Watching the excitement of a drag-race finish for Stage Four of the Tour of California, I'm filled with happiness that the U.S. has succeeded in creating yet another, and perhaps more evolved, major stage race that riders and fans from around the world are jazzed about.
Now, many American cycling fans cherish their memories of the Coors Classic, the literal grand-pappy of the AToC. Heady days, indeed, with saucy, fresh-faced Americans like Lemond and Phinney facing off against the jaded, egotistical Eurodog superstars, making history in the hills of the young American West.
But I first got into cycling in the late 1970s (ouch!), and those were the days of the pappy of the the Coors Classic: The Red Zinger Classic. I remember the pictures in the newspaper of cyclists strung out against staggering Rockies backdrops. I remember buying and proudly drinking the new Celestial Seasonings brand of tea, as much for its connection with the race as for its flavor. I was a teen, and everything about this wild sport was all so fresh and new to me.
Well, I have to say, the organizers of the AToC have been doing a stellar job, and marquee American stage racing feels fresh and new once again to me, and obviously to millions of others. Every year, more fans line the streets and mountain passes of California, injecting the state with energy and commerce. It's really, really nice to see during economic times like these.
Go here for a brief, fun interview with the former director of the Coors Classic, who explains in very affirmative terms the direct link between the two races, via other iterations such as the Tour de Trump.
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America has had bicycles just as long as Europe has. A century or so ago, baseball park attendance suffered terribly anytime a local velodrome was hosting a race (and there were dozens of velodromes in the U.S.). We didn't continue to cultivate this over the decades as well as the Euros did, and that's a shame. But our history is rich and valuable. It's terrific to see that story being boosted to the next level.