by Fiona Houghton
April’s Amstel Gold Race is annual proof that cycling is linked to beer. The sponsor is Heineken International, the world’s third largest brewer. Races in Belgium have been sponsored by Kwaremont, a brand of beer that is named after a cobbled climb that features regularly in The Tour of Flanders. It’s alcohol by volume, 6.6%, is the same as the gradient of the climb and it is served in a glass with a cobbled base.
Beer and wine companies have the opportunity to dominate the alcohol-fuelled sponsorship of races and team as brands of spirits are not permitted. The UCI rulebook states:
“no brand of tobacco, spirits, pornographic products or any other products that might damage the image of the UCI or the sport of cycling in general shall be associated directly or indirectly with a licence-holder, a UCI team or a national or international cycling competition. As defined in the present article, a spirit is a beverage with a content in alcohol of 15% or more.”
Just this year we saw the Tour of Britain Yellow Jersey sponsored by Eisberg Wine, though alcohol free. In Australia, The Tour Down Under used to be sponsored by Jacob’s Creek, a brand belonging to French company Pernod Richard and the Orica-Bike Exchange Team presently has a deal with Michelton Wines. Exploiting its links to Belgium, the US brand New Belgium Brewing is a long term cycling sponsor and the US Pro Cycling Challenge is sponsored by Sierra Nevada Brewing.
Oleg Tinkoff’s restaurants sell their own label beers. Buckler Beer, another non-alcoholic brew, sponsored a team in the early 1990s, which several sponsors later, is the Lotto Jumbo of today. Without a doubt, the most well-known beer-supplied team was the Pelforth Team of France in the 1960s with classy riders such as Raymond Poulidor and Henri Anglade. Pelforth, still very popular today, like Amstel Gold, is owned by Heineken International.
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