Pirelli has accelerated its strategy to step up its presence in professional cycling. After signing an agreement with Pro Continental team Aqua Blue Sport, the company has now confirmed a partnership with the Mitchelton-SCOTT cycling team, currently number two in the UCI World Tour ranking.
The partnership debut will take place in around two weeks, at the Tour de France, where most of the athletes in the Australian team will be using the new Pirelli tubular tyres. In a release, Pirelli points out that its participation in the Grande Boucle will mark Pirelli’s return to major races in the UCI cycling calendar.
A Formula 1 circuit – during the Formula 1 Pirelli Grand Prix de France 2018 qualifying session – provided the stage where the partnership was announced, at a press conference attended by Antonella Lauriola, COO of Pirelli Velo; Piero Misani, Chief Technological Officer Two Wheels Pirelli; Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing Pirelli; and Simon Yates, one of the top athletes in the Mitchelton-SCOTT team.
To celebrate the agreement, Yates completed a lap on the Paul Ricard circuit (5.8 km in length) riding his Scott bike fitted out with the new Pirelli tubulars. Then, the Mitchelton-SCOTT athlete handed a prize to Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), the official pole position man of the day.
Using Le Castellet as a designated stage for the announcement of the agreement between Pirelli and Mitchelton-SCOTT was no random choice. This is not only because the French GP takes place a few weeks before the start of the Tour de France, but also because it underscores the existing ties, in Pirelli’s strategy, between motorsport and cycling races.
Pirelli adds that its approach to professional cycling is the same that has made it a world leading supplier to top level motor races: ‘signing partnership agreements that provide for joint, continuous development work on the tyres with a view to attaining unprecedented performance levels.’
During the months leading up to the Tour de France, the Mitchelton-SCOTT team and Pirelli R&D personnel have been working together, in a ‘constant exchange of technical feedback, with a total of 300,000 km covered with the new tubular tyres, in races and testing sessions conducted jointly by Pirelli professional testers and the team riders, and several World Tour races already ridden without showing the brand name.’
The result of this intensive testing and performance validation process, which the company adds will continue race after race throughout the cycling season, is the PZero Velo tyre in the tubular version. A Pirelli release notes that this is ‘A tyre born of the most demanding conditions, which, besides featuring the high efficiency level and grip typically associated with Pirelli products and ideally suited for World Tour competitions, enables the riders to reach new levels of confidence and control, under extreme conditions.’
Among the characteristics it shares with clinchers in the same product family are: SmartNET Silica compound, ICS (Ideal Contour Shaping) tyre tread profile, and FGD (Functional Groove Design) – all of viewed by Pirelli as ‘essential constituents of Velo products, at the design and development stages’.
“Pirelli is the choice of top-notch athletes and the very best teams in many high-level sports,” said Antonella Lauriola, COO of Pirelli’s Velo business unit. “So it was only natural that in cycling too we would be the choice of a leading team such as Mitchelton-SCOTT. To Pirelli, each bike, each cyclist and each and every racing condition calls for a different product. This is the way we work in motorsport championships too.
“We are certain that this partnership will yield significant results, not only in terms of race wins, but also and primarily in terms of product development.”
“The tyre is arguably the most important piece of equipment available to a professional road cyclist,” added Kevin Tabotta, Mitchelton-SCOTT team Performance Director “There’s an incredible amount of trust that goes into a very small contact patch to the road.”
He continued, “We have been really happy with the development of the tyres. Pirelli have been excellent in the way they’ve communicated with our athletes and taken on board their feedback. We have ended up with a fantastic fast, grippy, comfortable tyre that handles incredibly well.”