American Classic spins for Tour de France
e-Toile: Ellen Kast and Bill Shook, you are the business partners and the owners of the Tampa-based company American Classic, which is on pace to sell more than 20,000 bicycle wheels this year. Why did you choose to showcase your wheels at the Tour de France?
Ellen Kast: The Tour de France is the most prestigious, the most difficult professional road bike race in the world. It is a great honor to be part of this bicycle tradition. For every bicycle company it is a dream come true have your products ridden by the best in the world at the TdF.
e-Toile: During the latest Tour de France, you have sponsored Cofidis riders, which are backed by the French finance company Cofidis, their primary sponsor. How did you elect this team and how did you prepare your company for the Tour?
Ellen Kast: You do not select a professional team. They select you. We were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. We were introduced to the Cofidis team by Look Cycles of France. Cofidis was seeking a new wheel sponsor. Wheels are very important to the team. They needed special wheels for climbing, time trial, high speed road events. We had what they needed and joined forces. We produced almost a container of wheels based on what the team needed and shipped them to France.
e-Toile: Did you get the opportunity to visit the team in France during the race or did you follow the Tour watching TV in Tampa?
Ellen Kast: We went to the TdF when they were near Pau, France. It is a beautiful area in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains. We were fortunate to see the finish of the race in Pau (had press passes from NBC Sports), visit with the team officials on the rest day and to see the race leave from Pau. We watched the race each day when we were at home on NBC. We never miss watching the entire tour on TV.
e-Toile: Almost two months after the finish on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, do you see already some repercussions?
Ellen Kast: We had increased sales in the USA and in Europe, especially in France. More importantly, being with Cofidis this year has improved the visibility of our brand in the world market.
One of the top bonuses from our sponsorship of the team, was our introduction to the French-American community here in Florida. We had a wonderful opportunity to show our AC office to the Consul General Gael de Maisonneuve and Jean-Claude Faust, Honorary Consul of France in Tampa and President of FRAMCO.
They informed us of the business opportunities for our company in France. We were not aware of many of the options even though we are currently doing business in France.
We attended the FRAMCO Bastille Day party in St Petersburg, FL. We made many business contacts (and of course had fun) at the party.
This chance meeting opened many doors for our business. We joined FRAMCO and intend to use their help with our business in the future.
e-Toile: American Classic sponsors other athletes. Who are they?
Ellen Kast: We have had the oppurtunity to sponsor the GT Skoda Chamonix Team (pro MTB cross country team) as well as famous French World Cup riders Cecile and Cedric Ravanel.
Cecile won the 2012 French Cup (cross country mtb racing) and was 7th in the world finals of the XCO Eliminator Race in Austria this weekend.
Also, Romain Guillaume, a pro triathlete winner of the 2012 Ironman Mont-Tremblant in Quebec, Canada. He is one of top 50 men that qualified for the Ironman world championships in Hawaii for October 2012.
Another athlete we sponsored was Sylvain Sudrie, a pro triathlete and a former world champion. Finally, the Cofidis Team, which participated in the para-cycling team.
Article published on Sept. 12, 2012.