Getting the pros to ditch tubulars and meet deadlines: Hunt’s first months of sponsorship for the world tour
The Sussex Hunt wheel brand still feels like a new player on the scene, and perhaps its 2015 birth date makes it a rookie compared to Campagnolo (1933) and Zipp (1988). But the brand has come a long way in six short years.
Milestones include the hiring of Luisa Grappone, who, with her background in aerospace engineering and experience working with three World Tour teams, brought unquestionable expertise and rose to the highest level through the sponsorship of Team Qhubeka. ASSOS in 2021.
A few months after the start of Hunt’s first season as a sponsor of Victor Campenaerts, Fabio Aru and Briton Harry Tanfield, we asked the Ollie Gray brand about the history of providing wheels at World Tour level.
“An important part of the partnership with the Qhubeka ASSOS team was to avoid telling them which wheels they should ride,” Gray said when asked which axles Hunt had made available to the team. “Runners will always feel more confident in the equipment they have chosen for themselves,” he added.
“For Grand Tours, the range of wheels the team takes in the truck is quite extensive, covering just about all of our tubeless ranges; from Limitless, to Aerodynamicist, and actually quite a few Carbon Aero Disc (CAD) wheels at various depths, ”he said.
Carbon Aero Disc wheels cost £ 879 for a 50mm pair, and Gray adds “it’s amazing to see pros at the top of the sport, choosing to ride on wheels readily available for everyday riders. . This was a pair of 50 CAD that Michael Gogl finished 6th on at Strade Bianche which was great to watch and is a testament to all the hard development and testing work the team put into the lineup.
Replace the tanks with putty
The battle between tubular, tubeless and clincher systems (naturally using latex tubing) is still raging. The obvious argument of the professional pilot in favor of the former is that the tubulars have the advantage of remaining fairly passable even when flat. Plus, despite rolling resistance data suggesting otherwise, many riders and mechanics still cling to a legacy romance that “tubs roll better.” This has posed a problem for wheel brands that no longer manufacture tubular rims, due to lack of consumer demand.
“Initially, a lot of riders were leaning towards the tubular, with a few pairs of custom teams initially in production in preparation for the season. However, after testing the tubeless wheels, many riders decided to use them instead. This is something that we have found very interesting as the ongoing debate about tubeless wheels continues, ”said Gray.
“A good example of this on the road was Victor Campanaerts opting for the 60 Limitless Aero Disc wheels at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad for the classics start in February. He used tubeless wheels and his feedback was excellent.
Campanaerts, having set the hour record in 2019, is the kind of runner attentive to his equipment choices.
“Of course, runners of Victor’s caliber and nature are the kind of guys that other riders on the team look for for advice on equipment selection, so overall we found a change in team requirements towards more tubeless wheels. It was thanks to Victor’s experience that Giacomo Nizzolo decided to run these 60LADs for Gent Wevelgem, a race in which he placed second.
Play catch up
Supporting a World Tour team is not only expensive, it comes with logistical “considerations”.
“The main challenge that was presented to us was time. [Team principal] Doug Ryder was organizing sponsors and pilots quite late in 2020 so there was a lot to do in a very short period of time once we got on board. We were playing a bit of catching up when it came to preparing inventory for the team, while not having an impact on the inventory levels we had for our customers around the world, ”comments Gray.
It has helped that a bicycle only needs two wheels.
“Fortunately, the team can only roll a certain number of wheels at a time or in one race, so we had time to get up to speed at the start of the season. Now that we are presented with the huge range of wheels needed to take on the Giro d’Italia, our very first GrandTour at HUNT – which is an extremely proud moment in itself – we are up to the challenge and can work individually. with the riders to make sure they have the wheels they want and need for the range of stages that are on offer over the three week race.
The relationship has obvious advantages, however.
“[We can obtain] feedback from more world-class racers who can rate and test wheels in ways many of us can’t. We can learn more about what runners want, both from a personal standpoint and also from a performance standpoint, ”Gray notes.
“One of our main lessons so far has been the variety of runners’ needs and wants. It is only when you get down to working at the World Tour level that you encounter such a diversity of talents and associated needs. It’s something that played on our strengths a lot, ”says Gray.
The Qhubeka ASSOS team itself is quite unique in the professional peloton, in that it is linked to the Qhubeka charity which donates bicycles to people in need in Africa, allowing access to schools, clinics and jobs. Special emphasis is placed on young girls, aiming to tackle the 25 percent who are out of school and 38 percent who are married before the age of 18.
“One of the key partnerships that has been made possible through our support of the team is the Qhubeka charity itself. The firm of riders [which owns Hunt] is committed to promoting diversity, inclusion, justice and equity within our organization and throughout the cycling community, and Qhubeka is one of the many organizations we support who seek to foster a positive global change through cycling, ”says Gray.
Gray hints at some “exciting plans” to showcase the work of the charity, and with a racing season ahead, there will undoubtedly be more lessons learned and moments of glory enjoyed. Not least the victory of Mauro Schmid in stage 11 in Italy. Hunt has come a long way in six years, but the way ahead seems longer.