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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Wednesday, March 25, 2015

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Today's Racing

Today is the third stage of the Spanish stage race, Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. It's highly ranked, being part of the World Tour. Also, The HC-ranked Belgian semi-classic Dwars door Vlaanderen will be run on the 25th. Big stuff today.

2015 Bike Industry Manifesto for Change

Cyclists are profoundly affected by what the cycle industry does and for that reason I have been posting more trade and industry news. The next posting is long, but it gives the reader an idea of where the bike business wants to head.

The bicycle industry met in January of this year to discuss the bicycle business in general. They dealt with questions regarding what must be done to bring about a more sustainable future and also, of course, how to bring about greater properity to those in the bicycle business. A product of an agreement between 200 industry members, the "Manifesto for Change" was the result.

But...the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association warned its members about possible legal ramifications if they endorse the statement, "While we can and will vigorously support many of the efforts highlighted ... we cannot endorse the full document due to its reference to certain business strategies and decisions — on matters such as pricing policies, supply channels, inventories and margins — that are better left to the discretion of independent businesses than to agreements among groups of companies in the industry."

Here is the manifesto in full:

The Bicycle Industry Collaborative Call to Arms

The following 12 tenets represent the most immediate calls to action. These recommendations would ask all parties to set aside their respective agendas to initiate a more cohesive and cooperative course of action for industry growth. The recommendations target strategies to foster new growth and guarantee the long-term health of all parties. These initiatives are in no particular order or priority as presented below.

1. Protect and Fuel the Specialty (IBD) Channel
There is no one single area of obvious collaboration more needed between retail and supply than competing with multi-channel retailing. Customers wish to buy locally, but most are shopping online first. The industry must work together to deliver an exceptional experience from the brand through to the IBD. The long term health of our channel also depends upon a robust and enforced MAP pricing environment. Such a model protects margins on both sides, preserves brand integrity and generates more discretionary dollars to invest in growth.

2. Improve Communication
Transparency between suppliers and retailers has never been more important. Retailers constantly seek more visibility into product transition strategies, they desire more marketing tools that better distinguish their brands’ value stories, and they want to be seen as a more important resource to their wholesale partners on the fast changing retail landscape. Suppliers on the other hand, need more timely sell-through data for demand planning as well as direct feedback on product needs and go-to-market strategies. Robust communication would deliver efficiencies in inventory, healthier margins, and improved products that ultimately enhance the customer experience.

3. Re-engage with Youth
As our core Baby Boomer demographic ages out, we’re not seeing corresponding youth to replace it. A new outlook and rekindled outreach to kids is needed and it will take cooperative efforts between supply, retail and community in order to engage them. Organizations such as National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), Safe Routes to School, Trips for Kids, and the Boy Scouts of America are doing great things but we need additional help and support from local retail and their suppliers. It’s time to reconsider and re-connect with this important audience.

4. Reach Out to New Participants
The age of entitlement retail has passed and engagement is the new way of retail. It means we have to get out of the stores and into the communities and recruit new customers. Women represent just one of our greatest opportunities as an industry. Mountain bike parks, event rides, bicycle tourism, and rideshare programs are all great avenues for finding new cycling enthusiasts. These efforts require investment at the retail level and therefore will require the support of suppliers – in many cases via improved margins or direct local marketing investment.

5. Cycling Safer for Everyone
Continued support for PeopleForBikes will eventually unite millions of individuals, thousands of businesses and hundreds of communities to make cycling safer for everyone. But greater participation from retailers at the state and local level is vital. Retailers are uniquely positioned to present the business of bikes to all levels of government. More suppliers are needed to support the efforts of PeopleForBikes. There can be no more sitting on the sidelines in the hopes things will change.

6. Create National Campaigns
National promotional campaigns could encourage more people to ride more often as a healthy means of recreation and enjoyment. These campaigns could recruit a new group of customers who have never cycled. Using all forms of media to promote a simple message that touts the benefits of cycling could also attract corporate sponsorships and partnerships as well as new ambassadors for the industry.

7. Build Loyalty
Loyalty programs offered at retail and supported by the suppliers can create an impactful way of bringing those customers back into stores for additional information on where to ride, community, new products and much more. Most importantly it lets these new customers know that they have invested in the lifestyle of cycling and not just a bike. We have an opportunity as an industry to help these people stay connected, but it is incumbent upon us to give them reasons to get back out and ride.

8. Change Attitudes
Too often as an industry we fall down and turn away what could be our next best customer. We need to embrace all customers—young and old, novice or racer, man or woman, black or white. That attitude would appeal to millions of new customers who could potentially sustain the industry for years to come. It starts in the trenches with retail staff, but suppliers, product managers and engineers also have a role to play. Products must attract new cyclists at an affordable price without intimidating new riders.

9. Get Mobile
The industry is behind the curve when it comes to connecting with a new era of customers who have gone mobile. Millennials have taken to their phones and tablets as a primary source of information and purchasing technology. Overall, the industry’s mobile resources lack excitement and we are at risk of losing customers to more progressive marketers. Consumers are tech savvy and search for information constantly. Applications that connect on a local level and deliver a quality experience citing important resources could make cycling much more appealing to a broader audience.

10. Maintain and Develop More Trail Access
Access to trails and bike paths is a vital aspect of getting people on bikes but it requires a coordinated effort in order to keep it moving forward. The International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) is fighting the good fight for our industry. But it needs more resources in the form of contributions, visibility, manpower and more increase their clout and to keep access available. Retailers and supplies assume enough is being done but that needs to change. Sustained investment over time will have an immediate and sustainable impact on the industry.

11. Enhance the Customer Experience
Whether it’s lackluster selection, limited inventory, poor customer service, or less than inspiring merchandising, we are turning away current and prospective customers every day. This is an area that is within our control today and it starts with ownership and the creation of a culture that focuses on a quality experience for all customers. It is incumbent upon the retail community to step up their game and to create a unique and special experience for our customers every time someone comes through the doors. Suppliers have the opportunity to play a role in this quest as well, by carefully selecting retail partners that deliver on that enhanced consumer experience.

12. Embrace New Categories and Opportunities
While most stores are unable to serve the needs of every category of cycling, too often minds are reluctant to the prospect of new opportunities. This creates alternative channels or sends customers online to find the products they are want. To build a sustainable future, we need to be open to new ideas, new product categories and reaching new customers.

Conclusions:
What is holding us back from making any number of these tenets a reality? In most cases the limiting factor is ourselves and the numbers of hours in the day. So study this list and choose one initiative to work on this year. Thankfully, many of you have long included some of these suggestions in your business plans. We salute you and encourage you to share your successes with others. For those of you who have held back, now is the time to move. Take ownership of these recommendations and aim for improvement. And for those who think these are all for naught and nothing will change, please reconsider and embrace a new way of thinking. If we hope to effect real change across our industry, everyone needs to participate.

Your endorsement of this document confirms that you support our 12 recommendations and that you want to be a part a new direction. Go to the following link and type in your name and company so we can add you to the list of supporters.
Change starts here.

Still Questions About Euro Pricing after Taipei Show

www.bike-eu.com reported Monday:

After Taipei Cycle 2015 the big question is how much prices for bikes and bike products will increase, or have increased already due to the euro value drop? In an earlier online show report Bike Europe estimated it on average at about 20%. Discussing it with more exhibitors this estimate seems to be too high.

That this trade journal's earlier estimate on price increases is regarded as too high by various industry players is because it is not including raw material prices. When taking them into account, like the price for aluminium which is purchased in US dollars and which is a substantial part of overall prices for bikes and bike components or accessories, then this has an easing effect on retail pricing.

Next to that also the somewhat recovering strength of the euro has to be taken into account. Today the euro rates at US dollar 1.10. Including this as well as raw materials traded in US dollars a more realistic estimate on price increases stands in the ranges of some 10%. Whether the consumer is prepared to accept this price increase is the big issue for the coming months.

Next to prices, e-bikes stood at the centre of attention of the visitors of Taipei Cycle 2015 that closed its doors last Saturday, March 21. In its 28th year, the show attracted over 8,000 international visitors from 107 countries and areas, growing 6% in comparison with 2014. Visitors from China (including Hong Kong), Japan, USA, Korea, Malaysia, Germany, Singapore, Thailand, United Kingdom, and Australia were among the top 10. Visitors from South East Asia have increased to about 12% of the total.

Tinkoff-Saxo on Volta a Catalunya Stage 2

Timkoff-Saxo had this to say about the second stage of the Tour of Catalonia:

Stage 2 of Volta a Catalunya didn’t allow for the favorites to take back the time lost to the dangerous riders of yesterday’s breakaway. However, Tinkoff-Saxo’s team captain Alberto Contador is determined to try and bridge the gap in the GC.

The bad weather in Volta a Catalunya proved too much for the TV signal, but the riders managed to pull through on stage 2, which ended in a bunch sprint with Alejandro Valverde taking the win. Alberto Contador, still suffering from the effects of a cold caught at Tirreno-Adriatico, noted that the weather didn’t make recuperating easier.

“The bad weather that we had today wasn’t ideal to recover from my cold. Anyway, cycling is like this and we must just acclimatize to the conditions. It was a hard and cold stage and I would like to thank my teammates, who supported me a lot during the stage and kept me well placed”, says Alberto Contador immediately after the stage.

The 192km stage 2 from Mataró to Olot was ultimately decided in a bunch sprint, where Movistar emerged victorious in a double win with Valverde and Rojas taking first and second spot on the stage. Tinkoff-Saxo team leader Alberto Contador finished 21st together with the GC favorites in the main bunch.

However, the GC favorites were unable to take back the time gained by Maciej Paterski, Pierre Rolland and Bart De Clercq on stage 1 and the trio continues to have a lead of around 2:40 before the deciding stages. But Alberto Contador notes that there’s nothing else to do than to try and bridge the gap in the mountains.

Maciej Paterski

Stage 1 winner Maciej Paterski remains the GC leader after stage 2

“With the advantage that they have in the GC it will probably be very difficult and hard to fight for the overall win from behind. In any case, Catalunya is my last race before the Giro so I want to test myself before leaving the race. We will try to use any possibility to take time in the GC, maybe tomorrow or maybe to La Molina on stage 4. It is not the best climb but for sure we will try something”, adds Alberto Contador, who was looking for possibilities on the last climb of today’s stage: “In the last kilometers on the stage today we had a small climb of about 1,5 kilometer. I went in the front to look for a possibility but today wasn’t the terrain for doing anything in the final”.

After the stage, Tinkoff-Saxo’s leading sports director at the race, Steven de Jongh added that the day will be remembered for its constant showers.

“Today was wet, wet and wet. It was a fairly uneventful day, since the stage profile wasn’t that hard. A 4-man breakaway formed and took all the bonus seconds along the way until they were caught with around 20k to go after we had pulled together with Sky and Movistar. The guys did their job and protected Alberto and kept him well positioned”, finishes Steven de Jongh, who expects to see more action during the next days of increasingly mountainous racing.

Lotto-Soudal Racing Plans

This came from Lotto Soudal today:

Apart from the Volta a Catalunya, Lotto Soudal will also participate in three Belgian one-day races this week, starting with Dwars door Vlaanderen tomorrow. The 70th edition of this Europe Tour race is just over 200 kilometres long. The start is in Roeselare, the finish in Waregem.

The riders will cross the finish line two times before the actual end of the race. The first time after 45.5 kilometres and then 23.4 kilometres later again. Next the peloton heads towards the hills. There are twelve hills on the route of Dwars door Vlaanderen, starting with the Nieuwe Kwaremont. The duo Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg lies on the course as well, at about thirty kilometres from the end. Nokereberg is the last hill of the day, after that one the riders only have to cover 7.9 kilometres till the finish in Waregem. Belgian champion Jens Debusschere, sixth last year, hopes to sprint for the victory.

Jens Debusschere: “It was my goal to be in top condition from Tirreno-Adriatico on, that this was the case gives confidence for the next races. Last weekend I trained on the route of Dwars door Vlaanderen. It gave me a good feeling. I hope to benefit from my top condition in the next weeks. Last year we sprinted with a group of about fifty for the second place behind Niki Terpstra. I hope this year we can get to the finish with a group of twenty riders and can sprint for the victory in Waregem. How the race will develop partly depends on the weather conditions. If the wind comes from the same direction as when I rode there on Saturday, it will be difficult for an escapee, because he would have headwind in the last thirty kilometres.”

Jens Bebusschere

Jens Debusschere wins stage 2 of this year's Tirreno-Adriatico

Selection Lotto Soudal: Lars Bak, Tiesj Benoot, Vegard Breen, Stig Broeckx, Sean De Bie, Jens Debusschere, Gert Dockx and Pim Ligthart.

Sports directors: Bart Leysen and Frederik Willems.

Cult Energy's Upcoming Racing Schedule

This release from Cult Energy just came in...

This upcoming weekend, Cult Energy Pro Cycling are participating in the French stage race, Criterium International on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. The two day stage race contains three stages. Saturday, the peloton will be taking on the 92.5 kilometer long and flat stage one and in the afternoon awaits an individual time trial covering 7 kilometers. The queen stage Sunday will be the decisive one covering 189.5 kilometers in mountainous terrain and a 14.1 kilometer long uphill finish to Col de l’Ospedale with an average gradient of 6.2 per cent.

Several Tour de France winners have won the race from Cadel Evans and Chris Froome to Bernhard Hinault and Laurent Fignon. Last year's winner of the race, Jean-Christophe Peraud finished second after Vincenzo Nibali in Le Tour 2014.

Cult Energy Pro Cycling’s line-up: Linus Gerdemann, Fabian Wegmann, Rasmus Guldhammer, Michael Carbel, Christian Mager, Karel Hnik, Romain Lemarchand and Joel Zangerle.

Fabian Wegmann

Fabian Wegmann in 2014 when he raced for Garmin

DS, Michael Skelde says: "Criterium International is a prestigious race, rich in tradition. It contains three very different stages. One for the sprinters, one for the time trial specialists and one for the climbers. We enter the race with a mix of all three types. I know that Linus (Gerdemann) is in good shape and I'm looking forward to watching him on Sunday's mountain stage but everyone gets their chance. We're targeting stage wins but we might get a solid overall result if things work out for us on Sunday," says DS, Michael Skelde.

The team will also participate in the 203-kilometer long warm-up race, Classica Corsica Thursday.

Giant-Alpecin's Upcoming Racing Schedule

This was sent by Giant-Alpecin:

CLASSICA CORSICA (1.1)

Team Giant-Alpecin heads to Corsica, the French island that hosts Critérium International, for the first edition of the one-day Classica Corsica. This 203km UCI 1.1 race will feature many of the same roads and climbs used on the second stage of the 2013 Tour de France when Le Tour visited the isle.

The team includes riders looking to gain experience from racing on the offensive here in Corsica, including Chad Haga (USA) who had a strong Tirreno-Adriatico before playing his part in Sunday's Milan-Sanremo victory. Fredrik Ludvigsson (SWE) also returns to racing here after several months of patient recovery from an operation in the winter.

"With the recent number of unfortunate injuries and sick riders we are heading to Corsica with just six riders but we will still be ready to challenge and to make an impression as a team," explained team coach Christian Guiberteau (FRA). "The parcours looks like it will favour a smaller group towards the end but if the race does come back together after the main climbs and Tom [Veelers] is there then we will be sure to go for a result with him. Otherwise we will look to take what opportunities we can."

RACE:Classica Corsica (1.1)
DATE: 26/03/2015
COACH: Christian Guiberteau (FRA)
LINE-UP: Caleb Fairly (USA), Chad Haga (USA), Thierry Hupond (FRA), Cheng Ji (CHN), Fredrik Ludvigsson (SWE), Tom Veelers (NED) 

E3 HARELBEKE (WT)

After his monumental victory at Milan-Sanremo on Sunday, John Degenkolb (GER) will head into Friday's E3 Harelbeke as one of the race favourites, and it's he who will lead the team at this one day WorldTour classic.

The parcours covers 211km and no less than 17 climbs to tackle, including the well known ascents of the Taaienberg, Paterberg, and the Oude Kwaremont. With Zico Waeytens (BEL) in the line-up for E3 the team also has some extra local knowledge that goes a long way in these arduous races.

Waeytens will be joined by the experience of road captains Roy Curvers (NED) and Bert De Backer (BEL) at the race, with more support for Degenkolb coming from Nikias Arndt (GER), who returns from illness that hit him ahead of Milan-Sanremo, Koen de Kort (NED), Ramon Sinkeldam (NED) and Albert Timmer (NED).

"In this race John is our leader and like last year we aim to have riders with him in the final 40km of the race to help ahead of the finale," explained team coach Aike Visbeek (NED). "E3 is one of the hardest Flemmish races considering the course, with a lot of climbs and small roads making it a really hard race.

"With the confidence boost from Milan-Sanremo our focus is on teamwork to support John because that in the end will make the difference. Having Zico there, who lives near Harelbeke, together with Roy and Bert we should have a lot of knowledge of the roads which will be very useful."

RACE: E3 Harelbeke (WT)
DATE: 27/03/2015
COACH: Aike Visbeek (NED)
LINE-UP: Nikias Arndt (GER), Roy Curvers (NED), Bert De Backer (BEL), John Degenkolb (GER), Koen de Kort (NED), Ramon Sinkeldam (NED), Albert Timmer (NED), Zico Waeytens (BEL) 

Nikia Arndt

Giant-Alpecin rider Nikias Arndt riding the 2014 world time-trial championships

CRITÉRIUM INTERNATIONAL (2.HC)

In 2014, Tom Dumoulin (NED) assumed the overall race lead after winning the second stage time trial before conceding it on the final mountain finish on Sunday. Dumoulin isn't lining up for this year's race but it is still a well-rounded team that heads to Corsica for the two-day, three stage race.

As usual the race features a short sprint opportunity on the opening morning followed by a 7km individual time trial in the afternoon. This is then followed by a 189.5km mountain stage on Sunday finishing atop the Col de l'Ospedale.

It is an opportunist line-up for the two-day race that will be looking to infiltrate the escapes and take what chances arise. Tom Veelers (NED) also provides a strong option for the opening day's sprint opportunity, a race for him to take his own chances.

Team Giant-Alpecin coach Christian Guiberteau (FRA) said ahead of the race: "We start Critérium International with the same team as the Corsica Classic and will be looking towards using the collective strength of the team to push for a result.
"I think our best chance of a result will be with Tom in the opening sprint stage. Chad will look towards the time trial but he comes here after a busy opening race period so there's no pressure on him for this. It will also be good for Caleb to test his climbing legs here on the final stage."

RACE: Critérium International (2.HC)
DATE: 28-29/03/2015
COACH: Christian Guiberteau (FRA)
LINE-UP: Caleb Fairly (USA), Chad Haga (USA), Thierry Hupond (FRA), Cheng Ji (CHN), Fredrik Ludvigsson (SWE), Tom Veelers (NED)

GENT-WEVELGEM (WT)

Team Giant-Alpecin returns to Gent-Wevelgem this spring with defending champion John Degenkolb (GER) leading the way. John won the 2014 race with a commanding finishing sprint to take his first classics win, and he and the team will be keen to push for the double in 2015.

The 240km WorldTour classic includes ascents of the Casselberg, the Catsberg, the Baneberg and the Kemmelberg amongst others. Degenkolb will come to the race full of confidence after Milan-Sanremo, as will the riders looking to support him again here, including Roy Curvers (NED), Bert De Backer (BEL), Koen de Kort (NED), Albert Timmer (NED) and Zico Waeytens (BEL) all of whom raced La Primavera on Sunday. Marcel Kittel (GER), previously announced as a rider for the race, will not start on Sunday, as he is still working back to full fitness and towards his next goals.

"After last year with John we know what it takes to win here, and he will be our leader for Sunday," explained team coach Aike Visbeek (NED). "Last year Koen and Ramon played a crucial role in the final of the race and I expect for them to be there again to support John.

"The wind can be a factor in the early part of the race so we will have to be vigilant in the early stages. What's also important for us here though is that we have other fast finishers in this race, so that we have other cards to play alongside John."   

RACE: Gent-Wevelgem (WT)
DATE: 29/03/2015
COACH: Aike Visbeek (NED)
LINE-UP: Nikias Arndt (GER), Roy Curvers (NED), Bert De Backer (BEL), John Degenkolb (GER), Koen de Kort (NED), Ramon Sinkeldam (NED), Albert Timmer (NED), Zico Waeytens (BEL)

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