Friday, July 8, 2005

Smith sponsored rider dons first yellow jersey in Tour de France

Zabriskie puts local company on the cycling map


For Greg Rudolph, Smith USA's chief of cycling promotions, this year's Tour de France is off to a satisfying start.

Smith has teamed up with a variety of international sponsors on Team CSC, a major competitor in the Tour de France and other international cycling events such as the Giro d'Italia.

"We are the exclusive eyewear supplier and a team sponsor," Randolph said of Smith relationships to the prestigious road-cycling team.

When a CSC team rider, Dave Zabriskie won the opening 19-mile time trial of the Tour de France with a blistering average time of 54.67 kilometers per hour, it was a thrill for Randolph and the Smith Ketchum headquarters as well.

Not only was the yellow jersey the first for Salt Lake City native Zabriskie, the day marked his first appearance in a Tour de France stage. With Zabriskie as their rider, it was also Smith's first ever attempt for a yellow jersey as a sponsor.

"Companies will go years and never get a leader jersey," said Randolph of Smith's rookie success.

Randolph spearheaded Smith's involvement with Team CSC.

"I started looking at how Smith relates to cycling and saw there was a hole we had to fill and I felt it was a road team," he said of the decision to sponsor Team CSC.

"It was a dream team for a company like us," Randolph said, adding that he based his decision on the international diversity of the team, which boasts 28 riders from seven nations including three Americans.

Of the team's 28 athletes, 25 currently sport Smith optics. The team's marquee rider and captain is Italian rider Ivan Basso who finished third in the 2004 Tour de France.

"Having made this sponsorship happen, we have seen a return in sales," Randolph said. For local mountain bikers concerned that the company is forsaking them for the currently more popular road biking, he assures them that Smith hasn't "abandoned mountain biking, but road is half of the equation that was missing."

Road cycling has experienced huge increases in participation in the past few years, due in large part to the "Lance Affect," Randolph acknowledges.

Still, Smith has made strides to put a local company on the map in an international scope. The Wood River Valley has a disproportionately large interest in the sport and with it has involved itself with one of the most popular sports on the international stage.

"Idaho is a small state, so I'm proud," he said.

After winning the initial stage, Zabriskie took a hard crash this past Tuesday. At the time of the crash, CSC was leading Armstrong's Discovery Channel team by two seconds, which quickly became a two-second deficit.

"The time trial's so hard at the end that everybody's on the edge, at the limit," said Armstrong of Zabriskie's unexpected crash.

According the CSC Team website, Zabriskie has been x-rayed and appears not to have suffered any serious injuries and will continue to race.

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