Today's column gives me great pleasure and has caused me to reflect for years before I wrote it, as I recognized how rapidly the event I am writing about has grown. It is a story about the development of an outstanding and truly American Sporting Event.
In particular, it is the story of a talented young lady who has been with the Amgen Tour of California since its original race six years ago. Just as the race has become an importance place in the calendar of International Competitive Racing, so has her role grown within the firmament of the organization and is now actually running the event..
13 years ago when my son-in-law Danny Medford was teaching geography to my grand daughter Sarah... during that time while studying about the California Missions, an idea was hatched.
Danny pointed out that the founding Missionaries had placed their Missions up and down the California Coast following the Camino Real, the Royal Road. They were each situated approximately 100 miles apart. At that time, to go from one Mission to the next, took one day's ride by horseback.
The idea was hatched, we would do an event capturing the beauty of the Golden State going from San Diego in the South to San Francisco in the North.. It was here that my long-time friend and partner David Salzman joined us and together we settled on a Bike Race.
For years we worked hard to bring it about and made wonderful progress. We enjoyed all the proper endorsements from all the governing bodies and were ready to go. When fate in a nice way intervened!
While we were plotting our course, another group named California Cyclists , headed up by two young entrepreneurs named Jim Passantino and Tim Walsh, also was trying to do a race up and down the California Coast. At this time, the powerful AEG seeing the potential, decided they had a need to expand their already large entertainment empire in California. At the time, they enjoyed a large footprint with Professional Teams in Basketball, Hockey and Soccer, two Major Arenas and a World-Class Tennis Tournament.
Thus expansion into World Cycling was a natural turn of events. Tim Leiwicke proposed a partnership and all three entities were joined udder the AEG Banner. This immediately brought the power and resources of AEG into play towards making this the Premier Race in America.
As partners, David and myself were tapped for our TV and Entertainment Background while California Cyclists brought their Cycling acumen and contacts as part of the package.
None of this could have happened without the aid and support of a 90 plus year old gentleman named Alex Baum. Alex who had come to me some 40 years earlier when I was at the Los Angeles Forum. He wished to have us do an 8-day-race indoors which at the time were so successful on the European Continent.
Alex, a Holocaust survivor, had been a World Class Cyclist himself in France. Jack Kent Cooke, the owner of the Forum and my boss at the time shot it down without explanation. Something I never understood.
In the intervening years, Alex became known in World Cycling Circles, as Mr. United States Cycling. Nothing, no organizational endorsements, or political acceptance, could be achieved without Alex' nod of approval. He walked into both the Mayor's and Governor's offices with equal ease He always enjoyed a warm reception and would have anxious ears, receptive to whatever he wished, or proposed.
Thus it began! A commitment of countless millions of dollars and manpower. By the 2nd year, it became known worldwide as the closest thing to the Tour-De-France. As such, the ATOC has enticed to "America's Greatest Race", all the world's best teams and riders to come and compete... Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landers, Levi Lepheimer have all worn the mantle of Champion.
More importantly, the average 2,500,000 spectators that have watched the race along the route, have been treated annually to a sports spectacular unlike any other American Event.
The lady, I want to sing the praises of in today's column, is the new Race Director, Kristen Bachochin. New as the Director but she has toiled behind the scenes since its inception for 4 other Directors she has always been the lynch pin, the trouble shooter, the organizer who made everything come out right even under the most trying of times.
Of the four previous Directors only Shawn Hunter, now moved on to other things in the world of Cycling understood the meaning of the word "team. Kristen learned this lesson well.
With the resignation of the last Director and morale at its lowest, facing the daunting task of mounting another annual race, AEG reached out to all our partners, us included, for recommendations as to any ideas for a replacement. They were thinking of going outside the organization once again.
David and I immediately put Kristen's hat in the ring for the job. She had been with AEG for over 8 years. In that time, she was also running AEG's Masters tennis Tournament and other endeavors while coordinating the entire ATOC.
One of the smartest things Shawn did, was delegating most of the organizational work to Kristen. She benefitted from his mentorship and in turn worked with another bright young lady, (I do not think they are 30 years old yet), Kelly Staly. Kelly holds the title of VP, Partnership Activation.
During this time, Kristen got married, had a beautiful daughter named Olivia and commuted every week from her home in Chicago to Los Angeles. Kelly held down the fort in L. A. They are a dynamic tandem.
Last week, Kristen called a Board Meeting of all the partners. She and Kelly showed us all the plans for this coming year. They brought in all the key members of the team... the head of merchandising, the marketing people, the TV people, the design people, the digital tracking people as well as the P.R. staff.
We viewed everything from the start lines to the finish lines. We learned of all the ancillary happenings planned at the start and finish of each leg. There are 8 legs, or stages. The race starts approximately at 11 A.M on May 13th from Santa Rosa with the final leg ending at L.A. Live (Downtown L.A.) around 12 noon on May 20th.
Every step of the way is being and will be choreographed by Kristen and her team.
To quote Kristen when asked how the tough Economic conditions have affected the race, in her own words she has said, " It has been a tough couple of years, no doubt, but the race provides very attractive benefits to the host cities. For this year's race, we had a record number of cities apply to be involved, which is a huge testament to the success of the race itself.
No other event shines an international spotlight on these cities like the Amgen Tour of California. For eight days, people are treated to a postcard of the state. Each year, the ATOC and related activities have had an estimated economic impact of more tan $100 million on the participating host cities throughout the course of the race."
This year, TV Distribution will reach 164 countries and 216 Territories. In addition, for the first time, the ATOC will be live on Canada's Rogers Sportsnet. Ireland's Setanta network will have dedicated coverage and there will be complete news coverage in Belgium on two competing networks.
In the United States, the 2012 ATOC will be aired live on NBC and NBC Sports Network May 13-20... check local newspapers for times.
It can also be watched online with the Radioshack Tour Tracker on amgentourofcalifornia.com. Or there is a free app that you can download for IOS and Android devices!
So that's it! Right after the finish in May, most of the racers will be heading over to London to compete in the Olympics. The United States team should be strong.
In conclusion, while you are enjoying this spectacular multi-million dollar event, it is easy to be awed when you think how capable this youthful team headed by Kristen, supported by Kelly does such a seamless job.
Hell, I have shirts in my closet older than them!