This 21-day spectacle of endurance which brings the best of the best in the cycling world together every July also draws a slew of unusual characters. Fans drape themselves in their country’s flag and scream support for their countrymen. Shirtless men with antlers on their heads chase riders up the steepest roads in the Alps and Pyrenees. The devil (a.k.a. Didier ) even shows up and urges the best on with his pitchfork. Thousands of people from all around the world line the roads each and every day so they can get a glimpse of their idols.
Attracted to the throngs of people are well over one hundred advertisers in creatively decorated vehicles driving ahead of the pro peloton. Companies spend hundreds of thousands of Euros for the chance to throw samples of their products to the crowds lining the route each day.
This past summer, an enterprising newcomer to the Tour, CleanBottle, took a novel approach to grabbing air time. Entrepreneur Dave Mayer, working with two others, donned costumes and ran the Alps as Bottle Boy. They were noticed. Over and over Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, world famous Tour commentators, saw the 7’ bottle running and chatted about Mayer’s ingenious invention, a water bottle which unscrews at both ends making it easier to clean. Because of the coverage, people all over the world now recognize Bottle Boy.
Not that he was famous at the time of the race. The mascot got more than his share of weird looks, especially when he was packed up in his black bag. “Everyone who passed by was curious to find out if we were transporting a body,” Mayer reported. Once the suit was out and put on, people understood what was happening and looked at the group less suspiciously.
Prior to the Tour, Bottle Boy got a nice steam cleaning and stayed fresh for all of two days in France before the rain arrived. Mayer said, “Moisture and mascots do not get along particularly well and we had to improvise some trash bag jackets to make it through the rainy first week and a half.” To maintain his youthful glow, Bottle Boy had to have a 15-minute daily sprucing up.
Over the course of the three-week event, Mr. Mayer personally ran a total of about 10 miles in his suit, a real workout at altitude. Staying hydrated was a challenge since drinking inside the Bottle Boy suit was impossible. His and his helpers’ only hope was to drink three liters of water before each run and hope that was enough. Mayer said he drank at least 100 liters of water directly tied to his running during the Tour.
Recently, Mayer appeared on Shark Tank and won a major business victory. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, offered him $60,000 for an 8% stake in the company. Close friend, Bill Walton, helped Mayer’s cause by putting in an appearance.
What are Bottle Boy’s plans or the future? Not everything is clear, but he plans to visit the Tour again in 2012. Watch for him in July. (For a chance to win a Clean Bottle, read my review and enter.)