–By Joe Harris and Steve Maxwell, The Outer Line.–
The approaching US President
Medalist’s assorted actual portfolio over the years has included the Bout de Trump, Bout DuPont, the Bout de Georgia, Tours of Utah and Missouri, the U.S. Pro Challenge and its almsman event, the Colorado Classic/Velorama, as able-bodied as the 2015 UCI Alley Apple Championships in Richmond, Virginia. Medalist additionally developed the aboriginal business plan and produced the Bout of California from 2006 to 2015. Over about three decades, the aggregation has navigated the agitated amnion of alteration venues, schedules, politics, sponsors and chase owners, and admitting hitting several setbacks, Medalist has connected to set the accent for U.S. pro racing.
Medalist’s abiding Managing Partners and accepted co-owners of the company, Jim Birrell and Chris Aronhalt, breach bottomward the company’s history into adaptation 1.0 (Medalist Sports, Inc.) – the pre-1996 adaptation aback its aboriginal founder, Mike Plant, was at the helm, and adaptation 2.0 (Medalist Sports LLC) – afterwards the company’s official re-establishment in 2004. Anniversary of these eras has been alternate by altered challenges, risks and rewards. Medalist 1.0 was created in the backward 1980s by Plant aback the United States’ arch chase up to that point – the Coors Classic in Colorado – was starting to wind down. Plant – about referred to as “the best important man in U.S. cycling that you’ve never heard of” – and a bulk accumulation of chase administration and abutment cadre abstruse their ability beneath the Coors Classic’s owner, Michael Aisner in Boulder, Colorado. By 1988, Plant and his cohorts were focused on a new eyes – to actualize a new all-embracing date chase on the east coast.
Coors Classic – Hinault at the start
Early U.S. Races: Abundant has been accounting about that aboriginal Medalist event, not absolutely because of how it afflicted U.S. racing, but added so because its banking advocate was the accepted President of the United States – Donald Trump. Now, about thirty years afterwards that countdown Bout de Trump, Plant has additionally confused on, and is now a baronial business controlling with access beyond assorted sports. He is President of Development for the Atlanta Braves baseball team, the Chairman of the Board for U.S. Acceleration Skating Federation and, until recently, a affiliate of the Administration Committee of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) – all-embracing cycling’s authoritative body. (Plant is himself a above world-class acceleration skater, and represented the U.S. at the 1980 Olympics). Plant formally disbanded Medalist in 1996, but has connected to be a able access aural pro cycling for abounding years, and continues to argue to Medalist in an advising role.
In a absolute account with The Outer Line, Birrell recalled how Plant aboriginal aggregate the abstraction – as the cliché goes, on the aback of a napkin – for a above northeast U.S. date race, with the bodies who he would eventually appoint into Medalist Sports. No one had anytime planned a chase of that consequence on the east coast, and alike admitting Medalist would cull in some added key associates of the Coors Classic aggregation (including its adept Technical Director, Don Hobbs), it all had to be done from scratch.
Coors Classic climb
Securing the account and the advertisement affiliation with NBC may accept been the accessible allotment in hindsight. In the pre-internet era, big chase planning could abandoned be done with cardboard mail, buzzer (to acquaint with the Eastern Bloc teams which had been access to the race), landlines and fax for business communications; GPS technology was abandoned accessible to the U.S. military. Furthermore, Birrell knew from his Coors acquaintance not to await on bartering maps, because baby anchorage apparent to be paved sometimes angry out to be clay roads. He had to biking to anniversary of the counties the planned chase would canyon through to get acknowledging bounded architect maps. He additionally had to access a buzz aircraft altimeter to affirm the topographic profiles.
Looking aback now, Birrell says, “It was an amazing acquaintance aggravating to body that countdown race, to ascertain the appearance and the assortment of all the altered states. But overall, I aloof bethink the burnout associated with affairs off a chase that big for the aboriginal time, with bifold stages back-to-back; accomplishment one, afresh alpha accession ambit afterwards in the afternoon. We all basically formed a 24-7 agenda for the accomplished year… and approved to accomplish abiding we abstruse from our mistakes.”
The antecedent Bout de Trump accomplished with a burst in Atlantic City, and with appropriate swagger, Donald Trump stated, “I would like to accomplish this the agnate of the Bout de France.” Although Sports Illustrated declared the chase as a “smashing success,” Trump afterwards withdrew his banking abutment and berated his controlling agents over its losses, as accurate by John R. O’Donnell in the book Trumped! “I never knew I was activity to lose all this f**king money on this!” Trump exclaimed at the time. Trump pulled out, and the accident would afterwards be rebranded as the Bout DuPont – for its new sponsor – and lasted until 1996.
The Bout de Trump
The Aboriginal Bout of China: Medalist took a above footfall advanced during the Plant era in 1995 aback it had the befalling to put calm the aboriginal above able bike chase in China – at a time aback that country was on the bend of arising into a all-around bread-and-er superpower. The plan for this accident was a alpha in Hong Kong – afresh still beneath British ascendancy – and the accomplishment in Beijing. Grey Advertising put calm the “pitch” package, and Plant helped position Medalist to aftermath it. Strange admitting it ability assume for an ability able-bodied event, British American Tobacco’s Kent Cigarettes was the alleged the capital sponsor of the event, and a accord was addled amid China’s government, Kent, and Medalist to put on the race.
This was an befalling that put Medalist advanced of the blow of pro cycling – a adventitious to absolutely accessible up the Asian market. Alike admitting by now Medalist had the account of anew arising technologies, acclimation the Bout of China may accept been alike tougher than the aboriginal Bout de Trump. There were a few American contacts active in China to advice with the translations and relationships, and Birrell, Aronhalt, and Steve Brunner (as able-bodied as added Medalist colleagues) were key to the development, planning and beheading of the countdown event. Email accounts were not actual advantageous in China, and for communications. Medalist had to await on thermal cardboard fax machines – accepting letters in Chinese, advice them locally in the U.S. at a languages school, and afresh sending the replies aback to China.
Adding to the challenges, maps for planning the courses accepted afresh to be inaccurate; Birrell had to aught out his odometer, drive the distances and agenda the capacity on paper. All of this was done with bounded taxis, and, says Birrell, “the cars were in abhorrent shape; abounding already had added than 300,000 kilometers of abrasion and breach on them, and several of them fell afar as they collection through the country.” As recalled by several Medalist contributors – acutely afterwards abundant appetite – the agents had a heavily armed badge escort watching them at all times, they were rarely able to leave their hotels, and they had to abide amaranthine “exotic” meals, about able tableside with alive animals.
At one point, the prologue in Hong Kong was in doubt. Brunner, a Medalist alum who afterwards founded Baron of the Mountain (KOM) Sports, recalls that the operations agents did a beforehand run-through at 9:00 PM the night before, but in the morning, one of the city’s agencies had installed a able alternation articulation fence to block the starting road. “On the fly, our operations guy had to get a brace of t-cutters and cut accessible the fence. But afresh cartage started abounding out into the road, and there were no cartage badge to shut it down. Our bodies were absolutely throwing themselves on the hoods of the advancing cars to stop traffic!” Birrell says this accident led to some quick architecture by the chase staff. “Mike alleged anybody calm and absolutely addled the script: all the stages were to be rearranged due to differences with government authorities. And somehow we got it done.”
Hair-raising belief from these aboriginal years of Medalist are legendary. John Gatch, a adept approved about U.S. cycling, was additionally an agent of Medalist in the aboriginal days, and has his allotment of active memories from the Bout DuPont and Bout of China as well. He recalls one instance of actuality wined and dined at a adorned beach restaurant about in southern China, breadth his hosts had exclaimed about the abundant affection of the angle dishes – beginning out of the lake. “When you ordered fish,” Gatch recalls, “you got the accomplished angle – eyes, tail, scales and all. But it was added accustomed to us than a lot of the aliment we were eating, so Birrell and I both ordered up the fish.” While cat-and-mouse for the delicacies to arrive, Gatch went admiral to the men’s allowance to abate himself. Article seemed a little different, and as he stared into the abnormally quiet toilet, he accomplished it was artlessly an accessible aperture into the basin far below. He brusque aback downstairs, “just in time to see Jimmy alive on a big chaw of angle in his chopsticks.”
Brunner recalls, “Jimmy fabricated article like 11 trips to China that year to assignment on the alertness – we kept a account in the office, and for reference, I anticipate Plant fabricated 22 trips. Jim came aback appalling ailing and absolutely attractive blooming afterwards several of those trips, but somehow he survived to see the accomplished affair through.”
Gatch additionally recalls an beforehand accident aback the Bout DuPont was active alfresco of Lynchburg, Virgina. Some afraid volunteers alleged in to address that a cow had burst afar on to the alley aloof a few afar advanced of the dispatch peloton. A bounded cop patrolling the breadth overheard the radio call, cruised to the defined location, pulled out his pistol and attack the cow in the head. Afresh he solicited several roadside assemblage to abetment him in boring the cow off to the ancillary of the road. “Fortunately, we were out of boondocks afore anyone anytime heard from the farmer,” says Gatch. The belief go on and on.
Just as Medalist 1.0 seemed headed for abundant success, the aggregation abruptly came afar afterwards the additional Bout of China in 1996. Some disagreements over the affairs of the business came to a arch amid Plant and his business partner, Billy Packer. This altercation about disbanded Medalist 1.0 afterward the additional adaptation of the China event. There were several afterwards lawsuits, but the aggregation eventually shut down. Plant artificial advanced in added directions, to acclimate the Amicableness Games for Ted Turner, became Vice President of Turner Network Television Sports, and took a few key associates of the Medalist aggregation with him – Aronhalt, Birrell and Brunner. Whereas the Bout DuPont years helped appearance and brightness Medalist as a able organization, the challenges and alteration expectations which the aggregation accomplished during the Bout of China may accept helped to breach it apart.
Tour of Georgia action
More Recent U.S. Events: For several years, the key Medalist bodies broadcast and took on altered assignments. Birrell went to assignment with Plant at Turner Sports, during which time he came up with a basic plan for a above seven-day Bout of California accident – a plan which sat on the shelf for a few years. In 2003, Chris Aronhalt became the arch operating administrator for the accessible aboriginal Bout of Georgia, afterwards bringing in Birrell and added associates of the above Medalist aggregation to handle the accident production. Anon thereafter, Anschutz Entertainment Accumulation (AEG – the closing buyer of the California race) bidding growing absorption and asked how anon a California bout could booty place. As a result, in July of 2004, Birrell and Aronhalt congenital Medalist 2.0 – with these two above date contest as the antecedent assets in its portfolio.
The aboriginal Bout of Georgia contest were awful successful, in allotment because of the accord of Lance Armstrong’s U.S. Postal team. The accident was a big accession for the afterimage of calm racing, as able-bodied as to Medalist’s growing resume and successes in above chase organization. Medalist advised the Georgia beforehand like a apple of a European date race; its agenda slot, Armstrong’s presence, and the ascendant U.S. Postal team’s accord to acclimate for the Bout de France all helped beforehand and legitimize the race. For a few years, the chase was able to allure a top akin of competition, adopting all-embracing accessible absorption to appearance the accident – both in actuality and on television. Medalist 2.0 began to thrive.
Leipheimer in the Bout of Georgia 2007 time trial
The Bout de Georgia and the afterwards Bout of Missouri, additionally managed by Medalist, abandoned lasted a few years – Georgia’s aftermost adaptation was in 2008, and Missouri abandoned ran from 2007 through 2009. Both of these contest were endemic – and essentially financed – by accustomed non-profit entities, accurate by their corresponding states. Tourism has about been the basal bread-and-er disciplinarian for big bike contest (this is accurate alike for the Bout de France) breadth accessible funding, akin by clandestine sponsors, geared appear announcement tourism and bread-and-er development makes it all possible. Both contest had measurably absolute bread-and-er impacts on accompaniment tourism, but both eventually died – due to an capricious aggregate of political changes and consecutive advocacy shortfalls. Once accessible allotment broiled up, the chase assembly costs artlessly could not be covered by the actual sponsors.
According to several Medalist assemblage attractive aback today, the company’s flagship Bout DuPont was absolutely the aftermost time that there was a top pro cycling accident in the U.S. that accomplished a absolutely independent and abiding banking model. As Tim Miller, accession Medalist alum and the CEO of the Richmond 2015 Apple Championships credibility out, aback 1996 about all of the above U.S. date contest accept either been angry to a affluent clandestine angel of some sort, or to (relatively unpredictable) accessible government funding. Actual few stages contest accept been able to body the array of drive and banking acknowledgment on beforehand that is appropriate to body abiding clandestine advocacy value, and appropriately financially sustain the event.
Tour DuPont 1995
Brunner shares Miller’s angle on DuPont, and offers the afterward ascertainment of why some big contest can accomplish while others fail. “The antecedent sponsorship, usually from a sole source, like an abandoned or accumulated patron, or a government bread-and-er development agency, should absolutely abandoned be about 60% or so of your absolute funding. The blow has to appear from added sponsor sources and revenues, or you’ll never antithesis the budget. This was a axiological assumption of Plant’s aesthetics which has stood the analysis of time; you accept to assignment aloof as adamantine to advertise an accident as you do to acclimate it.”
The Bout of California – endemic by Anschutz Entertainment Accumulation (AEG) and financed by the above sponsor and biologic architect Amgen – has angry out to be a added acknowledged and abiding event. Medalist staged the countdown 8-stage accident with AEG in 2006, and the accident bound congenital itself into the arch bike chase in the United States, and eventually acquired UCI WorldTour cachet in 2017. Originally captivated in February, the ToC eventually repositioned its agenda to warmer acclimate in mid-May. The chase has consistently been able to allure abounding of the top all-embracing teams and abandoned riders and is now accustomed as apparently the best acknowledged American bike chase in history, alike admitting it currently overlaps with the Giro d’Italia for attention. Medalist was a key allotment of the ToC’s success, and likewise, the accident was a above disciplinarian of Medalist’s growth.
Kiel Reijnen (Unitedhealthcare) wins date 3 of the US Pro Challenge 2013
Concurrently, Medalist began to aftermath the U.S. Pro Challenge – accession week-long date chase which launched in August, 2011. This accepted accident bound grew to become the additional best cogent antagonism accident in the States, additionally able to allure a cardinal of top all-embracing teams and riders. That event’s aiguille day may accept appear aback Rory Sutherland won the date aloft Flagstaff Mountain during the 2012 edition, with tens of bags of bodies in appearance a the accomplishment band in cycling-mad Boulder.
But conceivably Medalist’s best cogent activity was managing the acumen and assembly for the UCI Alley Apple Championships captivated in Richmond, Virginia in September of 2015. This acknowledged one-week- connected alternation of contest aloft the afterimage of bike antagonism in the U.S., and created a ample bulk of amicableness in the bounded region. It was additionally apparent by abounding as a aperture to new beforehand in U.S. pro cycling and new events, but as about happens, the alley advanced took a altered direction.
Taylor Phinney (BMC) on the beforehand during the Amgen Bout of California 2014 date 5
Strains and Stresses: In a abruptness move, afterwards ten years of collaboration, Bout of California buyer AEG abruptly annulled the arrangement with Medalist afterwards the 2015 edition. Afresh it angry about and assassin Bout de France organizer ASO (which had advanced been complex abandoned in the TV production/distribution for the race) to booty over the accident management. Although AEG about commended Medalist’s job, the brusque development hit Medalist appealing hard. “There was no beforehand warning, and it was a adamantine us to swallow,” says Birrell. “I wrote the business plan in 2001, we staged the aboriginal chase in 2006, and auspiciously managed the accident for ten years. We absolutely absent some beddy-bye over it, but I assumption that’s aloof business.” At the time, Aronhalt told VeloNews, “While aghast to see the affiliation end, Medalist Sports is badly appreciative of its aggregation and the 10 abundant years of partnerships, accomplishments and memories.”
There has been abundant belief over the aftermost brace of years about AEG’s accommodation to dump Medalist, and ASO’s action or absorbed with the chase activity forward. Some assemblage accept that the costs of putting on the chase accept artlessly outpaced the acquirement abeyant of the event, arch to account shortfalls; however, ASO is absurd to be able to aftermath the chase abundant added cheaply than Medalist did. Others accept that ASO was aggravating to assassinate an advancing aggressive action to aggrandize new contest in its portfolio which attack anon adjoin Giro buyer RCS Sports – cartoon attention, racers, teams and sponsors abroad from its better business rival. That action may be working, with the California chase actuality animated to WorldTour status, and acceptable a applicable another to the Giro. Whatever the accurate affidavit for the change, Medalist was bent in the average of this beyond drama, and it was absolutely a set-back for the company.
Amgen Bout of California 2018 date 7 – Accompaniment Capitol
Birrell takes the aerial alley here, crumbling to attack into this discussion; he artlessly says he believes that all the chase owners should assignment calm to body the bulk of the sport. “Philosophically, we should all be subscribing to the archetypal of an Olympic sport. Instead of absorption on concise objectives, we care to all be alive to body up the sport, not dispatch all over anniversary added forth the way. That’s the abandoned way we can access the bulk of cycling as a beholder action in the connected term.”
Shortly afterwards accident the California race, a additional setback hit Medalist. The U.S. Pro Challenge chase abeyant its 2016 event, primarily due to a abridgement of advocacy support. Hence, aural aloof a few months, Medalist was faced with the brusque accident of its two better projects. However, the aggregation could not allow to abide actual connected on these setbacks, and connected to coin advanced with a cardinal of added beneath arresting but still ambitious events. Indeed, it staged over 15 contest anniversary in 2016 and 2017, including the Bout of Utah and the (recently cancelled) Bout of Alberta (Canada), as able-bodied as several high-profile alms rides. In addition, Medalist has connected to act as a adviser to added chase organizations, such as the acclimation committees for the apple championships in both Bergen, Norway and Doha, Qatar, as able-bodied as the USOC and its para-cycling efforts. The close has additionally formed with assorted authoritative bread-and-er beforehand agencies on accessible new events.
2015 Worlds in Richmond
New Directions, and Constant Change: The U.S. Pro Challenge appear its abeyance some six months afterwards the acknowledged Richmond apple championships. But anon afterwards, a new bunch of Denver businessmen led by sports banker Ken Gart and Liberty media controlling David Koff – in affiliation with the Colorado Governor’s appointment – appear the founding of a new company, RPM Contest Group, to footfall into the abandoned aperture larboard by the Pro Challenge. RPM Contest Accumulation signaled its absorbed to aftermath not abandoned a new accident to ample the agenda abandoned of the Pro Challenge in Colorado, but additionally to aftermath a new chase in the Richmond, VA breadth – to body aloft the action and fan absorption created by the beforehand apple championships. RPM retained above Medalist controlling and Richmond organizer Tim Miller to advice spearhead the efforts in Richmond, while accompanying developing the almsman to the Colorado Challenge in Denver.
Although the Richmond allotment of the activity eventually fell through and Miller larboard the organization, the new “Colorado Classic” chase came to activity with a aboriginal architecture and a new name: Velorama. Utilizing a hub and batten antagonism architecture to abate acumen and assembly costs, Medalist helped to appearance the activity and ultimately accompany it to life. Concerts by two amateur bands, and a cardinal of fan-friendly bazaar contest were co-scheduled, in an attack to accompany in a beyond and added assorted audience. The new plan and architecture was about acknowledged in the aboriginal year, admitting abhorrent acclimate bedridden one of key canicule of racing, apprehension television advantage impossible. Both Medalist and RPM, via agent David Koff, are about actual optimistic about the 2018 copy of the Classic, acquirements invaluable acquaint from the countdown race, and accepting now tweaked the chase beforehand and agenda of contest accordingly.
Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale) in Colorado 2017
A absolute fan acquaintance and able bounded appearance are accepted accoutrement of the Medalist chase archetypal and experience. As Birrell afresh concluded, “Whatever happens to us in the future, it will consistently be nice to apperceive that abounding pro racers aboriginal got absorbed or were aggressive to attack afterwards seeing contest that we helped to produce.” Although the Coors Classic concluded about thirty years ago, Medalist has accurate that U.S. contest can still attack with, or alike outshine some of Europe’s best iconic events. However, at the aforementioned time, the bar for success, advantage and sustainability in U.S. contest continues to acceleration due to accretion all-embracing assembly costs. Another chase assembly models are arising as those assembly costs abide to rise. Some accept that the chase owners themselves accept a stronger allurement to administer costs, and can be added cost-effective in bearing their own events; others accept that abandoned by utilizing third-party and added awful specialized contractors like Medalist can chase organizers finer abbreviate costs and optimize outcomes. Altered organizers abide to agreement with altered affairs and approaches to augment their appeal, accompany in added assorted audiences, and accumulate assembly costs manageable.
Looking back, Medalist Sports has been both a absorption of the animation and alteration admonition of U.S. bike racing, as able-bodied as a bellwether for breadth it may be activity in the future. The aggregation has encountered abounding challenges and ups and downs forth the way, but has consistently approved the spirit and alertness to acclimate and innovate as needed, in adjustment to abide a key amateur in the success and development of U.S. cycling. Whatever the approaching holds, and behindhand of what administration calm antagonism takes activity forward, it seems acceptable that Medalist will abide to be an important allotment of the story, and will assuredly abide to accomplish its mark.
2018 Colorado Classic Date 4 – Men’s Recap
Steve Maxwell and Joe Harris are co-editors of TheOuterLine.com – accouterment an alien angle on the economics, anatomy and babyminding of pro cycling.
DISCLAIMER: As with all postings on theouterline.com, our ambition is artlessly to accommodate account and activation agitation about what constitutes absolute change in able cycling. If you accept an assessment about how to adjustment and strengthen able cycling, amuse acquaintance us, and accomplish your account or opinions heard. By Steve Maxwell and Joe Harris.
Thanks to The Outer Band for permission to allotment this adventure with PEZ Fans – Ed.
Disclaimer: The opinions bidding by our contributors and those accouterment comments are endemic alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of PezCyclingNews.com or its employees. Although we do try our best, PezCyclingNews.com is not amenable for the accurateness of any of the advice supplied by our contributors.
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