As furious thighs stormed through Northern Ireland to a 5,000-strong audience, a celebration of Italian cycling history made its impact on the UK. From Belfast’s streets to the Lord Mayor’s hair, the tickled-pink city had endless energy for the Giro D’Italia. But has this enthusiasm translated in to British bike business?
“For the first time since 1992” stressed cycling writer Felix Lowe “no Italian won the leader's maglia rosa [the pink jersey] during the 21 days of racing”. Having thrived on Italian culture since its inception, such an outcome of this year’s Giro symbolises the embrace of cycling beyond Italy’s borders. Belfast is one of 11 cities that has played host to the Grande Partenza (Big Start) since 1965, though Felix explains that it was “last year, when Bradley Wiggins attempted to win the Giro” which saw the UK open its arms to the race, broadcasting the race “live on ITV in the UK for the first time” and really making an impact on sales.
There is certainly an attitude that the Giro D’Italia helped to expose trade. As BikeBiz reported, 20,000 attended this year’s Irish Cycling Show, an event exhibiting over 60 bike businesses.
Joining this year’s hysteria was Rob Bodill, founder of Jyrobike, who took his bike prototype along to Belfast this year and is confident of a positive impact on his business. “Jyrobike had the opportunity to present its prototype at the Giro festival in Belfast city and as a consequence gained public exposure and valuable user feedback” he said.
Jyrobike’s chance to take advantage of the Giro’s pedestal equally “created a community atmosphere that built exposure” and allowed the opportunity to meet “potential resellers, suppliers and other business partners” said Rob; “it was an excellent networking and launch pad for our company”. The business even secured a handshake introduction with the city’s Lord Mayor. With the Jyrobike Kickstarter campaign having smashed its $100,000 target in just six days, it seems to have been a strategy that’s paid off.
Such globalisation of the race will surely translate in to bike business and brands also reaching international consumers. Italy is an attractive destination to cyclists for its landscape, and its brands and its something that the villa rental firm I work with, Tuscany Now, sepcialise in promoting and catering for. Italian manufacture Pinarello, for one, is growing “more and more in the UK because they provide Team Sky with their bikes” explains Felix. European competition needn’t be fended off, but a signal of growing interest in cycling; not just for transportation, but as a serious recreational sport.
It is also worth noting that seven of the top ten cyclists in the Giro were younger than 30; “pretty impressive given the age of last year’s Vuelta Espana - 41 year-old Chris Horner”. With an average age of 26 for all stage winners, the swing to the younger rider certainly demonstrates a fresh interest in cycling.
Though Halfords has attributed the ‘Wiggin’s Effect’ as the cause of surging sales and the Tour de France is now splashing canary yellow everywhere, the Giro’s impact is not to be underestimated. “The Giro has played second fiddle to the Tour for quite a while now” said Felix “but for purists, it's the biggest stage race of the season - and there is an increasing global interest now that cycling is becoming ever more popular”.