WisBusiness: Madison Bike Co. Hopes for Boost from Sponsoring Tour Champion

By Brian E. Clark


MADISON – The Saris Cycling Group is hoping for a hefty bump in sales of its indoor cycles and trainers, bike computers and racks, especially abroad, thanks to Sunday’s Tour de France victory by Floyd Landis.

Saris has sponsored Landis since 2004, following his breakout year in international bicycle racing.

Waterloo-based Trek also hitched its star to a major cycling force, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. Landis and the now-retired Armstrong rode together for several years on the U.S. Postal Service team.

“We got behind Floyd to leverage our investment,” said David Cathcart, Saris’ marketing director. Landis has come to Madison for fundraisers, hosted training camps and been the face on Saris’ marketing campaigns, he said.

“Floyd’s victory is huge,” said Cathcart. “It’s wonderful for him and great for us, too.”

The 30-year-old company is owned by Chris and Sara Fortune. Saris had sales of $25 million in 2005. Cathcart declined to say what Saris pays Landis.

“We can’t really quantify what Floyd’s win in the Tour de France, the world’s most prestigious cycling event, will mean for us at this point,” said Cathcart, who returned Monday from Paris.

“But it’s quite significant on a personal and a professional level, as well as what it means for the company’s future,” said Cathcart, who has know Landis for more than seven years.

“This gives us a great amount of credibility and visibility,” he added. “It means a significant boost for our brands around the globe.”

He said visits to the company’s Web site during the past two weeks have soared and exceeded the number of hits to the site in the previous six months.

Cathcart said Landis has long used the company’s CycleOps PowerTap computer, which measures peak power, heart rate, cadence, speed and other detailed variables on a ride. The PowerTap SL sells for $1,299.

He also uses the company’s stationary trainer for indoor riding and the basic consumer bike rack when he takes his 9-year-old daughter out for spin on roads near their home outside San Diego.

Marc Sani, publisher of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, said it is a given that Saris will gain from Landis’ win.

“It sure can’t hurt,” he said. “But it’s way too early to say what it will do for sales. The PowerTap computer is a pretty sophisticated product with a narrow market.

“So it depends on how they market it to consumers,” he said. “It needs a strong retail understanding of it. The situation with Trek and Armstrong was different because the market for Trek bikes was a lot broader.”

Cathcart acknowledged that the PowerTap SL is expensive, but he said its market has expanded from elite racers to cyclists who are passionate about the sport.

“Initially the heart-rate monitor was just for top racers, now just about everyone has them,” he said. “Floyd’s victory should broaden the interest in the power meters. His victory will certainly broaden their visibility.”

Cathcart called Landis victory “dramatic” and said his push on Thursday to Morzine is being called “one of the five greatest rides” in the history of cycling. It was especially compelling because Landis was considered a long shot to win after wilting on Wednesday and losing nearly eight minutes.

“It showed what a fighter Floyd is, coming after having a bad day on the wrong day,” Cathcart said.

Robb Zbierski, fitness manager for Saris, said he has ridden with Landis and considers him a down-to-earth kind of guy.

“After we signed him in the fall of ’04, we had an autograph session at a show and he said he couldn’t understand why someone would want to wait 90 minutes to get his signature,” he said.

“But he stuck around to the end,” he said. “It’s a real honor to be associated with someone like him. We’re all looking forward to where this relationship will take us down the road.”

Jesse Joswick, service manager at Madison’s Budget Bicycle Center, said Saris trainers, racks and other items already sell well at his store.

“They make fine products,” he said. “So this certainly can’t hurt. They are already No. 1 for trainers here. In fact, 14 out of the 15 trainers we sell are made by Saris.”

Joswick said it will be interesting to see how Landis does in next year’s tour.

“He’s going to have hip replacement surgery soon, for one thing,” he said. “That could make him better or knock him out of racing.

“Then you have to remember this year was very odd because the top 10 riders were kicked out in a doping scandal.

“What happens in 2007 is a big question,” he said. “But in terms of exposure and publicity for Saris, Landis’ win is a very big deal.”