Why Did Vittoria Buy Niche Tire Maker A. Dugast?

Matt Phillips
·4 min read
Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

The Takeaway: Big shark swallows little fish.

  • Vittoria acquires niche tubular maker A. Dugast, a company best known for its premium cyclocross treads.

  • Vittoria also assumes control of the Dugast factory in the Netherlands.

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Vittoria Tires just acquired the niche tubular specialist A. Dugast (usually simply simply “Dugast”), which is big news for a small segment of cyclists. And raises a lot of questions for the rest of us.

Dugast is a small maker of ultra-premium handmade tubulars with cotton and silk casings. Its cyclocross tires are often used by top ‘cross pros even though the rider may be officially sponsored by a different tire brand.

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

One notable Dugast fan is three-time national cyclocross champ Todd Wells who told me, “We chose to ride them because they were the best. They had the most supple casings at the time and most options with different tread patterns. The rubber also seemed to be softer than the others out during that period.”

Other Dugast fans include Jumbo-Visma’s Wout van Aert and Marianne Vos, and Alpecin-Fenix rider Mathieu van der Poel. Both Jumbo-Visma and Alpecin-Fenix are officially sponsored by Vittoria, but van Aert, Vos, and van der Poel often use Dugast tires during ’cross-season.

But while this news is interesting, it’s also a bit of a head-scratcher. Though well regarded, Dugast’s sales are likely a rounding error when compared to a behemoth like Vittoria.

Dugast only makes tubulars which is, at best, a tiny market in 2021. Vittoria knows this because they make some excellent road tubulars. However, Vittoria’s representative declined to provide me a breakdown of its tubular versus clincher sales. Thankfully, other brands shared some insight into the tubular market.

Bontrager told me that its Aeolus road wheel sales break down to 98 percent clincher and two percent tubular. A representative at Challenge—which, like Dugast, makes well-regarded ’cross tubulars but is a larger company with wider distribution—told me that 25 percent of their global sales are tubulars with 75 percent clincher. Wheelmaker Zipp said just .78 percent of its sales are for tubular wheels.

So picking up Dugast likely won’t be a source of huge revenue for Vittoria. Still, there are other reasons Vittoria wanted Dugast.

While Vittoria is well established in the road tubular market, it hasn’t had the same success with its cyclocross tubulars. Picking up Dugast gives Vittoria ownership of arguably the premier ’cross tubular brand in an area of the sport that, while small, is filled with passionate racers and die-hard fans.

Photo credit: Balint Hamvas / Cyclephotos
Photo credit: Balint Hamvas / Cyclephotos

It also cleans up some sponsorship ugliness for Vittoria. As one expert in the field of bicycle tires explained to me, “Lots of ’cross athletes race road most of the year. If they are on Dugast for the short season, and a road brand the rest, it’s difficult to do cross-branding. With Vittoria and Dugast partnered, that would help with cross-branding. Vittoria could promote Dugast athletes in the winter and Dugast could promote Vittoria athletes the rest of the time.”

There’s also the matter of Dugast’s factory in the Netherlands. When I asked the Vittoria representative about the capabilities of the Dugast factory, they told me that it only makes tubulars “at the moment.” That’s a strong hint that the Dutch factory could start producing clinchers in the future.

Photo credit: courtesy
Photo credit: courtesy

Vittoria’s factory, Lion Tyres Thailand (LTT), is in, well, Thailand. The Dugast factory is in the heart of Europe—one of Vittoria’s biggest markets. Given today’s global supply and shipping issues, snapping up a factory in Europe that’s already set up to build cotton casing tires with glued-on treads like Vittoria’s high-end Corsa seems like a win for the company.

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

However, insiders I spoke with told me the Dugast factory doesn’t produce the components of the tubular, but rather assembles them from casings, treads, and tubes sourced from factories located across the globe. Ramping up the Dugast factory for increased production would prove to be a costly headache, they said.

Instead, one source tole me that “Vittoria could use Dugast to help prototype products for Roubaix and the like before running full production,” as well as production of niche and limited-edition products.

Indeed, the press release announcing the acquisition states that "Vittoria customers can also be served with special products and limited series. As a first example, the group will create an exclusive hand-made limited-edition tubular for L’Eroica that will be presented shortly, to celebrate the start of this new phase.”

I’m curious to see what comes of this partnership. Personally, I think there’s no such thing as too many silk tubulars in the world. But at the very least, Vittora’s global distribution footprint should make Dugast’s excellent cyclocross tubulars a bit easier for riders to buy.

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