‘It’ll be better than the Tour de France’: what can we learn from Donald Trump’s ill-fated bike race?

Tour de Trump ran for two editions in 1989 and 1990, and never quite reached its Grand Tour ambitions

When news of Donald Trump’s election a US President was confirmed early on Wednesday, bike racing might not have been the first thing on your mind. However as we’re a cycling website, that’s what we’re going to talk about, with a look back in the archives and the ill-fated Tour de Trump.

Rewind to May 1989, and this magazine’s former editor Robert Garbutt was at the startline of the inaugural Tour de Trump in Albany, experiencing crowds that were compared to those at the Tour de France by the riders.

Of course the man himself was also at hand to start the race, promising big things for his new enterprise, and despite never having actually been to a bike race before, was impressed by the standard of the racing.

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“I had never seen a race in America, this is the first race I have witnessed personally, although I always watch the Tour de France on television,” Trump said. “I am not a cyclist, but I might become one now. I am amazed.

“New York to Los Angeles is the way we see the race going. Every city on the Eastern seaboard wants the race.

“We may start in Washington, come down the East Coast, then go up to Chicago. People who have been loyal to us in the first year will be treated very well.

“In two years we hope to make it even better than the Tour de France. I think we have got a great chance of expanding the race.”

Watch: Donald Trump talks about the 1989 Tour de Trump

And yet two years later, the Tour de Trump was no more. The race itself lived on as the Tour DuPont until 1996 (with none other than Lance Armstrong winning the final two editions), but what limited Trump’s involvement to just two years?

His decision to pull out of the race certainly can’t have been down to boredom at the racing. Reading race reports of the inaugural edition and fireworks aren’t hard to come by.

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The 1989 edition of the race was won by Norway’s Dag-Otto Lauritzen, but not in the usual circumstances. Lauritzen took a comfortable lead after getting into a break on the second stage, and then extended his lead by attacking through the feedzone on stage four, taking a slender advantage into the final 24-mile time trial.

Lauritzen’s main threat came from Eric Vanderaerden, a strong time triallist lurking just 50 seconds in arrears. However, despite riding the course earlier in the day, Vanderaerden followed a motorbike off the wrong turn at a roundabout, handing Lauritzen a comfortable overall win in the process.


Cycling Weekly’s original report from the 1989 Tour de Trump

Perhaps the decision to withdraw sponsorship may also have been around some of the controversy that surrounded the race, although this certainly isn’t something that has deterred the billionaire in recent months.

Mirroring scenes outside many Trump rallies over the last year and a half of the Presidential campaign, anti-Trump protestors set up camp at the Tour de Trump.

“Trump = Anti-Christ” and “Hungry? Eat the Rich” read their signs, but the race paid them scant regard.

The race also almost saw Trump add to his extensive list of lawsuits. After hearing about a small race in Colorado called the Tour de Rump, Trump’s lawyers sent Rump’s organisers a “cease and desist” letter, threatening to sue. The Tour de Rump organisers replied saying that “we are a little, local event. Leave us alone”. And left alone they were.

Instead, the reason for Trump withdrawing his support from the Tour de Trump was, in all likelihood and perhaps not entirely unexpectedly, financial.

Trump’s initial decision to sponsor the race was opportunistic, pouncing on the demise of the Coors Classic to create what would be America’s biggest bike race. No surprise then that there was no sentimentality when he decided to withdraw sponsorship, concentrating his efforts on reversing the fortunes of a number of his casinos which were in severe financial trouble.

26 years on, and what can the world the world learn from this little corner of the history of Donald Trump? Well if you’re not a Trump supporter, and indeed might be scared by some of things that he is promising to deliver, then perhaps you can find hope in that the Tour de Trump didn’t become the Tour de France, and not everything that Donald Trump promises to do necessarily comes true.