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Giro director supports Velon group of 11 WorldTour teams

Mauro Vegni says the joint commercial venture can help cycling grow and make it more profitable

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MILAN (VN) — The Giro d’Italia is on board with a new group of top-level cycling teams that was officially unveiled Tuesday morning because it offers a way for cycling to grow.

“If done right,” Giro race director Mauro Vegni told Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport, “it can increase the value and enhance the product we have.”

Tuesday morning, 11 UCI WorldTour teams announced they were the founding board members for UK-based Velon, with Graham Bartlett as the appointed CEO. In a press release, Velon said it has three main goals: to create a more exciting sport, to support the teams’ longevity, and to bring in new technology like the onboard cameras used in the 2014 Tour de France.

The founding members are Belkin, BMC Racing, Garmin-Sharp, Lampre-Merida, Lotto-Belisol, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Orica-GreenEdge, Giant-Shimano, Sky, Tinkoff-Saxo, and Trek Factory Racing. Seven WorldTour teams from 2014 are not part of the group.

The teams helped convince the UCI and race organizers this year to allow onboard cameras in the Tour de Suisse, the Tour de France, and the Vuelta a España via Velon’s InCycle video company.

“You need to bring the fans inside the sport, like they’ve done in Formula One, allowing the viewer to see inside the cars,” Bartlett told VeloNews.

“You need the excitement and education to engage that fan base, to bring these things together. Our intention is to bring those things to race organizers — new products, new ideas, to create new revenue streams. It’s a process. It takes time. We know we’re not going to get rich overnight. This really has to focus on how to change an economic model that’s existed for 100 years.”

Bartlett explained that the teams bring the cyclists and bikes to the races so they are an important partner for the organizers. The biggest organizers include ASO with the Tour de France, RCS Sport with the Giro d’Italia, and Flanders Classics with several one-day races.

“The teams are making a commercial and marketing decision, and that can be useful for our sport because, if it is done with passion and balance, with customized video direction, it will increase the value of sport and enhance the product,” Vegni said.

“By now, the way in which we view the sport is change. People want to see what is behind the scene, they want to get on the team bus of the star cyclists and see the race from the bicycle.

“Velon is starting with the aim of presenting cycling in a different way, putting on the table what the teams have, which is the cyclists.”

ASO is the biggest organizer at the table with its Tour de France and lucrative TV rights. It announced Monday that the 2016 Tour would begin in Manche, Normandy, but has yet to react to the birth of Velon.

Perhaps in a sign of allegiance to ASO, all three French teams on the WorldTour — FDJ.fr, Ag2r-La Mondiale, and Europcar — did not join Velon. The other three non-member WorldTour teams are Astana with Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali, Movistar with Giro winner Nairo Quintana, and Katusha. Cannonade is the last team on the 2014 lineup, but it is merging with Garmin for 2015.

Vegni participated in the recent UCI stakeholder meetings for the 2017 reforms. He told Velonews that his race and the other two grand tours would remain at three weeks long, but said changes are happening. He left open the door for ideas like the ones presented by Velon.

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