Ever fancied swimming the entire 36mile length of the Manchester Ship Canal? James Whittaker, the millionaire chairman of Peel Holdings, did exactly that. He has also taken part in four Ironman triathlons and plans to take part in the Kona Ironman in the near future.
Peel Holdings owns Manchester’s EventCity, the second largest event venue outside London. The venue is surrounded by some 6.8million people who are classed as the most affluent outside London, which is good news for the 2015 edition of Bike Expo – the revamped Bike and Tri Show – as EventCity is its new home. The extra space has meant the show can offer a broader range of cycle goods than previously, now encompassing all disciplines of cycling (with an extra day for the trade-only to boot).
Peel Holding’s boss played a significant role in moving the show to EventCity, Whittaker tells BikeBiz.
"We did ask them [to move to EventCity], to be fair. We went to the show last year and we saw it as a big success, but we felt with more room it could grow into something even better and at Event City we felt that was possible."
Teaming up with Bike Expo isn’t just Peel Holdings dabbling in cycling, it is the latest in a line of cycle-related productions from the influential company. Peel owns the nearby £650 million MediaCity – the new northern home of the BBC and many other broadcasters – which now plays host to the Salford triathlon (at Salford quays), which made a comeback in 2013 after a six year absence.
"It’s been a big success and is going really well. We’re a couple of years in and saw 1,000 competitors. We’re now building on that and have just launched a new triathlon event at MediaCity."
Whittaker explains: "JLL Property back a big triathlon at Dorney Lake near Eton. It’s a short triathlon so it’s a long way to come if you’re based in the north, so I said they should launch one here."
So this year the JLL Property Triathlon North will run at MediaCityUK at Salford Quays on Friday July 24th, while the Salford Triathlon will take place days later on Sunday 26th July. Peel also has a kids Aquathon in the works for the Saturday, meaning MediaCity UK will play host to a full weekend’s worth of tri/cycle-related activity.
So with Whittaker and Peel keen to get behind cycling and triathlon, it seemed natural to link up with Manchester’s own cycle show.
"Event City is the second largest event venue in England outside London…there are three huge halls, plenty of parking. There’ll be lots of suppliers…and it will just expand. Triathlon is growing. And having the three expos together – for bikes, triathlon, running and swimming – is a good thing."
Part of the lure of the Bike Expo is that it’s a show accessing different customers from different geography. So how is cycling in Manchester? Could there ever be segregated cycle lanes like those confirmed in London earlier this year?
"I hope so," muses Whittaker, "though I’m not close to those in the politics and highways side. But there is a big drive for cycling. There was the Commonwealth Games 13 years ago, British Cycling is based here and you see the team out on the roads a lot. In fact in Cheshire on a Sunday there are so many bikes out there it’s difficult to drive! It’s a great place for cycling, Manchester is on the flat, but then you’ve got the hills of Cheshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire. It’s growing."
"We’re really excited about Bike Expo. Once people see it in the new venue and get used to it, it will grow and grow."