The wild story behind Tour de Trump, the Trump-sponsored bike race that became one of the biggest cycling events in American history
Harry Hamburg / NY Daily News / Getty
- In 1989, President Donald Trump put his name and face on one of America's largest bike races: the Tour de Trump.
- The 11-day bike race, crafted in the image of the Tour de France, was 837 miles long, venturing from Albany to Atlantic City, and had a $250,000 pot of prize money.
- The race finished with a flourish outside Trump Plaza, his now-closed casino.
- According to USA Cycling President Kevin Bouchard-Hall, Tour de Trump - and Tour DuPont, which replaced it - were "wildly successful" and raised the profile of American cycling.
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Before he was president, Donald Trump was the face of one of America's biggest bicycle races.
In 1989, he lent his name to the Tour de Trump, an 11-day bike race crafted in the image of the Tour de France.
The race was 837 miles long, from Albany to Atlantic City, and broken into 10 stages. The massive race was put together with 35,000 traffic cones, 40,000 feet of snow fence, 30,000 feet of rope, and 15,000 plastic ties. There was also a $250,000 pot of prize money for the winners.
When Trump was first approached with the idea, he was skeptical about lending his name to it. But he went for it. He guaranteed $750,000 to fund the Tour de Trump and quickly made a profit. It became one of the many projects he's lent his name to and made money from, even without hands-on involvement.
And in typical Trump fashion, it was controversial. Trump was met with protesters who viewed him as a symbol of greed. His lawyers threatened a different annual bike race because its name, "Rump," was too close to his own. And one of the racing teams was sponsored by a Dutch brothel.
But it also helped the cycling industry. USA Cycling President Kevin Bouchard-Hall told Politico that the race and its successors were "wildly successful endeavors which raised the profile of American cycling internationally and, within the US, raised the profile of the sport of cycling."
Here's what Tour de Trump was like.
This strange tale began in a restaurant in Indianapolis in the summer of 1987, with a young reporter and a basketball announcer and entrepreneur named Billy Packer.
The young reporter was John Tesh, who had just covered the Tour de France.
Packer was hesitant. Cycling was far from his expertise.
Packer originally wanted it to be called Tour de Jersey.
Then came billionaire Donald Trump.
Packer suggested Trump should offer his name to the event.
But within 20 seconds, he had agreed. "It's so wild, it's got to work," he said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Trump's lawyers then sent a "cease and desist letter" to the organizers of a small bike race called "Tour de Rump" in Aspen, Colorado.
The race began to take shape. Officials scoured 25,000 miles of America to plan the route of the 837-mile race.
Along with the big numbers came the big name.
Trump had grand ambitions before the race had even begun.
And he wasn't wrong. The race attracted quality cyclists.
The other 11 teams were amateur. One of the teams was sponsored by a brothel in Amsterdam, called Sauna Diana.
Meanwhile, Trump was learning some deep lessons about sportsmanship.
And it worked out financially, too.
But his name wasn't always a bonus.
New York City Mayor Ed Koch was a notable no-show.
The race began on May 5, 1989.
At the end of the first legs, cyclists were greeted by protesters, not fans.
Stage two began in New York City, where crowds were sparse. Cyclists rode for 123 miles through New Jersey and finished in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
The race's frontrunners soon became clear.
Despite his position, Vanderaerden wasn't allowed to tour Trump's 280-foot yacht, called "Trump Princess.
The rest of the race went through Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, before reaching Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The final leg began and ended at the Trump Plaza Hotel, in Atlantic City.
Unfortunately, Vanderaerden's rest proved futile.
Lauritzen, a 32-year-old from Norway, won the race.
At the end of the race, when the last cyclist crossed the line, race announcer Jeff Roak said "they are dancing in the streets here in Atlantic City."
Still, Trump was enthused about both his name's use and the race's future prospects.
Yet he pulled out in 1990, after just one more race.
The race continued without Trump.
Experts say the race, overall, was a plus for the cycling community.
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