The Tour de Trump cycling race, which starts today in Wilmington, Del., will cover 1,130 miles over 11 days as it wends its way through six Middle Atlantic and Northeast states. But Washington will be skipped because other cities made race officials a better deal.
"We are taking a business approach," race director Mike Plant said in a telephone interview from Wilmington. "The bottom line is how much it costs to put this race on and what the impact will be nationally and internationally for a community to host a start or finish stage of the race."
Plant said originally a race stage was planned from Arlington to Richmond. Last year, in the Tour de Trump's inaugural run, a 67-mile circuit race was held on a flat out-and-back route in Arlington near Rosslyn. But that stage was in an isolated area and drew few spectators, unlike the Richmond stage, which finished downtown and drew more than 150,000.
"We have a very good relationship with the people of Arlington," Plant said. "But in planning this race, I had to consider a route that is competitive and consider what the rights fees are."
He pointed out that this year's tour will feature 133 top international riders from 25 countries. Riders such as two-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond will compete in 19 teams of seven riders each. Eight teams are major league professional squads: LeMond's Z-Kickers of France, 7-Eleven and Coors Light of the United States, PDM and Panasonic-Sportlife of Holland, Lotto-Superclub of Belgium, Manzana-Postobon of Colombia and Carrera of Italy.
They will go after $250,000 in cash prizes, with $50,000 going to the overall winner and $10,000 to the top team. Another $50,000 in merchandise, including a BMW motorcycle, will be awarded as premiums.
Prerace favorites include Canadian Steve Bauer, 30, of 7-Eleven; the Soviet Union's Viatcheslak Ekimov, 23, of Panasonic, and Mexico's Raul Alcala, 25, of PDM.
More than 800 print, television and radio reporters from 15 nations have registered to cover the tour, said media relations director Steve Brunner. "We are the largest sporting event outside the Goodwill Games this year from the standpoint of international participation," he said.
NBC-TV -- which is part owner of the event with Jefferson Pilot Productions and the Trump Plaza and Casino -- will broadcast six hours of the race. Europeans and South Americans also will get same-day coverage via satellite link for a potential audience of 50 million daily, Brunner said.
"This race costs from $4 million to $4.5 million to produce," Plant said. "This translates to $2 million in cash outlays and another $2 million to $2.5 million in donated goods and services. You can't just have passion for this sport, you have to have a business sense."
To meet costs, Plant said he negotiated with community representatives for a combination of cash and services. A typical local fee is $750,000, he said.
"We are flexible in our negotiations," Plant said. "These negotiations are new to the sport, but this is a business approach . . . . In some communities, no cash is paid but local officials agree to pay expenses."
As negotiations early this year began to firm up for the route, plans for a stage from Arlington to Richmond were dropped.
Of all the cities involved, Richmond became one of the most important. Shortly after last year's inaugural event concluded, Plant moved his race headquarters from Atlantic City to Richmond. "City officials and the business community cut us a good deal," Plant said.
The closest the tour will come to Washington is the 98-mile Friday morning stage from Wilmington to Baltimore, followed by a second stage of 35 miles that afternoon consisting of a circuit race around the Inner Harbor.
After Baltimore, the racers will transfer south by car past Washington to Fredericksburg, where the race will resume with an 85-mile morning stage to Richmond, followed by an afternoon team time trial of 38 miles downtown.
From Richmond, the tour will continue north to Albany, N.Y., then east to finish on Mother's Day in downtown Boston.
In addition to not being able to complete a financial deal in Arlington, Plant said he was confronted with a distance limit that encouraged him to look elsewhere. Despite the size of the purse and concentration of professional teams, the Tour de Trump has amateur sanctioning. International amateur rules limit distances to 200 kilometers (124 miles) a day.
Plant said a course on secondary roads from Arlington to Richmond would exceed the 200-kilometer limit. He said he intends to seek professional sanctioning for next year that would allow him greater freedom in designing the course route, which could include Washington.