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Cycling in Tandem

Competitors on iconic Brompton fold-up bicycles will be a highlight of this summer’s RideLondon. Elisha Chauhan looks at the growth of Europe’s largest cycling event, and what the new addition can do to boost both RideLondon and grassroots participation in cycling.

While the presence of former Tour de France champion Mark Cavendish will capture the chief column inches around this year’s RideLondon, smartly-dressed cyclists on fold-up Brompton bikes will undoubtedly make the best images from the two-day cycling event.

The distinctive Brompton is commonly used by commuters due to the ability to fold it to a third of its original size. It weighs, on average, 11-kilogrammes, and is a popular method of transport for city workers in London and other capital cities across the world.

The Brompton World Championship has been held for 10 years, first hosted in Barcelona. It has been growing in momentum over the years, and 800 participants were invited to compete in last year’s event at the UK’s Goodwood Motor Circuit. This year it will be held at August’s RideLondon, the event founded in 2013 based on the mass participation/professional model of the London Marathon.

RideLondon is a joint partnership between the Mayor of London, Transport for London, London and Partners and Surrey County Council. It is title sponsored by financial services group Prudential, whose deal comes to an end after this year’s event (see Riding Partner below). Its inaugural event boasted 66,000 participants, rising to 81,000 in its second year.

Brompton adds another different flavour to RideLondon. To me it’s pretty much a marriage made in heaven

Just under 100,000 cyclists are due to take part in the RideLondon weekend on August 1-2, which also features the RideLondon-Surrey Classic race, a UCI (International Cycling Union) Europe Tour stop in which Cavendish will compete.

According to RideLondon event director Hugh Brasher, the addition of the Brompton World Championship provides another layer to what his team is trying to market as a “two-day cycling festival”.

“We effectively got a deal together [with Brompton] within four weeks,” he told SportBusiness International. “With the breadth of our event – from Sir Bradley Wiggins to children who are riding on stabilisers – Brompton adds another different flavour to RideLondon. To me it’s pretty much a marriage made in heaven.

“The Brompton World Championship is suitably mad as an event with its Le Mans start [riders running to their bicycles] and you’ve got some absolutely class riders taking part alongside everyday commuters that are inspiring people to take up cycling. How many people we can inspire to take up cycling is a key metric by which we are measured on, and Brompton is part of that inspiration.”

Made in London

This year’s Brompton World Championship is limited to 575 public participants – in addition to the winners of from its 16 national championships – as RideLondon carried out detailed analysis of the speed of riders, the length of the course, the Le Mans start and a health and safety assessment. Registration itself was open to 1,500 entrants, after which a ballot was drawn for successful participants at a cost of £40.00 each.

Brompton’s chief sales and marketing officer Stephen Loftus says conversations with RideLondon were initiated following research of its own into what key messages the manufacturer wants to market to the public. It ended up with slogans ‘Made for Cities’, ‘Made for You’ and ‘Made in London’ – all three of which are coherent with RideLondon.

“Being based in London, it made a lot of sense to bring our World Championship to the city and really give it an incredible backdrop. This is something we have aspired to do for a number of years,” he told SportBusiness International.

“The huge success of RideLondon made it one of the few opportunities we wanted to go after. Brompton is also a great addition from a RideLondon perspective, in terms of what the World Championship is and what it stands for, as well as bringing in an internationally-known company to the event.”

Brand exposure and driving sales are behind Brompton’s decision to partner with RideLondon, however Loftus insists any increase in bike sales would be a by-product of its aim to promote healthier lifestyles and to improve the experience of its existing consumers.

“It isn’t our objective to push sales; we just want to build excitement for Brompton owners who are part of the event,” he adds. “We’re very lucky in having incredibly passionate Brompton owners, not only domestically
but around the world, so there was pressure to put on a World Championship that can reflect that passion.

“For those spectating, it will get more people aware of why Brompton is such a great product and brand. From there, we would hope that more people will buy a Brompton, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to immediately measure sales the day after the event.

“Besides it being lovely to be part of a huge two-day event dedicated to cycling, there’s also a practical point of joining RideLondon in that we don’t have the resources to close down the most iconic roads in London for our World Championship.”

Exposure and Expansion

Loftus says Brompton has ambitious international growth plans, reflected in an ever-increasing number of national championships, with plans to introduce Hong Kong to next year’s calendar.

RideLondon itself is also hoping for further recognition through a possible upgrade of its one-day Classic event from the Europe Tour to the WorldTour. Meanwhile, the two-day festival has caught the eye of other countries looking to replicate the event; having been borne out of the 2012 London Olympic Games, Brazil is especially keen on introducing its own version following the 2016 Games in Rio.

“We want every one of the world’s best cyclists competing in RideLondon, and we want to be a WorldTour event by 2017, so we have some really clear goals we would like to achieve and we’re on the way to achieving them,” says Brasher.

“It’s true there are already other regions around the world who are looking at what we’ve achieved that want to replicate it, but we have certain licensing rights to our name and that’s all I can really say about that at the moment.”

Riding Partner

Financial services group Prudential comes to the end of its three-year title sponsorship of RideLondon after this year’s event. It opted not to renew “having achieved all it can” from the deal, according to RideLondon event director Huge Brasher.

“What we have achieved in three years is immense and we are very confident that a new sponsor will come in to help us expand this event further,” Brasher told SportBusiness International.

“At the moment, we don’t think having sponsors for each race event within RideLondon is the way to go. Even though we’re only looking for a headline sponsor, there are still other presenting partner opportunities, so we believe that the way we have organised sponsorship for 2016 and beyond is the right way.

“We’re not necessarily looking for a title sponsor that operates internationally, but we’re looking for a company that wants to get its name known in the UK and abroad. We also want a company that supports charity and fundraising, as we’re the largest cycling charity event in Europe and we have a target to be the largest in the world by 2017.”

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