the drive-in; maserati and cycling


a well-known motor company, responsible for providing mavic and others with their vehicles during the tour de france, screened a tv advert a few years ago depicting several gents carrying a wooden frame aboard which were a set of road bikes. as they ran past several cheering spectators at the roadside, we were informed that the tour would be quite different without them.

it's highly unlikely that any of the world tour teams would resort to such pedestrian tactics should this (for now) anonymous car manufacturer decide to spend its sponsorship monies elsewhere, but the advert made a salient point nonetheless.

many of the season's races have elicited comments on social media as to the seemingly ever-increasing number of vehicles surrounding a few blokes racing bicycles. it's always nice to feel we hold the moral high ground over sports such as formula one, international rallying and motorcycle racing, all of which consist of fossil fuel guzzling vehicles essentially going round in circles. the bicycle, as we are all well aware, utilises the more environmentally friendly propulsion of two legs and a pair of pedals. however, factor in all those official cars, team cars, police and camera motorcycles over the course of three weeks and suddenly the average grand prix looks positively green by comparison.

and yet the majority of cyclists are car owners or drivers. i've yet to read an interview with a well-remunerated cycling star who has cheerfully pointed to a double-garage full of state of the art carbon fibre. the more likely and common scenario is that of a porsche or audi (or both) filling each available space. this is perhaps less surprising than i'm trying to infer, for if you spend every waking hour riding a bicycle for a living, you're more than likely to drive the car to the supermarket or the cinema or the restaurant.


i'd be interested to learn just how many professionals have a folded brompton in the hallway.

so while the bike monthlies are often full of enticements to invoke rule #12, no matter what her/him indoors might think, the mamil has alerted one or two motor manufacturers that here might be a growing market waiting to be exploited. it is, as they say, the name of the game and one which has been put to excellent use by italy's maserati.

established in bologna in december 1914, maserati's stated mission was to 'build ultra-luxury performance automobiles with timeless Italian style, accommodating bespoke interiors, and effortless, signature sounding power.' though such a vehicle is conspicuous by its absence in the washingmachinepost driveway, i did recently have the opportunity to observe a couple of vehicles from the range at close quarters during the recent hotchillee london-paris ride, where the quattroporte and the ghibli featured as the lead cars for each of the five groups on the road. depending on specification, the ghibli offers a top speed of between 155-177mph and a 0-60 time of marginally over 6 seconds. quite what driving ahead of a peloton of cyclists at little over 30kph does to such a finely tuned engine and gearbox is anybody's guess.

peter denton's job title is maserati general manager, northern europe, making him undoubtedly the ideal person to enquire of what it was that brought one of the world's top luxury sports car manufacturers to become involved with cycling?

"Maserati came to cycling as we'd witnessed first-hand the development of interest in the sport and the sums that people were spending on their bikes and clothing. If cost was not an issue and style was important in this aspect of their lives, then style associated with the car they chose would probably also be important."

peter denton

it's an assumption with which it is hard to argue. a quick cost approximation of all the items that featured on my saturday ride this weekend came perilously close to £6,500 (i hasten to add that the more expensive of these items were on review and not purchased from my meagre weekly allowance). suffice it to say, sums such as these are hardly unusual these days and if you factor in the n+1 rule, that amount multiplies quite quickly. pro-rata, an italian sports car starts to look like a more approachable proposition.

however, surely a more pragmatic solution would have been to involve a manufacturer of particularly speedy cars with the world of motor sport. unless, of course, cycling promises to be a more cost effective means of promotion than the latter?

"We are choosing to engage with amateur cycling, which is very cost effective and allows us to spend quality time with the audience to explain the Maserati range, its price point and relevance to the audience. This is especially true with a £56,250 SUV in our range."

i confess that i'd missed the now glaringly obvious point made by mr denton, that maserati had eschewed placing its vehicles within the professional peloton, preferring instead to appeal to those of us who ride purely for the fun of it. it's highly unlikely that a.s.o. would be overly impressed by the sight of peter denton standing on the champs elysées podium, extolling the virtues of the maserati range. which then beggars the question as to where former professional david millar fits into the equation?

"David Millar extends our connection to cycling. As a Maserati enthusiast, an experienced and successful former pro cyclist and an eloquent and engaging individual, he helps to tell our story to a audience that enjoys listening to him."

it is a well-made point, for how many of us have purchased the bicycles we have in the bike shed on the basis that our heroes ride the same brand? since his retirement from the professional milieu, millar has formed an enduring, if seemingly implausible commentary partnership with ned boulting, offering an accurate, matter of fact approach to the sport. it seems logical to assume that this personal approach would extend to any matters in which he becomes involved.


cycling was, at one time, viewed as a working man's sport, a viable and more lucrative alternative to working down the mines or in the fields. though this would hardly be seen as applicable to the amateur, until recently, recreational cycling would hardly have been discussed in the same breath as cricket, golf or rugby. but with the bradley bubble allegedly encouraging the growth of the ubiquitous 'middle aged men in lycra' things have changed somewhat. riding the hotchillee london-paris event costs a basic £1500. with spending money, bike repatriation and eurostar return taken into account, you'd be looking at an outlay of approximately £2000 for three days in july. and one of the post-tour finish packages would have lightened your bank balance to the tune of around £5,600.

i therefore asked mr denton if the recent encapsulation of cycling as the 'new golf' meant that road cyclists are now perceived to have the income to afford a maserati?

"I probably answered that in my first response. However, in real terms, the growth of interest (in cycling) gives us a huge audience to engage with and support through our involvement, many of whom can afford our cars. They are just not aware that Maserati is so affordable. Until cycling allowed us to tell them."

a swift maserati dealership check informs that the basic maserati ghibli (a three-litre v6 diesel) retails at £49,620, rising to almost £65,000 for the s model. many of you, self included, might think mr denton's definition of affordable is one you've rarely come across before. however, while my assertions are based almost entirely on conjecture, i'd be very surprised if maserati's promotional strategy were subject to the same flimsy approximation.

maserati ghibli

it is, however, an undeniable aspect of the majority of sponsorship deals, that ultimately the gains will suffer from the law of diminishing returns and the moving finger, having sponsored, will move on. maserati's involvement with cycling is still in its early days, but did they have a fixed period in mind for their two-wheeled relationship, or is it open-ended?

"For as long as there is value in our involvement there is reason to continue. Value comes from a positive response to our involvement."

the impetus for this feature was a genuine desire on my part to understand why a luxury sports car manufacturer would opt for an association with cycling as opposed to what might be regarded as a more traditional (and safer?) preaching to the arguably more converted motoring public. i appreciate that, unless you're me, it's perfectly acceptable to be seen as both a cyclist and a motorist; in fact it's probably the more common stance. however, maserati stepping out of their comfort zone to target a less predictable audience is one that should probably be applauded, something that few, if any, cycle manufacturers seem keen to follow.

does peter denton think that more cycling firms could benefit by turning the tables and advertising more directly to motorists?

"I don't know that advertising to motorists by cycle companies would be as effective. Cycling is largely social and therefore by adding value to cycling, Maserati can resonate in that space; I am not sure if it would work in reverse!"

maserati ghibli

if you, like me, found it all but impossible to find the entrance to london's victoria house for last november's rouleur classic, gesticulating wildly to some bemused folks standing behind a maserati or two, while trying vainly to open locked glass doors, you'd likely have grasped that the event is also one sponsored by the italian cars. while timorously debating whether to ask if my name was on the guest list or not, it was hard to avoid the sleek cars parked adjacent to the entrance, garnering admiring glances from those in the queue.

along with my original inquisitiveness as to the maserati/cycling tie-in with hotchillee events as well as ride london, it also seemed an odd conjunction between a dyed-in-the-wool road cycling magazine and very fast italiana. presumably, however, maserati have been pleased with their association with the annual rouleur classic?

"Maserati has a good relationship with Rouleur and both enjoys and benefits from the link to the Classic, now in its third year of association."

maserati quattroporte

i confess i'm still slightly mystified by but appreciative of this particular association, but there's little denying that it says as much about the current status of road cycling as it does about maserati. no doubt there are those who think that it sullies the purity of the sport/activity, but as i mentioned in my opening paragraph, many aspects would be a whole lot different if motor cars were conspicuous by their absence from the peloton. and my vehicular agnosticism notwithstanding (i can drive, i just choose not to), it was still pretty cool riding to paris behind a metallic burgundy maserati ghibli, even if it was only driving at 25kph.

maserati uk

sunday 20 august 2017

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................