The three IBDs along for the ride were Ian Whittingham (Sigma Sport, London), Dave Hinde (Dave Hinde Racing, Northwich) and Gregor Russell (Velo Ecosse, Edinburgh). They watched Friday’s stage, which finished in Piermonte.
The group spent a morning in the race village, supping espressos and mixing with the riders, including the in-form Lion King himself.
“I don’t want to be photographed with men,” joked Cipolini. “Only women.”
Fixing the meeting with Cipo was the work of Pancrazio Centola, ex of Gruppo now with Boeris, his own frame, bar, stem and wheel company.
According to Whittingham, Centola is the ‘godfather of Italian cycling’.
“He rang Cipolini, got his answerphone and Cipolini rang him back, that’s how important he is!” said Whittingham.
On the race itself, Fenton and his guests hitched rides in Shimano service cars to watch the riders at close quarters.
But it wasn’t all race-watching. There was some serious business to be done too.
”The trip was arranged to show off the Boeris frame building facility and programme," said Fenton.
"Our programme is not so easy to explain when you are visiting clients. It’s a lot easier to take them to Italy for a couple of days and actually let them see first hand what we do, from tube ordering through to the finished goods. We hope to produce around 4000 frames in the next 12 months and most of these are to customer-specific requirements and designs.”
Whittingham said such ‘jollies’ are now becoming more common again and it’s a good way of doing business:
“It’s a fantastic way of getting to know suppliers, and competitors even. I wouldn’t feel obliged to buy from Steve Fenton but if I was weighing up the pros and cons of two similar suppliers, such a jolly would definitely swing the decision. Steve went out of his way to make us feel special and that’s got to go in his favour when buying decisions are being made.
“We all had a really good time. As well as meeting suppliers, it’s good to really talk to competing businesses. I had only ever briefly talked to Dave Hinde so it was good to be with him for some time. We’re all trying to make a living in the same business and it’s instructive to talk about the way we run our respective businesses.”
Enthusiasm and dedication have got to be two words to describe how Whittingham co-runs Sigma Sport Pro Cycle Shop: he got back from Turin (via Ryanair, natch) at 3am yesterday morning and was out on his shop’s weekly Sunday ride at 9.30am…
Love the shirt, Gregor, very appropriate! (And spot the Pantani lookalike!)
Below: L to R Gregor Russell, Dave Hinde and Ian Whittingham. Oh, and some Italian cyclist or other.
Base: Steve Fenton with El Diablo