Public Relations Opportunity for the Tour of Hope Muted by the Storm

I spent a long time on Sunday morning trying to collect my thoughts on the cancellation of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Tour of Hope Baltimore to Washington DC Fundraising Ride and the Tour of Hope Grand Finale on The Ellipse. In the end, I was frustrated and ended up being late for a college hockey game that I had to officiate.

One good idea I had on Sunday was to compare the coverage that The Washington Post provided last year versus this year. After all, the one of the goals of the entire Tour of Hope program is to raise awareness of the importance of adult participation in cancer drug clinical trials. Awareness can only come from publicity, whether it comes in the form of advertising or media coverage.

Last year Susan Kinzie wrote a great piece called 'Live Strong' Tour Cruises to the Mall:

Early yesterday before the mist had burned off, bicyclists strapped on sleek helmets around their ears, safety-pinned numbers on friends' backs and waited. Then a black SUV rolled into Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda. People ran after it and crowded around cheering, reaching over their heads to snap photos, a bright yellow band on almost every other wrist.

Lance Armstrong had arrived....

People strained to see him, teetering on tiptoes or squeezing through the crowd with pictures for him to sign. A woman with blond curls wiped away tears. A little boy on his dad's shoulders grinned like crazy....

This is the kind of publicity that we need in order to advance our causes.

Compare that to what made it into The Washington Post on Sunday. The biggest article that referred to the The Tour of Hope was Heavy Rain Wallops Area, Prompting Evacuations in Northern Maryland. It said:

The triumphant finale of the Tour of Hope cross-country bicycle ride, lead by seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, was also washed out after rain flooded some of the roads on which the cyclists -- including 1,500 local riders -- were supposed to travel.

The event had been scheduled to culminate in a festival on the Ellipse, which was canceled. But at the last minute, when the rain faded briefly to a drizzle at around 1 p.m. Armstrong thrilled fans by riding down Constitution Avenue with his 25 Tour of Hope teammates to celebrate the end of the nine-day, cross country bike relay that raised more than $1.5 million for cancer research.

That was pretty much it, other than The Associated Press article by Jim Litke, Sportsview: For Armstrong, Good to Be King, which spent more time on Lance's 70 days of retirement than the 10 days of the Tour of Hope.

I think Chris Brewer from The Paceline did the best job of putting in perspective everyone's frustrations at the ride cancellation and the Tour of Hope National Team's exhilaration at finishing their coast-to-coast ride. His article includes some great photos of the flooding at The Ellipse and of the abbreviated post-arrival event that took place inside The J.W. Marriott in Downtown Washington.

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Everyone involved in the Tour of Hope should be proud of raising $1.5 million dollars to help fund cancer research. We should be encouraged by the connections that the National Team made with the public in La Jolla, Austin, Houston, Jackson, Mississippi, Atlanta, and Charlotte. But we have to admit that we all missed an opportunity to connect with people in the Greater Washington area on Sunday.

The folks that live in Washington, Maryland, and Virginia have an enhanced opportunity to influence national public policy. We need their support, which is why the Tour of Hope culminates in a large public event on The National Mall.

I hope that we all have the opportunity to meet at The Ellipse next Fall to have the celebration that we would have had on Sunday.

I'd like to thank my wife, Kathleen, who made a big effort to be there to support me in my second Tour of Hope Fundraising Ride. Thanks to our family for their financial support and in-person support on Saturday. Thanks also to my donors who made my participation in The Tour of Hope possible, and to the friends I've made through the Tour of Hope including:

  • Cecil Ledesma,
  • Carl Albuquerque,
  • Barbara Bodenstein,
  • Andrew Heiman,
  • Bryan Katz

This concludes the main part of Operation Gadget's coverage of the 2005 Bristol-Myers Squibb Tour of Hope. Our complete article archive from the National Team Application Process, the Lawrence-Hopewell Trail Dedication, National Team Rider interviews, my personal training and fundraising efforts, and National Ride coverage can be found at: http://www.operationgadget.com/2005_tour_of_hope/.

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