When internet blogger The Fat Cyclist wrote a spoof open letter to Team RadioShack boss Johan Bruyneel asking for a place on the newly-formed US team lead by Lance Armstrong, little did he know what would happen next.
“The riders on the team have all earned their spot. They’ve trained hard, won races, served as good team mates and worked extra hard,” continued Bruyneel. “So your letter is good, but we need that extra effort out of you. And it will take the help of your entire group of friends.”
If the Fat Cyclist – really quite a slim father of four called Elden Nelson from Utah, USA – could raise $10,000 for the LiveStrong foundation and $10,000 for World Bicycle Relief by Friday December 11, then he could join the team for one day’s training at the squad’s first get together on Sunday, December 13, in Tucson, Arizona.
To raise the stakes further, Bruyneel set a second tier of challenge – if the Nelson could raise $50,000 in total for the charities, he would also receive a Trek Madone 6 series bike.
Armstrong himself joined in the light-hearted taunting via his Twitter feed: “Will @fatcyclist take @johanbruyneel up on his offer?? We’re waiting for you in Tucson, fatty.”
“I did not expect Johan Bruyneel – the head honcho of Team RadioShack (the team Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Chris Horner, and Andreas Kloden are all on for 2010) to reply in his own blog the following day,” wrote Nelson.
“And I am more than happy to accept. And with your help I think I can knock this challenge out of the park.”
Rather than cower away, Nelson set about raising the funds – by setting up an ingenious donation-based competition via his blog site, where anyone donating to the cause would be put into a draw to win either a Gary Fisher Superfly mountain bike or the Trek Madone mentioned by Bruyneel, which would now be signed by the whole RadioShack team.
“To tell the truth, I felt a little bit funny about me getting a bike when I’m asking you to donate money,” wrote Nelson. “So I asked Johan’s rep if – assuming we hit that $50,000 mark – I could offer the Madone as a prize to someone who donates.”
“He loved that idea, and took it one step further: ‘If you give the bike to a donor, I’ll get the team to sign that bike.””
By Monday afternoon, over $30,000 had been raised, prompting Bruyneel to comment “I am impressed by the $ u raised. Want to see you get the Trek now.”
Nelson is no stranger to fund-raising, having been involved with raising money for cancer charities, including Armstrong’s LiveStrong foundation, since his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Monday, December 7, 6.30pm: Nelson reaches his total $50,000 target, easily exceeding the $25,000 target set by Bruyneel for each of the LiveStrong and World Bicycle Relief charities with four days to spare.