2003 was a year of firsts for PEZ – like getting creds to le Tour and finally conquering Alpe d’Huez.
Three years ago, in February 2002, I was looking for work (as a marketing guy by trade) and plunking away designing a website that I thought would be cool – a place where fans like me could get info on pro cycling beyond race results and dry product reviews… I admit I never had a clear idea that we’d develop the range and depth of quality content that we have, but I did have a desire to build it and see who’d show up.
What the Hell Is PEZCycling?
The name PEZCYCLING came from my nickname – well, one of ‘em anyway – my best friends call me Pez. In highschool, my brother and I had a band called “Pez & the Zombies” – sort of a basement-punk combo – we actually won a battle of the bands in ’79 – but I digress… I wanted a name that would imply that we’re different, and cause people do the double take – “what the hell is PEZCycling?”
The site looked cool – so I thought – even if we had no content. At the time, I was pulling in other site’s headlines from a third party provider as content – I knew it was lame but I had to do something. So I began searching chat rooms for other fans who I thought might want a place to publish their comments. I found Michele Tomasi in Italy and Alastair Hamilton in Spain, and somehow convinced them both to send a few race reports. I had no marketing budget, but thanks to the beauty of the web – readers started finding us.
Our Worst Tour… Ever
Traffic grew steadily but slowly, and I eagerly awaited the start of le Tour when I knew for sure we’d have readers pouring in. To give some perspective – we had about 5000 Unique Readers in May of 2002. But a weird thing happened in July – instead of gaining readers, our traffic actually declined every week of the Tour. This was naturally a kick in nuts, since I had no advertisers, (ie: no income) and was putting more time into the site – and still losing readers during the biggest race of the year…! Ouch indeed.
Lance points out his PEZ Socks at the Tour of Courage last September.
We Deserve A Break Today
I was about to pull the plug on the whole thing and resign myself to some fate bustin’ my hump for someone else, when we got a big break. It was do or die, and the Vuelta was it – I asked Alastair if he could go to a few stages, send back some reports – and if nothing else – pictures of podium girls. I was completely floored when we received our official credentials for the Vuelta, but took this as a sign from the gods.
So Al paid his own way to the race, got connected in the Vuelta press centers started sending back pics of gorgeous Spanish babes. I posted our first daily Distractions, and our traffic basically took off.
As reader John Putnam recently wrote: I have been checking out the Daily Distractions for months now. They always help my days go by a little more easily. By the way, did you know that your website has actual articles too! Pretty good ones at that!
A Tech Editor Is Born
Shortly after that Charles Manantan came on board – initially looking for a place that would publish his letters to the Editor. Other sites and mags thought he was too edgy – but I liked his style – call it like you see it – get your facts straight and give us an opinion. This was the kind of stuff I wanted to read. I didn’t (or don’t) always agree with Charles, but his stuff is intelligent and thought provoking, and who’s to say I’m the only one with an opinion…? Charles offered to cover Interbike’02 for us, and our Tech N Spec editor was born, and now our Tech section is the most read section of the site (okay… 2nd after Daily Distractions).
Gotta Add Some Training Advice
About the same time I was contacted by Dr. Stephen Cheung about providing training and fitness articles. This was something I wanted on the site, and Steve had the creds – a racer, and fan, and a Ph.D. in Kinesiology, teaching at Dalhousie University, and running a lab that tests the effects of thermal stress on human physiology and performance. Steve stepped up and has grown our ToolBox section (along with Bruce Hendler of AthletiCamps and Frank Overton of FasCat Coaching) into one of the best weekly training features around – we have 134 great articles in the database, and it grows every week.
Trek was the first manufacturer to send us a bike for review.
We Have Lift Off
Over the next weeks and months I was approached by some great writers and reporters who expressed a keen desire to get closer to the sport we all love, and today there are over 25 of us stationed all over the world. The coolest part of what we do is that we’re all fans first. I now live a breathe pro racing every day and most nights, and I’m still not (touch wood) bored by this sport and someone please shoot me if I ever become “jaded” – I really do love it – and consider this the most fun and rewarding “job” I‘ve ever had.
We’ve had many rewarding moments in the past three years, and have earned a place on the desktops of readers all over the world, enough credibility to be received by most pros we ask for interviews, and a loyal readership that our advertisers want to connect with. I’m 42 years old, and realized the other day that this is the 2nd longest job I’ve ever had, but the first one where I’m not thinking about what I’ll be doing next…
I’ve met and work with the coolest people, get to see the best races up close, phone up pros for interviews (I chatted with Axel Merckx yesterday as he’s getting over a cold and getting ready for the Ruta del Sol), ride the latest rigs (like the Scott CR-1 pro Centaur that just arrived for test) – yup things are pretty good.
There’s no way I could have done this myself, so my hat goes off to all the Crew at PEZ, and all the sponsors and advertisers, teams and riders – and of course readers – who’ve supported us and continue to make us part of your cycling lives. Thank you all very much.
This will be an awesome year at PEZCycling – we promise to bring you more of the cycling content you won’t find on other sites – and if you see us at a race, please say hello.
Milestones – Some Hilites of PezCycling News
Feb 02 – PezCycling News Launches
July 03 – After slow but steady traffic growth, readership declines during Le Tour, Pez Ready to pull plug.
Aug 02 – Pez Gets Vuelta creds, Al Hamilton spends 2 weeks taking photos of Spanish podium girls – Daily Distractions are born. Traffic takes off.
Sept 02 – Tech N Spec & ToolBox sections are added
Jan 03 – Trek becomes first to send a bike for review, the 5900.
Feb 03 – Phil Liggett grants us interview.
June 03 – First custom Pez Socks arrive from DeFeet.
July 03 – Pez gets TDF Creds – joins press caravan in France.
Jan 04 – Lance Armstrong grants Pez 15 minutes exclusive interview.
April 04 – Pez goes to Spring Classics, rides pave.
July 04 – Readership goes over 140,000 – sets record.
Jan05 – First custom Pez kit arrives from Upland Sports Group and Bergamo Clothing.
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