Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Brave New World of American Stage Racing

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.


No One Line said...

The ToCA has been exciting so far! It's nice to have some growing prominence for a stage race in the US. I was hoping that Boonen had nipped Cav on the line last night.

I found some very neat pictures from the '85 Coors Classic that you might enjoy.

Glenn_in_MA said...

Ah yes, memories! I remember well the 1990 Tour de Trump final stage finish in Boston...Davis Phinny placed 2nd or 3rd in the stage I believe and Raul Alcala won the GC. Lemond raced but can't remember his finish...but I do remember he was mobbed by fans when he emerged from the Copley Plaza Hotel.

It would be great if we could get some pro tour racing back in the Northeast!

Velosopher said...

NOL, those pics you linked to were just too great, and the comments conversation below them, nearly as good! The one of Lemond and Hinault -- the tension in the air, whoo, boy!

Glenn, Pro Tour racing in the Northeast -- especially New England? It sounds pretty great to me!! After all, great settings, tons of hills/mountains, ocean, huge feeder population... I do wonder if Cali would beat us just because there's such fitness/lifestyle awareness there.

No One Line said...

Oh man, pro racing in the NorthEast. There's so much great fodder... mountains in New Hampshire, long stages with rollers down through Mass, over into the Adirondacks for some more hills, down to NYC for a finishing criterium in midtown. It would be so beautiful!

Velosopher said...

Hmm... that DOES sound cool!!