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Friday, August 31, 2012

Merida Poised To Shake Up The Peloton: Will Merida Sponsor A Major Pro Team in 2013?

Taiwan Tunnel

  Each year cyclists around the globe feel the weather change with Eurobike and the Vuelta de Espana signaling the beginning of the end of the professional road cycling season, which officially ends at the World Championships. The end of the season is rife with rumors of any magnitude that might shake up the peloton. There will be personnel changes as last season's stars showed their age this time around and some super teams failed to materialize at the finish line. Both BMC and Radioschleck had some major setbacks. Contador will be back from his doping sanction. Lots of changes afoot. 

One of the changes to look forward to might be the emergence of another major sponsor from Taiwan. Although Taiwan is very well represented in the pro ranks through Taiwanese OEM/ODM work for foreign brands or through other partnerships, the Taiwanese face is too often veiled by the international banners of a brand. Several of the pro bikes come out of the same Giant factories and share some of the same DNA, and they race alongside the Team Rabobank Giant branded bikes; Taiwan's only big name sponsor left in the pro peloton for the grand tours now that HTC has withdrawn from the sport. 

But there may be agreements that may result in another Taiwanese branded frame taking a more prominent role in team sponsorship. 

There are indications that Merida, the Yuanlin based bicycle company, has its designs on sponsoring one of the top teams in professional cycling. In February the company first indicated its desire to increase brand visibility of its road bike offerings by having Merida branded bicycles ridden in the Tour de France, the world's highest profile race with maximum visibility. 

There are rumors that a sponsorship deal could be announced as early as September 21st.

It would be interesting to see how a sponsorship deal will affect Merida's relationship with Specialized as Merida owns a major stake in the company and manufactures Specialized bikes. Specialized supplies bikes to Astana, Omega Pharma Quickstep and Team Saxo Bank. 

The rumored date of the announcement would be a very auspicious date for a Taiwanese company as it marks the 13th anniversary of the massive 7.6 magnitude earthquake that caused massive, island wide devastation. 

For Merida's sake, I hope the move represents an earthshaking announcement and not a major disaster.