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Bicycling Australia Show
Sydney, Australia, October 21-23, 2005
Part 3 - More than just a bike show
Gerard Knapp and John Stevenson take a look at the extra attractions the brought thousands of visitors to the Bicycling Australia Show - some of them from the other side of the world!
It takes more than just a hall full of bikes to get Sydneysiders to travel to the Bicycling Australia Show venue at Olympic Park and fortunately there was plenty more at the show than just the bike displays. Over the three days, extra attractions included the Bicycling Australia Mountain Cross race under lights on Friday light, using a new, permanent purpose-built track; Q&A sessions with top Australian riders; the Olympic Boulevard Criterium races for all classes; and the finale of the Portfolio Partners Sydney Spring Cycle, a 7000-strong mass ride from the city.
As organiser Emma Ringer put it, "The whole weekend was a really great excuse to celebrate cycling at all levels, from the shiny machines on display in the Show, to the efforts of a first time rider crossing under the finish banner of the Portfolio Partners Sydney Spring Cycle."
Meet the racers
Cycling Australia took a stand at the show to promote the competitive side of the sport, and as a regular drawcard, featured leading Australian cyclists in a series of interviews with SBS-TV's Mike Tomalaris.
It was an opportunity for visitors to ask questions, have photos taken and autographs signed. As always the case, the cyclists showed good grace and people skills to make themselves available, especially to the kids.
During one of the Q&A sessions hosted by Mike Tomalaris, former Grand Tour rider, Michael Wilson, told the audience the hardest part of any Grand Tour was the mountain stages, and especially when he had to ride past the spectators, enjoying the spectacle as they grilled their food on barbecues and drinking beer.
He said the smell of all the cooking food made him feel like jumping off his bike and grabbing a slab of bread and a freshly-grilled sausage, not to mention a beer.
Wilson was actually at the BA show to help out Bikestyle Tours - as seen on Cyclingnews.com - which has become one of the world's leading cycling travel companies, featuring guided tours to see the Spring Classics, the Giro, Tour, Vuelta and Worlds.
The big news for Bikestyle is that it is now an authorized booking agent for the L'Etape du Tour, the hugely-popular cyclo-sportif event held each year on an actual stage route of the Tour de France. See Bikestyle's site for more info, and for more reading on this great event, see our features stories 'L'Etape of pain and joy', 'Tall Tales, Taller Mountains, and Statistics' and 'Never say never again'.
One Australian already intimately familiar with the parcours of your L'Etape du Tour stage is Bradley McGee, who's had the dubious pleasure of hitting one at full race speed.
The leading Australian professional cyclist was guest speaker at the Bicycling Australia industry awards night - held during the show - and he delivered a stirring account of cycling, McGee-style. He told the audience there are three types of riding: solo training, coffee-shop/social riding, and racing, where his heart really lies.
A feature of his solo riding in training is where he challenges 'the little voice in your head'. Based in Monaco, a regular four hour plus training loop for McGee culminates by tackling the same climb out the back of Nice, and timing himself every time up the 15km, 10 percent climb. It's his personal time-trial, making every training ride a personal test of inner strength.
Then there's the social 'coffee-shop' rides, that invariably turn feral especially in Sydney, and how he treats perpetual half-wheelers. (Surely, if anyone is silly enough to try that on McGee, they would get what they deserve.)
Then there was the racing, "when you pin on your number and get serious". Racing is what it's all about to McGee, and it was the accounts of winning some famous stages, battling the riders and the doubts, that provided a rare insight into the mind of a pro cyclist.
Since returning to his Sydney home, McGee has also been hosting the occasional corporate team-building day, including taking a group of senior banking executives - and part-time cyclists - on to the boards of Sydney's famous Dunc Grey Velodrome. He said it was the first time on the track for the group, and they all rode fixed-gear track bikes, but there were no falls and by the end of the session, all had progressed from the duckboards and were circling high up in the banking.
On track with Hillbrick
Track cycling is never far from any Australian bike show, especially if it's held in Sydney. One of the 'unsung heroes' of the Australian bike industry is frame-builder, Paul Hillbrick, who builds many track and road frames for cyclists around Australia.
Hillbrick was also displaying his products at the Bicycling Australia show. The western Sydney-based custom frame-builder has been a consistent presence in the Australian bike industry for many years, offering custom frames from steel to aluminium and now carbon fibre.
Active in local racing and team sponsorship, Hillbrick's latest offering is called the 'Mecano', taking its name from the famous childrens' educational product, and also the name of the tubing provided by Columbus. Hillbrick enjoys steady business from the local community and has built frames for many elite-level cyclists. He said offering a full carbon frameset was a natural progression from bonding carbon rear-ends to aluminium bikes, and he's still able to offer a degree of customization with the all-carbon frames.
Hillbrick is also distributing cycling products, such as the Miche range of components from Italy, which includes a wide range of track parts. Hillbrick is also an active in the local racing community, sponsoring a local racing team on the road and track, and he recently worked with a local group to provide a vastly improved profile for the Goulburn to Sydney road race, taken out this year by David McKenzie, ahead of Ben Brooks and Peter Hatton.
He told Cyclingnews that he's quietly confident for his business heading into 2006, and was greatly encouraged by the support and feedback for the revamped 'Goulburn' this year. He said making the elite riders tackle the 'Razorback' climb twice was just what the race needed to break it up.
A sign of the growing importance of the Australian market - which has sold a record number of bikes in the last couple of years - was the presence of a number of significant bike industry figures. We've already mentioned Cervelo's Phile White, who gave us a lengthy run-do0wn of his company's new models, but we also ran into a significant Italian contingent, including Campagnolo's Piero Da Rin, Fausto Pinarello, as well as Bianchi export manager Federica Algeri and Monica Santini, the managing director of the clothing company that bears her family name.
Zipp's president Andy Ording was over to do a little business with his Australian importer and Japanese rider Kouji Yoshi - a regular at the Tasmanian track carnivals over the years - popped up with his new hat of representative for Bridgestone road and track bikes. Also crossing over was BMX legend Jon Byers whose Eastern Bikes is branching out into mountain bikes, largely at the instigation of its Australian importer Dirt Works.
We'll have more in from Campagnolo's Piero Da Rin in a future article, with some hints of where the Vicenza component giant is going over the next couple of years and when we can expect to see Record Electric in the shops.
Monica Santini and Bianchi's Federica Algeri were over to see the company that imports their clothing and bikes into Australia, Bikesportz, headed by managing director David Cramer. Cramer was having a good weekend, with Bianchi taking headline sponsorship of Saturday's Melbourne to Warrnambool, Australia's oldest and longest one-day race, and he and his visitors riding the wave of their involvement this year with ProTour winner Danilo Di Luca, whose Liquigas team is sponsored by Bianchi and Santini.
Santini is also a long-standing supporter of the Australian Institute of Sport and Australian national team. As of next year Santini will also be providing clothing to the Tasmanian Institue of Sport (of which Cyclingnews is also sponsor).
Zipp has had a good year, according to its president Andy Ording. Zipp, like Cervelo, is a technical sponsor of the CSC team and Ording said he was looking forward to 2006, when the team has a very strong line-up for the Classics and Grand Tours.
Bridgestone isn't a new name to bikes - US readers with long memories will recall the Bridgestone road and mountain bikes of the late 80s and early 90s when the company's iconoclastic US marketing director Grant Petersen came up with some extremely well thought-out bikes that are still cult items among those lucky enough to have them.
The Bridgestone name is back - in Australia at least - on bikes that used to be stickered 'Anchor'. Bridgestone's Kouji Yoshi of new Bridgestone importer Japan Outdoor Action admitted that naming a bike after a very heavy lump of metal intended to stop a boat wasn't terrific marketing.
Yoshi has been in Australia for several weeks, looking after three Japanese teams at the Herald-Sun Tour and plans to move here permanently from December. He doesn't think he'll be riding Bridgestone's gorgeous carbon track bike at the Tasmanian Carnivals this year though - not enough time to train in between being a businessman and team manager!
Former vert BMX star Jon Byers is one of the last people you'd expect to be spruiking a line of mountain bikes. His company, Eastern Bikes, makes bombproof BMX bikes for riders whose riding style is termed 'abuse' by most makers of big-wheeled machines. But when Eastern started dabbling with 26in-wheeled jump bikes and considering a suspension frame, its Australian importer Dirt Works had an idea: why not get somone who knew what he was doing take care of the suspension aspects?
The logical choice was Ellsworth, as Dirt Works also handles the Ramona, California suspension specialist in Australia. A licensing deal was brokered and Eastern now has four suspension bikes in its range using Ellsworth's single-pivot design. Byers told Cyclingnews that he was seeing "a lot of transition from BMX" to mountain biking, and that these riders were breaking regular mountain bike frames.
And that, in part, was why Eastern is offering a suspsnsion frame with a chromoly front triangle. "Aluminium is traditional but for some people chromoly is the only way," said Byers.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Gerard Knapp/Cyclingnews.com
Images by Anthony Tan/Cyclingnews.com
Images by Mark Gunter/Bicycling Australia Show
Images by John Stevenson/Cyclingnews.com