Just as yellow jersey fever has hit America in the wake of Lance Armstrong’s seven consecutive Tour de France victories, the bike bug has bitten Hollywood hard as well.
Robin Williams, Woody Harrelson, Bob Gersh, Bob Iger and Will Ferrell are but a few industryites among the growing ranks of Hollywood power pedalers. Like many players from both the talent and business sides of the industry, Columbia Pictures production prexy Matt Tolmach opts out of the latest gym trends in favor of cycling.
His love of the sport has yielded some business dividends as well. Tolmach has aligned with Frank Marshall to bring Armstrong’s story to the bigscreen, but he started riding six years ago, long before the Armstrong deal was even on the horizon.
At 8 a.m. on a Saturday, a few dozen cyclists congregate in Santa Monica and prepare for battle. Clad in the skintight blue and orange lycra of Velo Club LaGrange, Tolmach straddles a high-end Cannondale road racing bike and jokes with his pals. A half-hour later out on Pacific Coast Highway, the veins in Tolmach’s shaved, striated calves pop as he drops the hammer and chases down a string of triathletes up the road with the urgency of PacMan booking toward a power pellet.
“I started shaving my legs six years ago. Finally there’s a beard I can actually maintain,” he says. “One time I went into Starbucks at Cross Creek in Malibu after I’d been riding for four hours. I’m in full kit with lycra with the shaved legs and I run into an agent and his wife and they both looked at me and started laughing.”
Further up the road Tolmach coasts downhill at nearly 40 mph in the bike lane and chats while a Boxster blows by 80 inches away from his shoulder. He doesn’t even notice.
“I work in a business where there’s so much emphasis on politics and power. But do you know what matters on the road? The only thing that matters is whether you can stay on the wheel of some dude you don’t even know who at that moment is the most powerful person in the world to you. It doesn’t matter who he is, it doesn’t matter if he’ll take your phone calls. That’s so powerful. Can you hang or not?”