Geelong World Championships Countdown – Are You Feeling The BUZZ?

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Photo courtesy of Sirotti

Did you realise that the UCI World Championships are just over two weeks away?  It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if many of you had no idea. I’ve barely seen any mainstream media promotion over the past 6 months and I have to say, it just hasn’t grabbed me.

Every year when a major event comes to Australia such as the F1, the Australian Open, the Spring Racing Carnival, or the Tour Down Under we see the build-up with television commercials, news coverage, flags and billboards around the city. This is one of the things I love about living here. I’m not a tennis fan but I always spend $300 on tickets on the Australian Open. I hate F1, but I think it’s awesome when then Australian Grand Prix comes to Melbourne and I always go. It’s an incredible vibe when a world class event comes to town and the whole population goes absolutely nuts over whatever sport they lay their hands on. But the World Championships of cycling? I’ve hardly heard a peep aside from some opt-in newsletters I’ve been receiving and the RIDE Official Guide that I just bought on Saturday (well done RIDE and Matt Keenan who contributed a LOT to this fantastic issue).

It doesn’t help that the AFL Grand Finals are on the weekend before the World Championships begin. It can’t be easy to compete with the non stop AFL hype in the footie mad cities of Geelong and Melbourne. But seriously, this is the biggest cycling event ever to come to Australia. We have an Aussie defending the Rainbow Jersey and we have an incredibly strong team capable of producing another World Champion. The stars couldn’t be more perfectly aligned to get Australia on-board. I think it’s an opportunity for the general public to see cycling as a SPORT rather than just a nuisance on Beach Road.

Quite often one of the main goals of hosting these spectacular events is to bring in tourism from overseas. Perhaps the organising committee feels that the advertising dollars would be wasted if spent here. Maybe in cycling-mad Europe and parts of Asia the Geelong World Champs are being heavily promoted to bring over that crowd. Obviously I don’t know if that message has gotten out there, but intuitively I don’t see many people travelling all the way to Australia for this event. In my opinion, the Tour Down Under is the event you want to come all the way over and see. I can’t say enough about how well the TdU is promoted and run. In fact I’ve already seen more hype on the 2011 TdU than the Geelong Worlds.

I have no doubt that the individuals promoting the World Championships are working their tails off and doing everything they can with the funds available to them. I don’t claim to know what is going on behind the scenes with their strategy and budget. The only thing I know is that I’m not feeling the buzz from the biggest cycling event ever to hit Australia. Shouldn’t I be feeling the buzz?! I can’t even find event information on the Federation Square website (where the race starts) to see what upcoming festivities and celebrations are being held.

I know this little blog can’t do much to raise the level of the general population’s excitement, but over the next two weeks I’m going to do my best to tell you about the best rides around Geelong, the best coffee shops, the local bike shops, the pubs, places to watch the race from, etc. I’m sure many of you will know more than me so feel free to add to the topics when I post.

***On a side note, I was asked to spread the message that the Ride The Worlds event where you can ride for 2hrs on the circuit during the morning of the men’s race has been reduced to $165 (down from $300). All the facilities (showers, bike storage, etc) are provided to make it easy for a memorable day of cycling.

****************UPDATE*******************

I just had an insightful conversation with the Director of Jump Media and Marketing (who are in charge of promoting the UCI World Championships). Interesting to hear about all the forces at play and why this event has been so difficult to promote.

A few notes:
  • When the bid for the event was won it was massively under budgeted. Infrastructure costs have blown out and the advertising budget had to be cut by more than 50%.
  • The event couldn’t come at a worse time. The UCI wouldn’t push out the dates of the World Championships any further even though the organising committee tried (it’s normally held 1 week after the Vuelta, but they got it out to 2 weeks). With the footie Grand Finals held the weekend before, the Commonwealth Games right after, the NRL Grand finals, the Spring Racing Carnival, etc…there is a lot of competition for media coverage at this time. Fortunately we have senior columists like Rupert Guinness at Fairfax who want to see what’s best for cycling and is doing his part.

  • There aren’t the pro riders in Australia at the moment to interview and run stories on. Simon Gerrans is back in town the newspaper featured a story on him today. Hopefully this type of coverage picks up when the pros start arriving. The fact that Lance, Schleck and Contador aren’t making the trip over is something that’s hard for non-cycling fans to get past.
  • There is a 32 page pull-out in the Herald Sun tomorrow which covers the World Championships.

In all of this, I’m not having a go at the people working hard at promoting the World Championships. I understand that they have an extremely challenging job without revenue sources like ticket sales to help fund the huge costs in holding a cycling event – particularly at this time of year. Despite this, I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that there isn’t the same excitement in the air as when other international events reach Australia. I sincerely wish the promoters the best of luck in their final push over the next two weeks.

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