Tour Down Under Expo Visitor Numbers Down – According to Exhibitors

Every January since it began in 1999, the Santos Tour Down Under has turned Victoria Square in the heart of Adelaide into a unique Tour Village. Members of the public can watch every stage live on big screen TV’s, enjoy a range of food and drink offerings, visit the mechanic’s pit area after each stage to watch every team’s bikes being serviced and of course, look at and purchase the latest gear from about two dozen different exhibitors.

The expo area offers free entry and free flowing entrances, so no-one is counting the exact number of attendees, but the strong consensus of exhibitors was that expo visitor numbers were down this year.

Although they were in agreement about the numbers, there was no consensus about why this was the case, with about several theories gaining most currency.

Visitors love watching the team bikes being serviced and talking to the team mechanics, most of whom seem to enjoy being on show for the week and are happy to answer a constant stream of questions.

One was the absence of superstar Peter Sagan, who was not in Adelaide this year after staring in recent years.

Another was the dilution of the expo due to an increasing number of pop-up displays around town. There were pop ups at least five locations this year with several having multiple exhibitors. Pop-ups originally resulted from two key policies of TDU organisers. The first was high expo exhibit space prices compared to the cost of renting a vacant nearby building and the second was to give sponsors category exclusivity so that competing products (for example other brands of clothing or helmets) could not exhibit at the expo.

Left: Road cycling legend Phil Anderson had a range of his original jerseys on display at the Rapha pop-up, including an Australian national team jersey (far left) that was still badly torn and stained from what must have been a very heavy race accident.
Top: SRAM, Canyon and Baum all shared space with Rapha at their pop up, which had moved from its previous venue into the huge, historic shell of the Queen’s Theartre, mainland Australia’s oldest live theatre dating back to 1840.

In trying to stem this trend, organisers have relaxed their exclusivity rules. They also lowered their traditionally high prices for exhibit space.

Other exhibitors thought that the attendance downturn was due to the race format itself getting a little too routine and in need of a shake-up. Some are hopeful that this might happen next year when inaugural TDU winner Stuart O’Grady takes over as Race Director. Founding Race Director Mike Turtur is retiring after 22 consecutive years in the role.

But probably the most concerning reason given, from a bicycle industry point of view, was that attendance was down due to an ongoing general weakness in the road cycling market.

The TDU is a tightly road focused event in a market where mountain bikes, ebikes and indoor cycling are currently the strongest growth sectors for most brands.

If this reason is the main cause for lower attendance, that will be a serious concern both for the TDU organisers and the bike industry more broadly, because there are no ‘quick fixes’ to turn this market situation around.

But for those visitors who did attend this year, they enjoyed fantastic unseasonably cooler weather, great racing and great exhibits, both at Victoria Square and the various pop-ups around town.

FE Sports promoted their new Pirelli tyre range with the front half of a grand prix racing car. They were also displaying a cut away model of the Fazua internal ebike system in which the battery, motor and drive gears are all concealed within the bike’s down tube and bottom bracket.
It’s hard to believe that this small, unwelcoming display belonged to 2XU, a company who has spent a fortune building their brand and distribution network over the past 15 years and now boasts global luxury goods company LMVH as its major shareholder. Brand and Events Manager Jordy Wade, who was working on the stand said that 2XU is exiting the cycling market and that this would be their last exhibit. He said they will be focusing upon compression garments going forward but also staying in the triathlon market.
Tattoo artist Giacomo was one of two artists hand painting Cannondale frames which would then be sold for charity after a function during the Tour Down Under.
Shimano had their new GRX gravel bike group set, front and centre of their TDU expo display. GRX was launched last year, but is now becoming more widely available,. used open sided shipping containers to construct a creative showcase for their Focus and Cervélo bike ranges.

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