Ian Goodwin, Director of Eclipse Pro Cycling talks to Robert Cobcroft about the business of fielding two NRS teams in 2012, RBS Morgans ATS & Jayco-Honey Shotz."So if you were to ask me 'what is the hardest thing about doing it' - it's actually getting the sponsorship together that allows you to run a team properly…………. but then translating that interest in the sport into a value proposition for potential sponsors - one doesn't necessarily follow the other!”
In 2011 Eclipse Pro Cycling (EPC) launched a new Australian cycling team racing in the National Road Series. The 2011 outfit was known as Jayco-2XU, with former Olympian and Tour de France pro Patrick Jonker as Director Sportiff - spearheading the team’s assault on the National Road Series.
Ready to launch into a second season the team will be known in 2012 as RBS Morgans-ATS, an Under 21 squad has been added to the EPC stable - known as Jayco-Honey Shotz. Jayco-Honey Shotz is a partnership between EPC and Cycling Australia’s high performance programme.
Road racing in Australia has come a long way since the 1980's, an era when the face of Australian road cycling began to undergo massive changes - reluctantly dragged kicking and screaming into its latest guise as progenitor of seemingly endless talent, bound for the traditional hunting grounds of continental Europe.
To offer up some insights on Australian road cycling's constant flux state and ascent to recent spectacular achievements, Ian Goodwin, Director of EPC, shared his thoughts on the business of fielding two teams in the National Road Series. One time rider in Queensland's first ever organised racing team - the Brisbane Blasters, Goodwin began with some comparisons between two eras. Firstly as a rider on an ill equipped squad with mighty intent in the 1980's and early 1990's – the team racing concept had to start somewhere no matter how meagre it’s beginnings. Secondly as a team owner faced with the hard task of finding sponsorship to fund a racing programme for the National Road Series, in a sport which is yet to reach mainstream status, despite its sky rocketing success as "The New Golf".
Has the face of Australian road racing changed much since your time at the Brisbane Blasters.
Back in the early 1990s there were only a couple of teams racing in Australia – the Blasters and Caravello squads come to mind. That part has definitely changed and there are many well organised teams racing the NRS. At the core, bike racing is bike racing, and I don't think the pure sports aspect or the fundamentals of racing have changed.
How did sponsorship of the Brisbane Blasters help you and ultimately the team achieve success in racing, as the team was revered as one to be reckoned with - even feared by some.
Very simply – enormously. From a riders perspective we'd receive a couple of kits and some tyres and that was about it. We had to supply our own bikes. In 1991 I was given a frame, a Cannondale, but I don’t think any other riders in the team had this deal. Getting to races, certainly interstate ones, you were on your own; riders put in for petrol, we weren't flown to races, we provided our own food and did everything ourselves, plus no help like a Soigneur or mechanic, we paid our own entry fees to races, but we had a Power Bar sponsorship, so race nutrition was covered. On training and racing nutrition that's one big difference I notice today, young riders are fully into gels and race food and seemingly consume it all day long. In my day, all I'd take training were two bidons, add some more water at the roadside when it was hot, plus I'd take a banana for a 150 - 180 km training ride.
So there wasn't much back then in the way of sponsorship, you were basically on your own, the strength of the Blasters wasn't in the sponsorship but what the team stood for when you pulled on that jersey. How is this different for riders on Morgans-ATS and Jayco-Honey Shotz.
Today what we do for the riders, when they first come onto the team they sign a formal contract that outlines their roles and responsibilities. With the Blasters it was just a gentleman's agreement. So now we clearly state the terms that they will ride for the team under - their rights and obligations, we also have a riders manual, that they're expected to read and once again sign off on and that actually goes together with the contract, it spells out in very clear terms everything they're expected to do including media interview protocol and podium wear.
In terms of gear you aren't running on a shoestring budget like the Blasters, what sort of kit helps make the riders life on a bike easier now.
In terms of what the riders get, it's fairly comprehensive. Basically everything is done for them, they get a bike and we are talking a high end bike, so last year the riders were riding high end carbon fibre bikes with full Shimano DI2 group sets, this year it's pretty much the same. We are talking retail ten thousand dollar bikes. Good time triallist's also get time trial bikes. The riders get training and deep rimmed carbon racing wheels. They get tyres. We will go through over 100 Schwalbe tubular tyres for the season.
Talking clothing, they get multiple sets of bib 'n brace knicks, jerseys - short sleeve and long sleeve, gilletts, thermal winter training jackets, arm warmers, leg warmers - multiple pairs of socks, shoes, non-race wear, helmets, glasses, gloves.
Last year we didn't have a sponsorship for nutrition, throughout the season we probably spent about seven thousand dollars on nutrition. For 2012 we have a nutrition sponsor.
Travelling vast distances to races all over the country must require a lot of travel by air, how do you manage the logistics of getting riders to races and providing vehicles at various locations around Australia.
Getting to and from races is all paid for. Whatever's practical to get the riders to a race, sometimes air or road depending on where they live. Any races in Victoria, Tasmania, and Western Australia everyone will be flown to the race. There's always a Director Sportiff in our case that's Pat Jonker, and depending on the race the length of it we'll also take a dedicated mechanic and a Soigneur who does all the massage for all the riders as well as preparing all the food and cooking meals at night etc. While the riders go racing they basically don't have to think. In most national series races there's usually about eight to ten people on the ground, six or seven riders plus staff. For one team to compete in a six or seven day tour the budget would be between about fifteen to twenty thousand dollars.
For vehicles we sticker wrap cars, when we travel to a race we have an agreement with Audi, wherever we go in the country basically there's an Audi Q7 waiting for us, we'll put some team stickers on it. We'll put Sea Sucker bicycle racks on the car, one of our sponsors, an innovative solution using suction cap technology. Also we have an Iveco van which has been detailed with stickers. Most of the races are concentrated in Victoria and the Southern part of the country so the van will be garaged down south, including race wheels and mechanics gear. We'll fly the mechanic or Soigneur to it and they'll drive to the race.
It's not anything near what a pro tour team does, it's still a significant logistical exercise though and a reasonably costly exercise, even then you are still juggling to fit everything in through the course of the year and make sure you don't run out of money before the end of the year.
Has much changed in the way of payment to riders, obviously back in the day - of the Blasters the only pay you'd receive would have been prize money.
It's not anything near what a pro tour team does, it's still a significant logistical exercise though and a reasonably costly exercise, even then you are still juggling to fit everything in through the course of the year and make sure you don't run out of money before the end of the year. Generally we don't pay riders, sometimes we might provide a bonus structure so we'll set that out in the contract with the riders. Certain race results will result in a financial bonus that might not be at an individual level, but across the team so we don't have riders within the team riding for themselves. The actual prize money for races doesn’t seem to have kept pace with inflation, for example the prize money for the Canberra Tour is about the same now as when I won it in 1991.
Through Eclipse Pro Cycling young riders can springboard their careers into Europe, how's this facilitated?
This is the whole basis on which the team operates. It's a vehicle for young promising riders to progress.
In 2012 Eclipse Pro Cycling is involved with two teams, we are running two teams, one is in association with Cycling Australia and Australian Institute of Sport as a domestic AIS team if you like. The other one is our own team and it's - ATS Altitude Training Systems - RBS Morgans - as the key sponsors. For example that team has ten riders. Three of them are older more experienced riders and the rest are up and coming talent identified riders we want to give them a chance to see what they can do and can they progress in their cycling careers.
With the Cycling Australia-AIS team it's called Jayco-Honey Shotz, made up of Under 21 riders. It has a formal link right through the CA programme. The next step up the rank is the Jayco AIS squad which is the under 23 team based in Italy and ultimately Green Edge team. There's a pathway there for young riders so they can step in and compete in Australia - develop in Australia if they prove to be good enough they can step up to the next rung in the ladder now that might happen at the end of the year or it could also happen during the year so there might be someone who's performing particularly well and Kevin Tabotta and Paul Brosnan might say well this guy we think is ready to have a crack and pull him in for some races in Italy for example. Pat Jonker is the primary talent spotter plus through the informal network and word of mouth. A pre-requisite for riders is that they are "a good bloke" a team player, not just a good rider.
Funding two teams in the National Road Series must require commitment to find sponsors.
Most of the sponsors come from organisations where someone within that organisation is a supporter of cycling. It's a very, very hard thing with domestic cycling , the publicity apart from SBS is at a regional level where if you are racing at Geelong, or the Gippsland or Tasmania - you'll get some coverage from their local newspaper and TV station, a little tiny bit on websites like Cyclingnews.com. It is a challenge to get serious dollars in and you need serious dollars to run the team. So if you were to ask me 'what is the hardest thing about doing it' - it's actually getting the sponsorship together that allows you to run a team properly. It's a six figure budget.
Cycling has been termed as "The New Golf", yet "sponsorship is still the hardest thing about doing it"?
You only need to ride around the river in Brisbane or Beach Road in Melbourne, along the beaches in Adelaide, even regional centres, twenty years ago the only people who rode bikes were serious racing cyclists and that's certainly not the case now and there is a lot of interest coming from the Tour de France then there's the whole Cadel factor. It is good to see - but then translating that interest in the sport into a value proposition for potential sponsors - one doesn't necessarily follow the other!
2012 Jayco-Honey Shotz & RBS Morgans-ATS Roster
Jayco-Honey Shotz 2012 squad: Jack Beckinsale, Edward Bissaker, Alex Edmondson, David Edwards, Jackson Law, Bradley Linfield, Mitch Lovelock Fay, and Jordan Kerby. RBS Morgans-ATS 2012 squad: Hayden Brooks, Trenton Day, Nic Dougall, James Hepburn, Ben Hill, Mark Jamieson, Ben Kersten, Joe Lewis, Cam Peterson, Darren Rolfe, and Johnnie Walker.