Whatever your opinion of him, there’s no arguing that over the past decade or so, the Lance Armstrong effect has boosted the profile of cycling globally and brought unprecedented amounts of money into the sport. Just how much is open to debate, but it has been revealed that the Texan’s return to the Tour de France in 2009 was a big factor in Tour de France organisers ASO increasing their turnover by €30 million that year.
According to the financial news provider Bloomberg, 2009 accounts filed by Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) state that the return from retirement of Armstrong, who dominated the race between 1999 and 2005, winning it seven times in a row, helped persuade sponsors including Skoda and Orange to renew their sponsorship agreements – no mean feat, given the previous autumn’s global financial meltdown.
The 2009 race, which saw a bitter rivalry develop between Armstrong, who finished third, and Astana team mate Alberto Contador, who went on to win, increased its global television audience figures by 10%, according to documents filed by the privately owned business at the company registry in Nanterre.
Sales from ASO’s sports events – besides the Tour and other cycle races such as Paris-Roubaix, Patis-Nice and more recent arrivals such as the Tour of Qatar, the company also organises events such as the Paris-Dakar rally and the Paris Marathon – rose 20% to €145.2 million, says Bloomberg, while net income eased 1.2% to €31.8 million.
While Armstrong insisted his decision to come out of retirement wasn't motivated by financial considerations and was designed instead to raise the profile of his Livestrong charity, ASO are happy to reap the rewards.
“The Armstrong-Contador duel was certainly not irrelevant to the success” of the Tour de France, the company acknowledged in its accounts, adding that the race “slightly” exceeded its financial targets.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.