In what has to rank as a pretty major coup for a company that is, after all, only six years old, London-based upmarket cycle clothing firm Rapha has signed a strategic partnership agreement with ASO, owner and organiser of races including Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and, of course, the Tour de France.
Under the agreement, which lasts two years, Rapha will advise ASO on marketing and communications in regards to the French company’s mass participation events linked to its road races, which for 2011 means the two Etape du Tour rides and the inaugural Paris-Roubaix challenge, which takes place on Saturday 9 April, 24 hours before the pros take their turn on the cobbles.
Rapha says that it will also be designing and producing exclusive jerseys for those events – there’s no news as yet of what those designs might be, nor the prices.
However, if you think of previous limited edition Tour de France themed jerseys, such as the Paul Smith designed number when the race visited London in 2007, or this year’s one commemorating the centenary of the race’s first ascent of the Tourmalet, we could be talking about the ultimate “I was there” t-shirt (or cycling jersey, to be accurate).
ASO’s managing director, Yann Le Moenner, commented: "Rapha makes the finest cycling clothing in the world and ASO produces the best cycling events in the world,
so our paths had to cross one day. We have long admired the way Rapha connects with road cyclists and we are looking forward to a great partnership that I’m sure will inspire thousands of riders."
Rapha founder and CEO, Simon Mottram, said: "I have been riding the Etape du Tour since 2002, before Rapha was launched. Like many Rapha customers, the Etape remains the pinnacle of our riding season and of the sportive year. To be working with ASO on these events is an amazing privilege."
That's an appropriate choice of words given the way that Rapha has from its beginnings sought to emphasise the heritage and history of the sport in its marketing and many of its products, and a tie-up with the company that runs some of the sport's biggest events must have been beyond Mottram's wildest dreams when he started the business.
The news comes just three days after Rapha had been named one of Britain’s fastest-growing privately-owned companies in the annual Fast Track 100 league table, published in The Sunday Times.
The company took 50th place in the table thanks to very healthy annual sales growth of more than 72% in each of the last three years, taking its sales to £7 million in the year to the end of October.