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‘The Lance Effect’

Published July 13, 2009

Watching Lance Armstrong vie for an eighth Tour de France title got me to thinking about last year’s Interbike, when Lance made his formal announcement that he was returning to pro cycling.

It got me to thinking about the question I asked exhibitors: Will Lance’s return help a fledgling [road] category with sales? Many said what I was already thinking, “It can’t hurt, right?” But little did they know (or I) that Lance would be in third place, eight seconds behind the lead, poised for yet another title in the most prestigious bike race in the world. Because Lance is Lance he transcends that of just a bike racer. No offense to Levi or Alberto, but I don’t think Ben Stiller showed up to hang with them.

And because Lance is Lance the star, his unlikely run at this title is being followed not just by Versus, but by ESPN and primetime news, not to mention major newspapers (the LA Times just recently had Lance’s racing exploits on the front page—the front page of the main section, not the sports section.)

With all of this said, then: Will Lance’s run in the Tour de France give retailers a boost this summer season? Will Lance sneak into the unconscious of the person watching ESPN for the latest score? Or the person who’s reading about California’s budget deficits? Will these people think about their bikes five seconds longer than they would have without Lance’s sweaty mug flashing across the screen? Will that person dust it off and give it a spin? Drop it off for a tune up? How ‘bout buying a new one?

Perhaps I’m reaching, but I for one haven’t seen this much cycling coverage across a broad spectrum since, well, Lance retired. I would call retailers on this subject, but I think I already know the answer: “It can’t hurt, right?”

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