Cycling Elite Coming to Croatia

Total Croatia News

The Tour of Croatia is an important stepping stone in developing cycling tourism.

Some of the best world cyclists will take part in the race, through Novi Vinodolski, Crikvenica, Gornje Jelenje, Rijeka, Opatija… Kvarner will be the crown stage, with the most kilometres and highest altitude differences, Novi List reported on December 16, 2016. All this will be part of the cycling race Tour of Croatia, a multi-stage international race of the first category according to the International Cycling Federation, a race only a step lower than the Tour de France or Giro d’Italia, the so-called world tour races. Viewed in numbers, Tour of Croatia will last six days, from 21 to 26 April, from Dubrovnik to Umag and Zagreb, with 160 cyclists and another 140 in escort and 200 in organisation. This megaproject, but also a top notch tourism promotion of Croatia, is organised by a team from Rijeka. Vladimir Miholjević, one of the best Croatian cyclists and founder of the company Top Sports Events, speaking of how the story of this race got started, said this project, worth 2 million euro, came from the head of an “athlete with a flaw.”

“My professional career took me to races all around the world. And now, when I am done with professional cycling, I would say I was an athlete with a flaw. All that time I wasn’t exclusively concentrated on the race and training, but always inline analysing certain elements such as cooperation with superior coaches, analysing their approach, to observing how this cycling story is implemented in local communities which gain a lot from it. From promotion to visits by cyclotourism guests. And always feeling bad about not being able to do this at home. On the other hand, I found no other place which would be better to live as a professional cyclist, which demonstrates what possibilities we have,” began one of the best Croatian cyclists of all time, who knows what he’s talking about as in cycling he’s done it all.

The idea of how to transfer these successful models to Croatia did not vanish in Miholjević after he ended his professional career. Two years ago by chance he met Matulji native Ivan Črnjarić, with experience in event management and also an idea to create such a project. Cooperation was established and a basis for this megaproject. The realisation of it was supported by Joe Bašić and his company MPG, known for the organisation of another world event – the electronic music festival Ultra Europe, which brings over 100.000 people to Croatia. The team is joined by Andrej Filip, the main expert in the project, former cyclist who went into organising cycling races for the last 12 years. Among other things, he works in Qatar as the main technical delegate for the organisation of the 2016 World Championship and the Tour of Qatar. Tourism Ministry and the Croatian Tourism Board have recognised the potential of this race in creating an image of Croatia as a cyclotourism destination, allotting between 3.5 and 4 million kuna to it.

It is a race a step away from the world tour, but it has been confirmed some of the best world teams are due to participate. The Tour of Croatia will see the Astana team, with the current Tour de France winner and last year’s Giro d’Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali, Miholjević’s former teammate. Currently, around five world tour teams will participate. They are hoping other teams will join, in which Kristijan Đurasek (Lampre-Merida) from Varaždin and Robert Kišerlovski (Tinkoff-Saxo) from Rijeka compete. The project is worth 15 million kuna, half of which goes to buy air time on Eurosport, which will broadcast the race daily with an estimated 15 to 20 million viewers. Likewise, this megaproject is timed in the off-season, but also in the period when guests choose where they will take a vacation. The fact the Giro d’Italia is only 12 days after the race should not be ignored so professional cyclists will have an excellent last test of endurance ahead of the big race.

Explaining what the idea of the project is, the famous Croatian cyclist emphasized he wants to place Croatia on the map of cyclotourism destinations. Vacation on a bicycle is becoming an incredible trend today. Which is being recognised slowly in Croatia, but surely.

“One of the main motives of the organisation of the project if for it to become an accelerator of the development of cyclotourism in Croatia. This is what motivated me as a former professional athlete to developed it. The idea is to entice a balanced development of tourism, not only in classic tourism destinations, but beyond them. In smaller places, in which cyclotourists can experience original stories. I always like, when training, to experience this dispersed offer and we often came back to these places with families afterwards. Croatia is in that sense a great destination, so diverse, photogenic… It truly leaves us breathless and we must use that. This is why we aim to present through this project our national and nature parks to present all the beauty and uniqueness of our tourism offer,” said Miholjević, citing several very indicative statistics. Surveys show there are 64 million cyclists in Europe. They organise annually 2.3 million trips, with cyclotourism destinations earning an incredible 44 billion euro each year. The strongest destinations are Italy, Spain, even Austria which has seen better tourism traffic in the summer than in the winter due to cyclotourism. The Italians in the Dolomites have had more income in the summer in the last two years thanks to cyclotourism and the Giro that promotes it. We should not overlook that cyclotourists spend an average of 52 euro per day outside the accommodation, unlike the classic guests which spend 16 euro.

As for infrastructure needed to develop cyclotourism, adapting to their needs does not mean enormous investments.

When talking of accommodation, they need a place to store bikes, video surveillance, a washing area, repair tools and connections to bicycle and equipment distributers to ensure service. It can all be coordinated and does not represent a large investment. We must know what the guest wants and expects and adapt our offer,” concluded Vladimir Miholjević.



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