On the drive from Orlando to Sebring last month, I asked Michelin PR representative Ralph Cronin of Active Sports Group why there are no WorldTour teams currently on Michelin tires.
“Michelin feels that the teams should come to us, since we have the best product, which we do,” he said.
It was hard to understand that perspective until we arrived at Sebring and I saw the way Michelin approaches car racing. Indeed, the auto-racing teams do demand Michelin tires in order to improve their results and pay for the tires and personnel required to get them back to the company. That’s hard to imagine in bike racing, where teams often make equipment choices based on the size of the attached sponsorship check.
And what about Ag2r La Mondiale, Michelin’s lone top-shelf cycling team in 2012? The French team switched to Schwalbe tires for 2013 due to a change in bike sponsors, from Kuota to Focus for the next three years.
“The team is getting from us a complete bike with all components,” Focus brand manager Jorg Arenz explained to VeloNews, and one of the key partners at Derby Cycle, which owns Focus, is Schwalbe tires. Arenz also underlined the importance to any racing team of having tubular tires, although Michelin is introducing its Pro4 tubular to the market this spring.
It appears as though the Michelin Le Mans model doesn’t translate from four wheels to two just yet.