Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Checking in on the Tour of California

During the second week of February, a delegation of about a dozen people traveled out to California to “observe” our counterparts working the Amgen Tour of California. Seven of us from the Vail Valley Foundation, including myself, our competition and logistics director and a few from our facilities crew descended upon Palo Alto for some delicious seafood and exciting cycling! We were also joined by representatives from the Colorado State Patrol, the CSP Motorcycle Division and the Town of Vail Police Department—such a motley crew.

Since this is the first cycling event I’ve ever been involved with, admittedly I’m GREEN. From a marketing perspective, the Tour of California is huge and honestly, a bit daunting. From billboards to rolling truck banner-ads, the scope of that event (covering the entire state in 7 stages) is just way bigger than anything we’ll ever have here in Vail. That said, there was a lot to be learned and a lot to do. We’re so lucky to have cycle-fever here in Colorado, so I’m sure that once the word is out about the Stage, it will spread like wildfire and the roads will be lined with spectators—let’s hope!

Unlike ski racing, the press center for bike races is roaming. At every finish line, there must be a press conference and press center set up. For stage 1, we were housed on the beautiful campus of Stanford University; Stage 2 was in the city of Santa Rosa at the Hyatt; Stage 3 was at the Convention Center in Sacramento. I stayed for the first Stage and the facilities staff stayed for the first 2 Stages. I was impressed by the small staff from KOM Sports that kept all the press operations running smoothly.

Things I never would have thought about before going to California: Issuing media credentials for camera crews riding motorcycles, the danger of photographers getting run over just after the sprint to the finish line, the webcast airplane needing to re-fuel and not being able to transmit the race signal, having to wait for podium athletes to re-hydrate so they’re able to pee in the anti-doping cup... What a learning curve!

I would say our most notable experiences in California surrounded the Rock Racing cycling team. The team rolls everywhere in black Cadillacs and giant tour buses—all emblazoned with neon-green skulls. They sponsored the podium girls portion of the race and had their stick figure models, all wearing skin tight Rock & Republic jeans (of course) with black stilettos to hand out the awards—I loved it! As a marketing chick, I fully appreciated the buzz they were causing and watched how people gobbled up their notoriety...genius.

We’re currently getting our Stage marketing plan together that includes everything from the grass-roots bike shop angle to placing ads in major glossy publications—again, a lot to do in not much time! Stay tuned for more...

- Shelley Woodworth, Director of Marketing & PR for the Vail Valley Foundation

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