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Big bucks, bikes and lawsuits: Chauner speaks

It’s been a good week so far for Threshold Sports and the Pro Cycling Tour, with the renamed Wachovia Cycling Series kicking into high gear and the announcement of a million-dollar triple crown prize linking together the PCT events in Philadelphia, New York and San Francisco. At the same time, however, Threshold and CEO Dave Chauner have had to deal with details of Gord Fraser’s lawsuit against Threshold, BMC Software and USA Cycling, and the subsequent disinvitation of Fraser’s Health Net team from the Wachovia Series, all going public as the week kicked off. On Wednesday, Chauner spoke

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By Bryan Jew, Assistant Managing Editor

It’s been a good week so far for Threshold Sports and the Pro Cycling Tour, with the renamed Wachovia Cycling Series kicking into high gear and the announcement of a million-dollar triple crown prize linking together the PCT events in Philadelphia, New York and San Francisco.

At the same time, however, Threshold and CEO Dave Chauner have had to deal with details of Gord Fraser’s lawsuit against Threshold, BMC Software and USA Cycling, and the subsequent disinvitation of Fraser’s Health Net team from the Wachovia Series, all going public as the week kicked off. On Wednesday, Chauner spoke briefly with VeloNews about the new triple crown, and about Fraser’s lawsuit.

News of the million-dollar prize to any rider who wins the USPRO Championship, the New York City Cycling Championship and the T-Mobile International in San Francisco first appeared in Tuesday’s USA Today, and that sort of mainstream coverage was just what Threshold Sports was looking for when it came up with the plan.

“We felt that we really wanted to help boost awareness of the Pro Cycling Tour and its growth and excitement and we felt that the way to do that was to offer a triple-crown prize linking the three major events together,” said Chauner. “It worked so well for us in ’93, even though a million dollars isn’t as much these days, it’s still a significant prize and it’s something that’s pretty exciting for the riders, and we’ll get a little more legitimacy and excitement about it from the media, that’s our hope.”

Chauner acknowledged that winning the 156-mile USPRO race, the criterium in New York City and the strongman’s race in San Francisco would be a tall order. “It’s going to be very tough to win, that’s for sure, and I guess that’s part of the reason we’re offering it, is to see if somebody can really, truly be the best all-around.”

Chauner pointed to Saturn’s Charles Dionne and Vini Caldirola’s Fred Rodriguez as the types of riders who would have a shot at the million bucks.

Ironically, it was another big prize payout that’s the focus of the lawsuit by Fraser. In the initial story on VeloNews.com (see “WhyGord Fraser and Health Net won’t be in Philly“), Chauner had no comment on the situation, but was more expansive on Wednesday in Philadelphia.

“Our attorney has told us that we’re not supposed to talk about it, but I will say that we think it’s a frivilous lawsuit, we think we will prevail, there’s a good chance that the whole thing will be thrown out,” said Chauner. “We’ve been getting a lot of criticism about what does this do for sponsors, but nobody’s been thinking about what it’s done for BMC.

“BMC Software, in a magnanimous, spur-of-the-moment, wonderfully sensitive decision after Arlington, when Nicole [Reinhart] died, stood up and said — and it’s their money — we’re going to donate this money to the Reinhart family in memory of Nicole, and everybody, including Gord and the Mercury team and everybody else, said that was a wonderful decision, that’s terrific,” Chauner continued. “Can you imagine how BMC must feel when six months later, a bike rider steps up and says, I have claim to a prize that I didn’t even win, and that I previously thought was a good idea to donate to a good cause?”

Chauner still would not address the reasons or details behind the withdrawal of the invitation to Fraser’s Health Net team to ride at Wachovia week. “That I cannot comment on. I won’t comment on it,” he said. “All I can say is that I think it’s great that Health Net [is] coming into the sport. I think Health Net, in sponsoring athletes, as any sponsor should do, should check out the reputation of the athletes, how they comport themselves. I think that’s a very important thing in cycling that all sponsors have to do.”



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