Donald Trump may have helped boost American interest in cycling
It feels like the entire world has Donald Trump fever. I’m sick of it already.
Serious and considered analysis will occupy the experts over the coming days, weeks, months and beyond. Many trees will die for the PhD theses and any number of popular books that will be written about what just happened in the good old US of A—a sad irony given Trump’s climate change denials.
Look at the recent articles on these pages and you’d be forgiven for thinking The Conversation is a “Trump Studies” think-tank now. And elsewhere, most other mainstream media and other news outlets are poring over the entrails to examine the many and varied ways we have all just been “Trumped.”
For a bit of fun, and some distraction from the slight anxiety I am feeling about the US right now, I decided to look at the Donald Trump thing through the lens of cycling.
But bear with me. Before you start rolling your eyes, it may surprise you to hear that the Trump phenomenon has even seeped into the beautiful world of cycling. Does the reach and impact of this man have no limits?
Way back in 1989 and 1990 there was actually something called the “Tour de Trump”—an East Coast US elite cycling race that some folks, including Trump himself, thought might one day rival the monumental Tour de France. Donald Trump’s money and influence made it all happen.
It caused a bit of a ruckus though. Not everyone was happy that a brash, filthy-rich American was jumping into the time-honored and sophisticated Euro-centric culture of professional cycling. Surely someone like that would tarnish this pure and noble sport?
Of course, history has since shown us that Trump wouldn’t be the only outspoken American to upset world cycling. Indeed, the International Cycling Union (UCI) would probably have already built a wall to keep the Yanks out if the cheats and miscreants from most other countries hadn’t already infiltrated the sport for good.
Some of the world’s biggest cycling news publications have written recently about the Trump-cycling connection. If you’re interested in cycling history (or want to see what Trump looked like with hair) you can see here, here, and here.
The US Tour de Trump is certainly an interesting bit of cycling history. It involved some of the world’s best riders of that era, including the likes of Dutch rider Gert-Jan Theunisse, the Russian Viatcheslav Ekimov, and the first American to win the Tour de France, Greg LeMond.
Along the way, there was even a threat by Trump of legal action against what he (curiously) saw as a rival to his cycling aspirations in the form of the bespoke “Tour de Rump” race being run out of Aspen, Colorado. He’d be a “punchy” angry rider if he ever pinned on a cycling race number, I reckon—as we have seen, the man hates competition.
Anyway, after a large amount of initial enthusiasm around the Trump-sponsored US cycling race, it ran for just two years before the future president-elect walked away. Despite this, some commentators have since lauded Trump for his role (read: money and connections, and the media interest that followed) in helping to elevate American cycling by supporting the race even for a short time.
Whether it was that Trump quickly grew bored with cycling, or got distracted with something else is uncertain. But many around the planet may well now be fantasizing about history repeating itself, and hoping against all hope that Trump gets distracted and walks away from the presidency.
Cycling writers have also written a range of other pieces speculating about the possible future impact of Trump on different areas of cycling. The UK print and online publication Cycling Weekly has told us how the cycling world is reacting to the Trump thing. It’s a fun piece if you care how some of the current pro cyclists are responding on Twitter.
There has even been some analysis made of the possible impact of Trump’s election on bicycle infrastructure schemes in the US, and questions about what his climate change skepticism might mean for cycling enhancement measures.
Others have looked at whether we should be worried that any subsequent Trump-caused trade agreement changes, and movements on the financial markets might impact the bicycle industry. Will the cost of bicycles and other cycling consumables increase?
Cycling enthusiasts might care about such issues, but they look like trivial problems next to some of the other potential “Trump effects” the serious commentators are currently floating in the domains of human rights, world economics, and international relations.
Surprisingly, no one from the world of cycling has yet done an analysis of how many cyclists voted for Trump. You’d have to guess not many since Trump recently made fun of US Secretary of State John Kerry after he was injured in a cycling crash in the French Alps.
Who does that? If you’re against cycling, how on earth can you possibly be a good Leader of the Free World? Trump must be bad, right?
In all seriousness, I don’t know yet if Donald Trump will be a good or bad US president. Past behavior and initial impressions are suggestive, but hardly conclusive.
I do know that I am not alone in hoping this man’s latest “Tour de Trump” will end quickly. And I’m not the only one that wishes Donald’s Trompe le monde was just a bad dream. Greg LeMond must be beside himself.
Happily though, there’s one tangible thing all cyclists around the world have to be thankful for. Trump made an election promise that we can all holler and cheer about.
Amen to that.