1. There are now three indoor velodromes in N.A. - The ADT event center (NOT the Home Depot center), Messico City has one, and Burnaby in Canuckistan.

  2. I will be no longer convinced the area you are getting your info, yet terrific issue. Need to invest some time discovering more or perhaps determining far more. Thanks for superb data I used to be seeking this data for my vision.

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