Ramblings Pt 1.
It’s been a while since I sat down to got some thoughts together.During the Covid 19 lockdown in the U.K racing is currently cancelled until the end of June, and this will almost certainly be extended.
So what does a race team do without any races? We’ve missed The International Tour of the North in Ireland and the first event in the BC National Road Series, Klondike GP, the UCI Cicle Classic, the Tour de la Manche stage race in France in May and the RAS stage race in Ireland in June all of which we were really looking forward to.With the lack of racing we are doing what we can to support our partners online.
In the current circumstances everyone’s perspective and priorities have shifted.
Our riders are training well, with a combination of riding at home and on the road. We’ve adjusted training, but it’s difficult to work towards a goal without any idea when or if we’ll be racing again this year. So my approach has been to aim for or lads to keep fitness at a point which we consider 2/3 weeks away from race fit. This makes training manageable without being too much of a drain on morale. The prospect of not racing again this year means we will have a ten or eleven month off-season, before the start of the 2021 season.
Whilst there’s no competitive cycling, there has certainly been a huge increase in participation, with families and individuals using bikes for their daily exercise. With quiet, sometimes empty roads, I am personally enjoying riding with my daughter and wife, and it is a genuine positive which has come through the circumstances we are living in.
We hope many families keep cycling post-Covid 19 lockdown, but it’s not only the volume of traffic and imperfect infrastructure which may deter them. It’s also time and energy. Maybe if working from home could be adopted more for some, then maybe people could take advantage of time saved from commuting?
I hope many people, like myself, have found a reinforced awareness of the value of riding a bike in the fresh air. Even racing cyclists for whom riding is very purposeful and goal driven will perhaps have a rediscovered consciousness of why they ride. For myself it’s always been escapism and even a way of expressing myself. A bike now more than ever in my lifetime really is a freedom machine.
People all over the U.K will be discovering/rediscovering the real feel good factor of exercising. I’ve always felt the benefit of exercising at the start of the day, and this setting me up for a productive day.
With more people exercising outdoors at the moment and traffic significantly reduced, there’s lots of discussion online regarding changes in how people live and move around. It would be great to see some of the changes people have made stick when we are out of lockdown.
Unfortunately I can’t see significant changes being possible as politics and infrastructure needs to change, and these things take time. But perhaps if enough people just make one or two fewer car journeys each week that would be a sustainable start.
Ramblings Pt 2.
As economies around the world are shrinking, or at least having a wobble, there are numerous teams struggling financially and facing uncertain futures. This has restarted, (if it ever stopped), discussion online about how cycling teams work. I don’t claim to have the answers, but what we are trying to do, we believe is an answer for us. We don’t think we need to get away from the sponsorship model, along with traditional kinds of backing, we are trying to find funding in slightly different ways and from sponsors with different motives.
I do think some things within the sport could change for the better,money could be shared more and trickle down a little.We are pretty small on the cycling team food chain,but I think it’s fair to say we do play a part. I recall discussions with a potential sponsor who raised the point that he wasn’t sure how he’d feel about backing a team which helps in a riders development who then moves on to another team, and we receive no financial compensation from said team. My answer was, give us more money and said rider won’t need to move on, as we can expand the race program with a bigger budget. This does raise the issue of transfer fees. For a team like ours, riders aren’t moving on directly to World Tour teams and the next step they make from us isn’t likely to involve a salary that’s anywhere near the national average wage, but a token financial exchange would be an acknowledgment of what a team has done and help the team continue to help other riders develop.
I personally don’t think we should focus on trying to mess with racing, people love bike racing as it is. What needs to change is how teams are funded and how revenue is created and shared. With regard to revenue, I don’t think any team, irrelevant of level, could self fund through selling products or services.
We sell some products, and that cash helps keep us on the road, but I’ve never believed this to be a potential significant source of funding. Anything a team can do or sell which can produce significant funding would essentially be another business, therefore it’s using the simple sponsorship model, where by one entity funds another. It could be an improvement, as a team wouldn’t be reliant on another party, but the reality of that scenario is running two businesses.
I still believe a financially supported team needs to be primarily a marketing vehicle. What form that marketing takes can vary immensely. We want partners who back us for what we do away from racing as well as how well we do at races and how much we help riders develop. This may be promoting cycling in schools, active travel and numerous other community based which may be funded or part funded by private sector business and delivered by a local authority.
We promote The City of Sheffield as The Outdoor City, and in doing this we hope to help bring tourism to Sheffield. The ideas behind CYCLING SHEFFIELD are very simple. We believe what we are doing has integrity and real value, both on a sporting level and in a marketing context. Some private sector businesses will simply like the idea of supporting something like CS as it aligns with their Corporate Social Responsibly policy.
One key thing I’ve realised we are trying to do is make people care about the team. This requires a different kind of team identity and why our team is registered and known as CYCLING SHEFFIELD. We want the people of Sheffield and surrounding areas to care about us, and what we do.
For me it’s a real labour of love, but I’m convinced it’s not just a nice idea, it’s a good, viable idea.