Aussie Bike Industry Flies the Flag at UCI Worlds in Wollongong

Wollongong, NSW

It’s not every year Australia gets to host the UCI Road Cycling World Championships.

In fact, this month was only the second occasion in history, after Geelong was the first the earn the right in 2010.

We don’t do race reporting in The Latz Report, as there are plenty of consumer sites you can visit for that information. But apart from us, no-one in the large media contingent was there to report on how Australia’s bicycle industry got involved.

Wollongong, NSW was announced in 2018 as the venue for the 2022 worlds. At the time it seemed an eternity away but then, with Covid, it was just as well it was not 2020 or 2021 or the event would have been cancelled.

While the term ‘cold shoulder’ might be too strong, neither the local 2022 organising committee or the UCI (International Cyclists’ Union) that runs global cycle sport took any action that we were aware of to embrace or encourage local bike industry participation.

That’s not surprising when you consider the economics of the UCI and the World Championships it owns. For the Union, it boils down to two numbers, media rights and hosting fees.

According to road race website Cycling Tips, the total cost of staging the Worlds was about $20 million. This is mainly NSW State Government money. A significant chunk of this is paid to the UCI for hosting rights. Meanwhile, the UCI makes many millions more selling the broadcasting rights, particularly to European nations where the audience is largest.

Although the UCI controls eight different cycle sport disciplines – including BMX, MTB and track – which until now have all their own separate annual world championships, the road championships are where the money is. In particular, it’s the final race of the series, the professional men’s road race, which has a television audience measured in the hundreds of millions.

Perhaps because of this, next year’s worlds in Glasgow, Scotland will bring all the cycling disciplines together for a combined, Olympics-style single event.

The UCI’s financial statements for 2021 show it made 11,567,000 Swiss Francs (A$17.8 million) from hosting fees and 8,049,000 Swiss Francs (A$12.3 million) from media rights, out of a total income of 61,435,000 Swiss Francs (A$94.6 million).

All of this is to say that neither the UCI nor the NSW government have any motivation to sell local bike industry exhibit booths for a few thousand or even tens of thousands of dollars. It’s just a rounding error for them, so Australian bike wholesalers initially found it very hard to get their calls returned at all. In the end, there were about a dozen persistent companies who had exhibits at the start-finish area and at least five more who did ‘pop-ups’ or other activations around town.

As expected, the week built gradually and the crowds on the final day of the pro men’s road race were possibly the biggest for any cycling event in Australia’s history. That’s a very difficult claim to verify, but having attended the previous worlds in Geelong, the Sydney Olympics and most of the Tour Down Under events since their inception, I’ve certainly never experienced a larger crowd.

Best of all was the party atmosphere. Everyone was there to make the most of the day. Thousands rode bikes to the different vantage points and the extensive bike parking racks at the finish line were full. Everyone was cheered, from the motorcycle police to anyone in costume, with the biggest cheers for dropped riders, especially from the Ukraine, Rwanda and any other ‘underdog’ nation.

Overall, it was an historic event that will hopefully help to boost our bike industry after a pretty tough winter.

Here’s a photo summary…

Bike Hub store
The local Wollongong Bike Hub store set up marquees outside and ran group rides. This one was about to leave for a 100km road loop via Kiama.
Trek Wollongong
As we reported previously, Trek recently purchased the local Simple Cycles store and turned it into a Trek store. They redid its store window to celebrate recent Trek world champions.
Ride Nation
Nick Arne and Jasmine Harrrison were representing Ride Nation at the worlds. This is a branch of AusCycling that encourages school kids and people from all walks of life to try any form of cycling, not just racing. Ride Nation had Alex Meyland working in Wollongong for two years leading up to the worlds, visiting 15,000 school children and running ‘bike immersion days’. Schools cycle skills training is an ongoing part of Ride Nation’s activities for which schools can apply for Sporting Schools Funding. Ride Nation employs coordinators in each state in addition to head office staff.
press conference
This press conference was with Stu Taggart, CEO of the organising committee (in red), along with (left to right) the police local area commander, Transport for NSW representative and the Mayor of Wollongong. A lot of the local media and public concern was about traffic, road closures and logistics.
House front with world flags
Some of the local residents and businesses on the course got into the spirit of the event with decorations like these.
I Ride Wollongong poster
The City of Wollongong commissioned local artist Sam St Jon to create an exhibition which was displayed along the main shopping mall. It consisted of a series of about a dozen pillars like this one, with two faces of each telling the story of people from all walks of life who rode bikes.
Stories of Cycling and Migration poster
Local community groups combined to create #RideThePast, an exhibition about local cyclists, many of whom migrated to Australia.
Large shop windows
Large shop windows in the currently empty former David Jones department store in the centre of Wollongong were covered with cycling images, and the rainbow world champion’s stripes were displayed on many restaurant windows, planter boxes, hotels and other locations.
aquer at Harp Hotel
Ben Moncreiff, recently appointed as Attaquer’s international sales manager, was manning the display of Sydney-based apparel brand Attaquer. It took over part of the Harp Hotel, which overlooked the team pit area and feed zone section of the road course.
Bike Box Display
Guy McCausland and Lisa Howard from Bike Box came up from Melbourne for the entire week of the worlds.
Dare Bikes
Dare Bikes is a new brand to Australia, imported by Brett Dutton of Cycling Connections. The Taiwanese brand was launched overseas in 2013
Drew Johnson from Cuore with display
Drew Johnson from Cuore set up a pop-up shop near the centre of Wollongong, about one kilometre west of the start finish area.
FE Sports display
Paul Feltis (left) and Warwick Hall share NSW sales rep responsibilities for FE Sports. Their display focussed upon the Wahoo indoor trainer range, which is exclusively distibuted in Australia by FE Sports.
Handlebar Tavern
There was a large licenced beer garden area in Lang Park, right next to the finish line. There was no lack of demand from visitors, even at $10 per beer.
Sea Sucker bike rack on car rear window
Sea Sucker bike racks are held onto the car purely via suction pads. These racks are made in Florida and a team of three, including the owner and product designer, came over from the US for the worlds. They were retailing the racks for $670 for a two-bike model and $430 for the single bike option. Each suction pad has an integrated finger-operated vacuum pump which they claim gives a 90kg load capacity, so with four pads on the two-bike model, there is excess capacity built in.
Cycle the Net display
Matthew Whitmore (in black) owns Cycle the Net, which imports Chapter2 Bikes. He also runs corporate indoor trainer events using the FulGaz software, such as the set-up he was running here on behalf of the local Skoda dealer.
Mark Eedl,e with Trek bike
Mark Eedle Trek’s Marketing Manager for Australia New Zealand, with one of the first new Trek Madone models, that were specially airfreighted from the US for the worlds. The pattern on Mark’s t-shirt is actually a route map of the world’s course.
Specialized Display
Tim Webster (left) and Davide Tartaglia from Specialized had several unique bikes in their pop-up display located just next to the 1km to go arch of the circuit. This was Julian Alaphilippe’s 2020 world road championship-winning bike …
Specialized Display
… and this was Jai Hindley’s 2022 Giro d’Italia-winning bike. Jai made history as the first Australian to win the Giro and only the second ever Grand Tour winner. The first was Cadel Evans, who won the Tour de France in 2011.
Transport for NSW kids’ colouring in competition
Transport for NSW ran a kids’ colouring in competition with tables and pencils so kids could enter on the spot.
South 32 display
This was certainly not your typical bike expo display… South 32, which was spun-off from BHP Billiton in 2015, runs two coal mines near Wollongong and has been involved in a long fight with environmentalists in relation to alleged damage its underground coal mines cause to the water catchments that provide Wollongong and Sydney’s drinking water.
Shimano’s shipping container display
Shimano’s shipping container is a regular feature at the Tour Down Under and other major events. It was positioned right on the finish straight, so places on the viewing platform were in hot demand and by invitation only for the main events.
Smart tech tail light Project Flock display
Smart tech tail light Project Flock also had a display, but everyone was busy watching the racing during the final laps of the men’s road race.
MEdia Centre
Usually home of the Illawarra Hawks National Basketball League team and visiting concerts, the Win Entertainment Centre, located right next to the finish line, was turned into a giant media centre for the Worlds.
Lucas Plapp mid race
Australian team member Lucas Plapp being cheered on by a group of friendly dinosaurs.
Mount Pleasant spectators
The Mount Pleasant climb was packed with spectators from bottom to top.
Cycling fan holding sign
This Michael Matthews fan would have been happy with the Aussie’s bronze medal finish.
Giant Wollongong store owners, employees, families and friends
Giant Wollongong store owners, employees, families and friends gathered for a front yard party at the base of the climb. Co-owner Ryan Lennox (standing towards the right end of front row with both arms raised) said the Worlds had been great for business in his store that week, as well as for cycling in general.
Fans were lined up at finish line
Fans were lined up about 10 deep along the finish straight. They cheered everything that moved, especially dropped riders.

Join the Conversation

Did you make the trip to Wollongong? What was your experience like?

1 Comment

  1. Darryl Moliere on 30th September 2022 at 3:18 pm

    You missed out on seeing Cadel Evans’ bike in the Canyon booth from his WC winning year in 2009!

Leave a Comment