A new UCI gravel world championship and world series being launched next year are unlikely to have much impact on gravel bike sales in Australia, at least in the short term, according to prominent members of the industry.
The new additions to the UCI calendar were announced as part of a statement from the UCI Management Committee on its meeting held in Belgium in September as part of the 2021 Road World Championships.
From 2022, the UCI will hold – in collaboration with event organiser Golazo – a UCI Gravel World Series enabling athletes to qualify for the UCI Gravel World Championships.
“This discipline combines elements of road and mountain bike and takes place mainly on unsealed roads (gravel, forest tracks, farm roads, cobbles, etc). Races in the UCI World Series will be mass participation events,” the committee report says.
A spokesperson for 99 Bikes, a leading retailer of gravel bikes in Australia, said he wouldn’t expect the introduction of gravel world championships to bring a noticeable increase in sales in this country in the short term.
“But long-term, these kinds of events are of course a positive. It’s a rapidly growing category – albeit off a small base – and one that we’re finding hard to keep in stock,” 99 Bikes Product Team Leader David Miller-Heidke said.
99 Bikes Director Matt Turner said mass participation events of greater than 2000 people brought the greatest boost to sales.
“The shops in the area do 10% better for three weeks or so,” he said.
Similarly, SCV Imports CEO Stuart Voysey said a gravel world championship could bring some newcomers to the sport.
“I think for the likes of the big brands, potentially there will be growth because people will be coming in and saying they want to do that,” he said.
“Because we are in gravel and the whole adventure scene, my hope is the roadies and mountain bikers who like competing in A-grade each week will say ‘sweet, here’s another bike I can buy and race as well’.
“And yes, the increased profile is likely to bring a few more events.”
Driven by Freedom
However, he said the greatest appeal of gravel bikes since their emergence in the 1970s has been the promise of “freedom and getting away from people”.
“It’s been born from more adventurous type riders who are less inclined to get excited about a UCI world championship,” Mr Voysey said.
“I say to guys running gravel events to just keep it as fun as they can because that is what the majority of gravel riders want.”
Last month’s UCI statement also announced a test event for a cyclo-cross team relay, to be held during the 2022 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Arkansas on 29-30 January. The test event will then be evaluated with a view to potentially integrating the team relay into future UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships.
In addition, the UCI is exploring new possibilities for a UCI Snow Bike World Cup and UCI Snow Bike World Championships for the 2022-2023 winter season. An analysis is underway and will be presented to the UCI Management Committee in January 2022.
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