By Zack Vestal
It has already been reported that the Columbia-High Road team is not using Scott time trial bikes.
Photos and print stories back that up and our visit to the High Road compound the day before the prologue of the Amgen Tour of California yielded no indication that Scott Plasma TT bikes have been widely embraced by the squad.
Our only look at the team’s new time trial rig came by examining a display model at Scott’s tent in the expo. It’s a beautiful ride, but it may take a little tweaking to dial it in for roadies.
The Plasma was first shown in September and then drew attention at the Ironman world championships in Kona, Hawaii. But here in California, most of the riders are on the same Giant-built bikes that the team used last season. A conversation with Adrian Montgomery gave us a chance to check out a Plasma in team colors, and to hear how Scott Bicycles feels about the situation.
Montgomery made it clear from the start that it was not a problem for the Scott brand to have Columbia-High Road riders on the same TT bikes they used last season.
“If they said Giant on them, we’d be bummed,” Montgomery said. “It’s part of taking over a team. Becoming an equipment sponsor for a team is not an overnight thing. It sometimes takes time to get everyone what they need.”
There are actually several factors contributing to the absence of Scott TT bikes in the team truck.
For one, it’s only been six weeks since the ink on the contract dried and riders have had little time to adjust to new road bikes, let alone time trial bikes.
“We gave certain guys that we knew the Plasmas would fit. (Michael) Barry and (Mark) Renshaw have them here, but only Barry rode his,” said Montgomery. “Barry’s tall, he fits on our bike well.”
Fit is indeed an issue, because the Plasma was originally designed with a different clientele in mind.
“Our bike is made for triathlon,” continued Montgomery. “The position is such that you can get off and go run a marathon afterwards. These are very dramatic positions that the guys have worked on for High Road development.”
That brings up the business side of the story. Scott created the Plasma specifically for a certain market segment.
“When you think about it, very few people buy time trial bikes for this type of racing,” Montgomery said. “They buy them for triathlon. That’s where the market is.”
He also pointed out that Scott has made a priority of delivering Plasma bikes to its roster of pro triathletes, as well as to retail stores. The bike is in high demand from retailers, and it’s hitting showroom floors this week. For now, availability to customers is actually taking priority over supply to sponsored athletes.
“That’s putting money back in the till,” said Montgomery, adding that the approach is smart business.
That’s not to say that Scott plans to completely ignore the needs of the High Road team, Montgomery said, “We’re not sitting on our thumbs, we’ve got the pedal to the metal.”
The company has already delivered 200 Addict road frames staff and riders on the men’s and women’s teams. Work is in progress to meet the needs of the team for time trials, either by refining existing product, or possibly by creating some one-off frames for team use.
“The goal is to have everyone on a Plasma, but it’s just going to take some time,” Montgomery explained. “If we can get something done before the Giro, or the Tour, we’re going to do our best to make sure everyone’s fit and happy on Scott bikes, and we’re not going to force them.”
Montgomery said that Scott invested in the High Road sponsorship both because the team represents an ethic that the company admires, and because of the development potential in working with a group of elite road riders.
“We signed this team not only for the statement it makes, and not only for the exposure, but we have a great opportunity to develop product,” he said. “I think together we can make better products and get them what they need.”
For now however, Scott has other customers to consider.
“In triathlon we’ve got a perfectly suitable product,” he pointed out, “So, is the juice worth the squeeze? Right now, in February, no.”