Saturday, September 5, 2009

Why is Donald Trump holding a Huffy?

Donald Trump may be a lot of things, but in 1989, he was the champion of US Cycling. In fact, he may have saved cycling in the US by creating the "Tour de Trump" bicycle race. 

After the conclusion of the 1988 Coors Classic, it was clear that Coors would not be returning as the title sponsor. They had decided to sponsor their own professional cycling team instead. This left Race Director Michael Aisner holding an empty bag. He had apparently been playing hardball with Coors, so they took their ball and went home. The prospects of finding another sponsor was next to nil and sadly, the race folded after 10 years. This left a huge void with no other professional stage race in the US.

Along comes Donald Trump and with the help of NBC Sports, Jefferson Pilot Teleproductions and the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino- you have the makings of an over-the-top race. It was! The Tour de Trump  was originally envisioned as a Tour of America. The organizers quickly realized a smaller scale tour of the east coast was a good place to start. The race was filled with a who's who of cycling stars including: Greg LeMond, Davis Phinney and European riders like Eric Vanderaerden. A cold rainy day in Albany, NY brought the start of the race. Thomas Craven of Schwinn/Wheaties won the inaugural Prologue and as the race progressed, we could see the organizers had created a heck of an event. 

Fun things about the race I remember are: racing photographer friend Jim Safford up the stairs to the press room at The Plaza Hotel in our t-shirts and shorts, seeing Donald Trump and wondering what the deal was with that hair?! The final time trial in Atlantic City, NJ finishing on the boardwalk in front of the Trump Casino. Oh yeah, Michael Buffer the "Let's get ready to rumble" guy was the announcer in Atlantic City. My Mom and Dad (who both came from England) would giggle like school kids everytime I said Tour de Trump. You see in England, trump means to fart! 

The Tour de Trump lasted one more year, then it was adopted by the DuPont company after The Donald  hit financial hard times and could no longer afford to sponsor the event. 

Read more about the race here

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