Follow the Leaders
Well done, Richmond! All the world was watching us during the 2015 UCI Road World Championships, and you represented the region well. It takes a tremendous amount of planning, coordination, sweat and tears to pull off an event estimated to bring in half a million spectators on site and approximately 300 million pairs of eyes via television. But in many ways, for GroundForce IT, the “Official Technology Partner of the UCI Road World Cycling Championships,” the pressure was just part of another day at the office.
REALLY? We were curious. So we caught up with CEO Ethan Seltzer during and after the event to hear his perspective as a sponsor, IT support specialist and cycling fanatic. We wondered, did he have any reservations about putting his business out there in such a big way? Did he have any “OMG” kind of moments? Any regrets? Here’s what he had to say.
Q: Describe the type of work you did for the 2015 UCI Road World Championships.
A: Our job at the race was similar to the type of work we do every day – setting up firewalls, phone systems and wireless networks. In this case, our work supported the broadcasters, commentators and VIPs in the UCI tent. We were on site from September 20 through September 27 to provide IT assistance. We spent approximately 120 man-hours on the project.
Q: As a sponsor of the event, your logo was prominently on display to essentially the world. Did you ever think, “Do we really want to put ourselves out there for such a high-profile opportunity?”
A: Because I’m a cycling fanatic myself, GroundForce IT has been active in sponsoring and physically supporting active events for almost eight years. This, of course, was at a whole different level – think sponsoring a high school match versus an NBA game. Was I a bit nervous? The short answer is “a little bit.” But only after the race started and there was an urgent request to provide additional IT services that were out of the initial scope of the work we were asked to do — which, if there was a glitch, would affect cameras on the course and what the world saw. That was a little intense. No glitches were experienced. In the end, we wanted to bring our “A” game, and we did.
Q: What was one of your favorite or one of the funniest moments you witnessed that the cameras didn’t catch?
A: During the U23 men’s race, several cyclists were using the restroom adjacent to the start/finish line. One cyclist climbed the barricades to get back on his bike with just 30 seconds to go before the race was set to start – to get back to his bike, super-relaxed and cool. Several of us spectating commented on how we’d be a bundle of nerves 30 seconds before a World Championship race!
Q: Did you meet any of the cyclists? Did you have any “OMG” kind of moments?
A: I had the opportunity to meet a few former and current pro cyclists. Bob Roll – “Bobke” – was a very nice guy. He wears EXCEPTIONALLY tight/skinny jeans. Not sure how he fits into them!
Q: If you had the chance to train with a member of the USA Men’s team, who would you choose, and why?
A: That would have to be Ben King. He was born in Richmond, Virginia, and grew up in Charlottesville. He was in the breakaway group of the Men’s Elite race for much of the day on Sunday (September 27) and did both the USA and Virginia proud. I did speak to him very briefly during the week and asked if he’d join the Goochland Mountain Bike Team for a practice. He was exceptionally nice and said if his schedule permitted, he’d be happy to.
Q: Any regrets or “Wish I would’ve…” moments?
A: We are not great promoters of ourselves, so, looking back, we could have done a better job of showcasing our capabilities in the VIP tent and elsewhere. My advice to anyone who’s thinking about becoming involved in an event of this magnitude is to get out of the weeds of the day-to-day and make a solid plan. Think big. Consider hiring a marketing or PR firm to help you if you don’t have the resources in house to “own” the project. Lastly, have a real action plan in place to capitalize on all the various publicity opportunities that happen before, during and after the event.
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