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David Chauner Interview - Part 1by Matt Howey, SpokePost.com Cycling News
[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4]
Editors Note: I had the pleasure recently of speaking with one of the biggest visionaries in American cycling - David Chauner. Of all the people who have helped put cycling on the map in the United States, Mr. Chauner is at the top of the food chain. He was the impetus behind the creation of the original CoreStates Championship in Philadelphia back in the mid-80's and continues to grow the sport from the top with events like the BMC Software New York City Championships. SpokePost.com applauds his efforts. This is part 1 of a multi-part series.
SpokePost.com: I'd like to introduce my guest today - I'm speaking with David Chauner of Threshold Sports, a sports-management and marketing company out of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania region, who has been responsible for great races such as the US Professional Cycling Championships in Philadelphia, the N.Y.C. Cycling Championships, and the BMC Software San Francisco Grand Prix. First, could you give everyone a summary of what Threshold Sports mission is?
David Chauner: Our mission is to grow and develop cycling, and all sports, in the U.S. - focusing primarily on the development of the Pro-end of the sport which we feel is a great opportunity for growth and development as more of a mainstream sport than it's been...
SpokePost.com: Sure...on that note, I personally feel that in order for racing to succeed in the United States that there has to be high-level development from both ends...on the smaller grassroots racing programs, all the way up to the high-profile, high-end professional events like the US Pro Championships and San Francisco - what would your feeling on that be, as far as developing from both ends?
David Chauner: Well, I couldn't agree with you more...I think that just focusing on the top-end without developing the grassroots is not going to ultimately grow the sport - and vice versa. I think the reason why we started focusing on the pro end is that our philosophy is that people get excited about the sport when they see the big marquee events and they see top-level pros competing.
You know there's story after story of young kids that are standing on the sidelines when a professional race comes through, you know Davis Phinney in North Boulder Park for example, just a kid watching the Red Zinger Coors Classic come through which inspired him to become a rider and the rest is history. Will Frischorn, who's now a young pro on the Saturn team, had no idea what cycling was until we came through West Virginia with the K-Mart Classic with Lance Armstrong, he took up the sport and, of course, is one of the top pros in the country. My analogy is that kids don't get inspired to play baseball by walking down the street and seeing a sand-lot game, they get inspired by seeing the World Series on television. I think that they elite side of the sport provides the inspiration that is needed to fuel the grassroots development - there's always going to be grassroots interest in cycling, but the emulation of the top riders and the understanding of what it takes as well as the excitement that is fostered by great professional racing - makes grassroots promotion a lot easier. We've seen for example just in the pro races that we've done just over the last few years, even when we first started the Corestates Championship back in 1985 was basically 7 registered pro riders and one pro team that had just started - and now, thanks in part to the races that we've put on, there's justification for many more pro teams and I think next year there's going to be 12-14 registered pro teams in the United States. That just wouldn't happen if there was only the local, kind of, grassroots cycling - what we provide with the high marquee events, and the proof that cycling draws spectators and draws good television ratings, is really a major part of fueling the sport.
On the other hand, we need to do a better job, and are committed to doing this as our resources grow, in helping the grassroots efforts - helping to develop junior cycling - helping to develop a more professional approach to amateur teams and clubs - that's a big part of our mission going forward. Unfortunately, we're a small company and we need to focus on our core business and make sure that that is working well before we embark on too many things and spread ourselves too thin, but we are definitely involved in helping out at the grassroots level where we've supported Tobbe Stantons Hot Tubes team. We've supported the USA Cycling Development Foundation and want to do more of that. We're entering into a relationship with a really good amateur team down in Maryland - the Snow Valley Team run by Brian Walton and help them try to structure a little bit so that they can bring in some charitable contributions and maybe use that as a model for other clubs and teams around the country to help their potential for racing funding - you know...our ideas go on, and on, and on, and on...it's just a matter of being able to implement them...there's a crying need for a league of junior racing for example...there's a crying need for more consistent promotion of amateur racing...
SpokePost.com: ...hey, on the junior topic...I know when I first started racing back in the late 80s, junior racing was BIG! I mean, at least up here in New York and Pensylvania, I would go to a junior race and the fields would be full. Now days I see junior races and we're lucky if there's 20 guys in it. That seemed to correspond somewhat with the growth of collegiate cycling...do you think that some of the focus of the "getting new people into the sport" end of things has shifted focus at all from junior racing into collegiate cycling? What's your feeling on that?
David Chauner: Well, there's a couple of things. I see this because I've got a 16 year old son who's now racing as a junior and it's really pulled me to kind of see what the current state of junior racing is, and I would agree with you, it needs a lot of work. I think part of what's needed is to just get kids exposed to cycling. There's so many things that kids are exposed to these days and so many different alternative through school, school sports, internet, video games, X-Games, all that kind of stuff, that we need to fight a little bit for market share. We need to show that cycling can be exciting for juniors and not just "gee, someday if I start riding and racing my bike, someday, 20 years from now I can be a pro in Europe..." - we have to bring a little bit more to the grassroots level. One of the things that we're doing this year is that we're committed to doing a junior pro cycling tour series along with our pro races. So in New York, we're going to have a junior Pro Cycling Tour event...
David Chauner: Last year we did an exhibition points race for juniors which was very well received, it wasn't a big 30, 40, 50 mile road race, it was basically a 5-mile points race, but it got the kids in front of the crowd in Philadelphia and showed that there is some junior cycling and we had 20 top juniors that had qualified through some pre-qualifiers to get there. It was pretty inspirational and we're hoping to do more of that. When we launch our regional Pro Cycling Tour, which we hope to do in 2004, we're going to have a junior race, a women's race and an elite race as a package.
SpokePost.com: ...OK...Now what is the regional Pro Cycling Tour all about?
David Chauner: We're about ready to announce, this is gonna be announced pretty soon, we're working on a regional Pro Cycling Tour franchise program where a community can purchase a franchise from the Pro Cycling Tour. It's not on the same level as the New York, Philadelphia, or San Francisco races which of course are run on 1.5 to 2 million-dollar budgets [chuckle]...
SpokePost.com: Yeah... [laughs]
David Chauner: But this is more of a low-six figure budget where we help the community package it for sponsorship so they can go and sell local sponsors. If they raise the franchise fee and the budget guarantee in the first year...we come in and basically put on the show, we'll have a truck that goes around, we'll get all the riders and teams entered...we'll take all of the headaches out of organizing a cycling event for a local franchise holder...and basically bring a show in. That allows the franchise holder to maximize the event for the community. Instead of doing all the organization and that kind of stuff, would be more involved in figuring out how to put more events around it, like concerts and public rides and theaters and receptions and all that kind of stuff.
[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4]
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