Isla Rush at Tour of Reservoir

The team competed at the Tour of the Resevoir in 2016. This was Isla’s take on the whole event.

The Tour of the Reservoir is well-known for being cold, tough and hilly- it really was just that last weekend.

The Saturday stage was delayed by an hour due to ice on the roads, so everyone wrapped up warm in anticipation for a chilly race. We got underway just before 10am, and when the flag dropped the race went hard. Unfortunately we only got to race ten laps of the circuit for Saturday due to the delay, but it was a good race nevertheless. I found it tough due to the stop-start nature of the race, but finished after working with a smaller group for most of the race; I knew the next day would suit me more, as it was longer and tougher, and less likely to have such drastic pace changes. My main aim for the weekend was to gain experience, so although I’d  have liked to have finished in the main group, it wasn’t the end of the world. Hopefully, it’s something I can improve next year.

Sunday’s stage started just before nine, on an equally cold and icy morning. However, the ice hadn’t settled quite as much as the day before, so it was safe to race. It started fast on the approach to the reservoir, with several riders being sent out the back. My aim was to stay in the bunch for as long as possible, as the rolling nature of the circuit meant the peloton was very likely to split up. After two laps when we reached the QoM climb, the race sped up at the front and I began to lose places. Before I knew it, team cars were coming past. Luckily, a group of three juniors (me, Maddie Gammons and Sophie Thackray) came together and chased back on to the group. After 43km we turned onto Carrick’s Corner, and the speed went up yet another notch- I couldn’t hack it. I rode about half a lap on my own, then joined a group of another three riders that I remained with for the rest of the race. We caught a lot of riders who couldn’t manage the pace of the race either, and joined another similar sized group with just under two laps left. The hills were really getting to everyone, and cracks started appearing in the small groups. We eventually split up just before the long descent into the reservoir, but pretty much came back together on the final climb to the finish.

After that race, I didn’t really want to look at a hill again, ever. However, I finished, and a fair few people didn’t get to that final climb. Despite the hills and cold weather, I loved Sunday’s stage and had a good performance. I achieved more than I expected, which is always a result. A huge congrats to my awesome teammate Alice Cobb AKA the Baby-Faced Assassin for an amazing Tour of the Res, who came away with 5th on GC.
And how could I not thank my parents for taking us, and the fabulous owner of our B&B who made us porridge at 6:30am!

All in all, Tour of the Res was pretty fun.


Road to Rio: Elinor Barker

Elinor Barker on the far right. Image credit Nicola CC BY-SA 4.0

In this series of articles, we hope to give you a little more of an insight into our Olympic hopefuls. First up is Elinor Barker, who progressed through the British Cycling academy system to become World Junior Time Trial Champion in 2012. This success came just 45 days after Laura Trott, now Elinor’s team mate at Matrix p/b Corley Cycles, won Gold at the London Olympics, alongside two riders who rode for Matrix Fitness at the time, Dani King and Jo Rowsell.

All athletes dream of scoring big victories at the very top level of their sport, of course, but everyone has to start somewhere. Elinor told us about the time she was first bitten by the racing bug: “My first race was a Welsh cyclocross league race in a park near my house. I borrowed my big brother’s bike which weighed about the same as our family car. I walked most of it and finished last. I don’t think anybody expected me to make a career out of cycling at that point!“

Yet she did, and by 2008 Elinor started to rack up respectable results; then, a year or two later with a little more experience to go along with what was already very obviously a large portion of natural talent, she began to win – a lot. In fact, she’d reached massive highs in cycling long before her first rainbow jersey, with especially notable highlights including taking a silver medal as a first year junior in the Junior Time Trial event at the 2011 World Championships in Copenhagen, where she finished less than two seconds behind winner Jessica Allen of Australia (the following year, when the event was held in the Netherlands and Elinor won, she beat the second-placed rider by almost 36 seconds).

Having also by this time proved herself to be a very handy track rider, it wouldn’t be too long until she would get her next World Title as part of the Great Britain team pursuit squad – her progression to the Elite team being perhaps inevitable after she’d been a valued member of the European Championships Junior team in 2012, where she took gold alongside Amy Roberts and Lucy Garner. At those same Championships, she earned another gold by winning the Junior Individual Pursuit

With the Olympics still five months away, teams are still at the shortlist stage with the places not yet allocated.

As this is Elinor’s first potential appearance at the Games, she’s focusing on making sure one of those places will be given to her. Fortunately, she has the wisdom of team mates Lora Turnham and Laura Trott, both of whom were at the 2012 Games in London, and all the other old hands on the Olympic Development Programme to draw upon: “Being around Olympic champions/medalists and Olympians is hugely helpful. Listening to them reminisce about London and Beijing at the dinner table is inspiring and hopefully I’ll be able to be a part of the conversation one day. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by so many inspiring people all the time. I train with the best people in the world at what we do which is a very privileged position to be in, but ultimately I think you need to have a natural desire to push yourself to succeed. It has to come from you (cheesy as it may sound!).“

Elinor recently took a bronze medal at the 2016 World Track Championships in London, posting a new national record time in the process. With media focus on the riders at an all time high, in between races the cameras were often turned towards the riders preparing for their events. Elinor was rarely seen without her headphones – what music does she use to “get in the zone?”: “The last track I listened to before the Worlds, and before most races, is “Take It Back” by Ed Sheeran. It’s got quite punchy lyrics and is very fast flowing, trying to sing along to it in my head distracts me from any pre-races nerve or doubts I might have.“

We’ll have more questions for Elinor next month, and further interviews with Trott and Paralympian duo Lora Turnham and Corrine Hall, in the coming weeks; for now, we’ll leave you with a few quick-fire questions and answers…

Twitter or Facebook:                         Twitter.

Sugar or Salt Popcorn                      Sugar popcorn.

Jam or Nutella                                    Nutella.

Stranded on a desert island and you can have one item, what would it be? Tanning oil. Might as well benefit from the situation!

Matrix p/b Corley Cycles and the Olympic hopefuls would like to give fans the chance to ask questions for the next round of interviews. Please send your suggestions to us via our social media channels.


Training Camp – Why Limoux

So why Limoux? A question we often get asked every time we get ready to fly to this lovely little French town for our team training camp. The answer is simple really, it’s the best place to train in Europe in our opinion, but I’ll explain in a little more detail.

The Rides and Roads – Largely traffic free, with smooth surfaces and with views to blow your mind. The area is in the heart of the Aude region, and being away from the major city of Carcassonne you’re never faced with many vehicles. The drivers have an understanding and respect of bike riders and safety. You get your space, and can enjoy the smooth tarmac as you look at the views which never fail to enchant people.

Our focus on the rides are about getting quality hours on the bikes and combining that with all the elements you’d expect from a training camp. Riders need to learn confidence in each other, see other riders strengths and weaknesses, and they need to carry out race simulation drills depending on the date of the camp. TTT, ITT, lead-out, descending, attacking; all areas that need to be covered.   But coming here to Limoux, we can do all of that in an environment that makes us feel safe and secure.

The Hills – You finish a ride feeling challenged, tired, but happy with your achievements. You always climb more than you think in this region, due to the constant undulation. With hills that usually average between 4% and 9%, it never feels like you’re climbing the Mur de Huy, which helps training groups stick together when they are doing endurance rides. The sheer variety of hills means that on an interval or structured day, you can find climbs that suit your efforts within a short ride of Limoux. In fact, if you want to be more specific, you can actually find many climbs that replicate “famous” climbs to ensure you can tailor your training to very specific requirements.

Our focus on the hills relates to race simulation. For a women’s team, why spend weeks training in the mountains, when there are very few races in the mountains on the world calendar for women. Most races have hills, not mountains. Our climbers need to be able to race the hills, our sprinters need to be able to survive the hills. We feel that taking a focus on real race situations into training will help performance.

The Weather – Much is made of going to Majorca for a training camp, it’s the thing to do I guess. But as I sit here typing this, I read about snow falling in Majorca. Sure, it can snow here, but a generally dry climate and predictable weather patterns mean that a ride of 4 to 5 hours every day in the dry is achievable throughout January, February and March. There aren’t many rainy day, so you can plan your training beforehand and it’s rare the weather would make you change plans.

Our focus on the weather takes into consideration it not being too hot. That might seem odd as we all see Instagram feeds of riders sunning themselves at training camps in the winter. But we feel returning from those conditions, and going straight into classic style races in northern Europe, in classic style weather conditions can lead to illness and poor performance. It’s between 14 degrees and 20 degrees most days here in Limoux during the early months of the year. A much easy drop to handle when you hit the early Kermesse races of the season.

Home from Home – We stay in houses here, set up as homes. With each rider having their own room, a desk to study, wifi in all areas, and other items we consider essential. A full kitchen, washing and drying facilities, bike racks, a dishwasher to avoid standing up for ages cleaning up after a big group of riders after a long day in the saddle. There are even hundreds (I don’t exaggerate) of box sets of DVD’s to help riders relax after putting in long days on the bike.

Our focus on home from home relates to two key areas. Firstly we are taking riders out of their home and familiar environment and putting them into a new world, with new riders, often being the first time they have met. We run several camps, and there are often different riders on each camp. We want them to have personal space, but also a common area. That common area needs to be more inviting that a hotel reception seating area.

Secondly it relates to being about to continue your home life. All our riders have different circumstances. Some are on their first major trip away from home without their previous mentors or family, some are studying, some are introvert, some are extrovert. We want our riders to be able to study, develop, train, recover, and simply exist in the most comfort possible. We don’t feel you get that in a hotel environment. We have enough of that during the summer months.



And so the team started the new 2016 season.  As they noted in their press release back in October  this year is twofold. Firstly, the team will support the British track stars, Laura Trott and Elinor Barker providing a secure and stress-free base on which to build their Olympic campaign. Secondly, the team will commit more resources to its Rider Academy Program which is helping riders progress and pursue European racing ambitions in a unique and supportive environment.
But before moving into this exciting time Team Manager, Stef Wyman looked back on his high points of 2015.

1.     “Number one has to be the rise and rise of Molly Weaver. From the summer of 2014 when we first started speaking to her and her team at the time (Epic Cycles) about the potential of her joining us, she was nothing but fantastic.  We helped her off the bike, and hopefully on it, and played a part in helping her step up the ladder to the new guidance of Hans Timmerman at Liv-Plantur, with whom I hold a huge amount of respect for.  She deserves all the success she gets.  Her ride in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (30th) and also Gent-Wevelgem (15th) really stood out.  They weren’t her best results on paper but you could see the belief Molly gained from these performances about what was achievable in the future.  It was actually very inspiring.”

2.     “The success of our “track riders”. I took more than the normal level of public bashing about my move to sign two track riders, Laura Trott and Elinor Barker.  I am still not sure why, as these riders are champions. They inspire the other riders in the team, they are professionals, and they are winners.   Seeing them become our road focus in several events was fantastic, especially Elinor with her taking a Jersey in the Women’s Tour and also at the GP Elsy Jacobs in Luxembourg.   Special moments for sure and their efforts and commitment were hugely appreciated by all of the back room crew at the team.”

“Competing at La Course. An event I had not been to before, but one I am really proud we reached. I shared the trip and the memories from it with some of my best friends who have been a huge part in the team’s success. It proved to me that the event is far more than tokenism (My blog – Being careful what we wish for) and I hadn’t appreciated the enormity of the event from the outside. For a team and our sponsors the event is massive, it was off the scale. I will miss being there in 2016, but I will not miss that dreadful weather.”

“Winning! To me that is what cycling is about. It doesn’t matter what level, or what events; it’s about winning. People often talk about developing riders and development teams, but the focus in these teams, and top teams, is always on winning. So to win was relief to be honest. Christina Siggaard won a great race in Belgium and showed consistent form in the sprint. She is a talented rider I hope she can go onto great things. Kim Le Court also took a fantastic win after joining the team mid-season. She won in Belgium, having followed some team instructions helping her change good performances to the best result. She appreciated and understood the advice, grew as a rider, and I am sure winning in Belgium will stand her in good stead in her new team in Spain. There were many wins along the way, they give everyone a boost and they raise your standards, your expectations and your opportunities.”

“The team behind the riders was exceptional in 2015. Stuart MacLean helping me keep the train on the tracks as always, Huw Williams, Bart Raeymaekers, and Tom Prenan with the photography, the sponsors and belief they have in our program especially Jon and Gemma at Matrix Fitness. Then there is Richard Meadows (Mechanic), Dud (Swannie) and Steve. Their day to day contribution was massive. They worked themselves beyond anything I could have imagined or asked for. To work with your closest friends is such a pleasure. I’m putting all my focus onto building something bigger and stronger for 2017, when this fantastic crew can be reunited. Every shred of success from 2015 goes firmly to them and their hard work. I just drive the bus.”

Our final thought is that 2016 season will be one where we will move forward with our team principles:

Giving Stability, Rewarding Partnerships, Forging a Future

Hopefully this time in 2017 we will review top performances at the Olympics and a new level for the team to look forward to.


Matrix Fitness getting presented

2016 saw some new partnerships for the Matrix Fitness team; the first of these being the amazing Corley Cycles. The bike store based in Stacey Bushes, Milton Keynes has developed strong links to women’s cycling, directly through title sponsorship of it’s own team, as well as investing in the women’s cycling community including race promotion and support of up and coming riders.

Director Phil Corley commented, “We are absolutely delighted that by linking up with Stefan and the Matrix Fitness team, we can continue our involvement with women’s cycling into 2016.  I’ve closely followed the progress of the Matrix team throughout the years and it is with great pleasure that I can put my name on their jersey.”

With a large shop, and fantastic workshop facilities, Corley Cycles will provide a key link to the cycling industry itself, as well as helping team riders directly with bike maintenance throughout the season. With bike partner Trek being based in Milton Keynes, the city is quickly becoming a 2nd home for the team. “I’m from pretty close to Milton Keynes myself and grew up going to Corley Cycles for my own cycling needs. Corley Cycles are not only linked to current partners, they are actually a part of the local cycling culture with bike fitting, power testing and a wealth of knowledgeable staff. To have Corleys on board with the team for 2016 will not only give us direct support for our riders, but provide a vital link to the industry as we look to develop over the coming years.” Commented team manager Stefan Wyman

The team entering their 7th season is seeking a co-title sponsor, and has confirmed the partnership of Matrix Fitness, Trek Bikes and Milltag clothing. Having already announced contract extensions for Harriet Owen, Laura Trott and Elinor Barker, plus the addition of Alice Cobb, Isla Rush and Amira Mellor we are hoping for a strong year as it looks to support riders’ ambitions of reaching the professional level of the sport.

Corley Cycles Director Katy Simcock, herself a decorated former professional cyclist added, “Matrix Fitness presented by Corley Cycles is an exciting project. During 2015 we created a large team with great people, super keen riders eager to learn, coaches and friends all willing to chip in; we want to continue with this ethos. On The Drops is doing exactly this in 2016, we have a joint passion, we want to nurture athletes, give them the tools to develop into race winners and teach them how to get the best out of themselves. I’m very much looking forward to it.”

Follow Corley Cycles on Twitter


Amira Mellor to join Matrix Fitness

Expanding its reach into another cycling discipline, Matrix Fitness added the rising star of British cyclocross Amira Mellor to the 2016 squad. Amira, from Yorkshire, officially joined after the current cross season finishes and becomes the team’s first dedicated cross rider. Having turned 18 just last week, Amira had rapidly risen up the world rankings to her current position, 45th. Starting the season in the USA she’d been boosted by the introduction of a World under 23 Championships in cyclocross. Amira held realistic hopes of reaching the World Championship podium in the coming seasons.

“My love of cyclocross is no secret and as soon as the announcement came introducing a U23 World Championship I began to think it was about time the team added a cross rider” commented team manager Stefan Wyman. “Cross is growing in popularity in the UK, but it’s mainstream in Belgium and Holland and will provide us with a winter focus to go alongside our commitments in the velodrome. Amira is hugely talented and is part of an expanding group of emerging cross riders from the UK. Hopefully we can continue the fantastic progression she has made with the Oldfield/Maul Milnes Cycles team.”

Amira winning the British championships in 2015 Photo RAY, CC BY 2.0

Amira will combine an increased road program with expert cyclocross input from Matrix Fitness team mentor Helen Wyman. With the opportunity to spend periods of time in Europe training with one of the world’s leading cross riders, as well as race and train with the teams squad in Belgium and Holland, the team hold high hopes for Amira. 2016 is also Amira’s last year in college and following completion of her exams she will embark on a full time career in cycling to see how far she can progress.

“I’m really excited and grateful to be joining Matrix Fitness for the 2016 season. This will be my first summer focusing on road and am really looking forward to the new challenges and experiences ahead. Once I’ve finished college I’ll be able to train full time and hopefully train aboard with Helen and the team” commented Amira. “I hope joining the team will help me make the next step internationally with my big focus on the U23 worlds in the new few seasons. Working with Stef and Helen so far has been a privilege and I am really looking forward to continuing to work with them as well as the rest of the Matrix team.”

Amira already had a bike fit in Manchester with CycleFit to ensure her Trek road bike for 2016 is perfect for her. On top of this, Amira has started work with Matrix Fitness team coach James Spragg as she continues to progress towards the National and World Championships in January. Amira was looking forward to being seen in the traditional blue and green of Matrix from March 2016.


Isla Rush joins as team goes full circle

Continuing the team’s commitment to providing a junior rider with a place on the team, Matrix Fitness was delighted to add Isla Rush as its first new rider for 2016. As they entered a new phase for the team, in which they take a side step away from a traditional team environment and focus their support on helping developing riders realise their potential, Isla was one of the first riders that they considered. Isla had been a friend of the team for a long time. She’d attended several team launches, and often watched the team in Belgium. Having chosen to take a different pathway to many others, Isla raced off her own back in Belgium regularly, gaining experience of the fast-moving European peloton as often as possible.

Isla was more than just a new member; she was also confirmation that the team had moved full circle, being the first rider to have joined having been inspired into racing by the “Fan-Backed Women’s Racing” sessions started by Huw Williams in conjunction with the Matrix Fitness team.

“It’s great to hear that Matrix Fitness have signed Isla Rush for the 2016 season,” said Huw. “Isla attended the first of my novice women’s race training sessions in 2012 at Cyclopark as a pretty worried-looking 14-year-old that’d done a bit of triathlon and some local TT’s. Matrix was instrumental in helping set up the initial novice women’s race training sessions, sending team riders to a variety of freezing cold locations in the middle of the bleakest, off-season months and inspiring dozens of aspiring women racers along the way. Isla’s elevation to the team three years down the line squares the circle for me, she’s the first genuinely novice racer to emerge from those sessions to join a major team and underlines the importance of teams like Matrix in providing alternative pathways for non academy riders.” 

Isla hails from North Norfolk, was still in full-time education and continued to race around her school commitments. With races planned in the UK, France and Belgium already, it will be a busy 2016 but she likes getting away to race – on signing for the team she said, “I love how the team races abroad regularly, especially in Belgium. I really enjoy racing out there and it’s definitely something I’d like to pursue in the future professionally. The racing scene is Europe is really cool. I can’t wait for an exciting 2016 with a team I’ve admired since I first picked up a road bike.”

“Isla is absolutely what we are looking for in a rider,” commented Stefan Wyman, manager of the Matrix Fitness team. “Enthusiastic, talented and someone who simply loves racing. She races road, track and TT races and is a delight to be with off the bike. She’s even started to help the next generation of riders by helping Huw at his training sessions as an expert advisor. It’s going to be great seeing her in Matrix Fitness colours for 2016.”



In 2015 star rider Lucy Martin announced her retirement from racing:

2005 to 2015, 10 years, thats how long I have been racing as a cyclist. Having come from a non cycling background and picked up by British Cycling Talent team on my school field as a teenager, I look back and realise how lucky I was for that opportunity and how much it went on to change my life. The amount of things I have learnt in this time, all through cycling has been unreal. The diverse range of people I have met, the incredible places I have been, the success, satisfaction and fulfilment along with pain and disappointment has been phenomenal, I guess that is the beauty of sport. The life without limitations, always pushing for better and for more.

It is now that I have time to look back and analyse what I have done in the last ten years that it actually surprises me. I have been able to experience so much in such a short space of time, all because of this sport and it has gone so incredibly fast. I have been to one Olympic Games, one Commonwealth Games, three Road World Championships, three Junior European Championships, two Track World Cups, twenty seven Road World Cups, on top of all the other week in week out races all around the world; representing my country and various professional teams along the way.

Every single athlete is eventually faced with the question; when do I retire? Some retire at their peak, some unfortunately retire due to injury or age or simply just when they know its time. I have decided now.  After seven seasons as an elite rider I have finally realised that this is the time and I am lucky to be in a situation where I have been able to make this decision on my own terms and I am ready to start the next chapter of my life. I love cycling and what it has brought me and it will always be a part of my life. I was given a great chance this season racing for a British Team Matrix Fitness, full of support with a really refreshing approach to racing and I have thoroughly enjoyed my season. It is this high that has led me to make this decision to end my career now with a good feeling and great memories.

There are so many people who have inspired me along the way in so many different ways. The people who have truly believed in me and wanted to help me succeed and make the journey so pleasurable. Other riders who have inspired me, helping me to learn so much and brought the satisfaction of racing together as a team full of sacrifice. Thats one thing that I am really passionate about within this sport. My friends and of course my family who have played a huge role in my career. Team managers, sponsors, the crowds of spectators at races, the list just goes on. Cycling is so much more than I ever ever imagined it could be and such a community. I will continue to be involved and hopefully inspire and give back to this sport which I am so thankful to have had.

All I can say is it is truly amazing what sport can do.



Cost of running a team revisited

This was a fascinating opinion piece for a number of reasons. As well as giving an insight into what the team was trying to achieve, it also laid out a framework for other teams keen on promoting women’s cycle racing, including realistic expenditure and what could hopefully be gained in return.

Almost exactly 2 years ago, Nick Hussey and myself put something together about the cost of running a successful women’s cycling team. I know the word “successful” can mean a multitude of things, like wins, podiums, stability, media return etc, but with the Women’s World Tour now seeming like it will be a reality in 2017, with the qualifying events commencing in 2016, I guess we can put another item in the list of success: Being a Women’s World Tour Team. So with that in mind, and with our first season as a professional team almost behind us, what are the costs of running a team, and what seem to be the barriers to entry for new and potential sponsors?

2016 is the Olympic year and it seems to be the popular misconception that teams flourish in Olympic year; my experience is quite the opposite. Certainly post the 2008 games, I’ve noticed a huge trend that marketing budgets go to individual medal contenders for the upcoming games. This leaves teams hanging on for survival, and it has to be said pretty frustrated. Matrix Fitness has a couple of genuine medal contenders in the rider roster, but opening up boardroom doors is, seemingly, harder than ever.

With 6 to 10 weeks left to add significant sponsors to a team before registration deadlines, it’s always a stressful time for team owners. It’s also a frustrating time for many riders as they wait for teams to confirm budgets ahead of issuing contracts. But the WWT will have effect on things, and those changes will happen in 2016, one year ahead of the introduction of the actual WWT itself. Working on many assumptions to fill the gaps, teams need to be in the top 20-ranked team in January 2016 to gain a guaranteed entry to the major races. So that’s goal one for us for 2016, the bigger goal being entry to the WWT in 2017. To do that, we need to sign a team of riders with UCI points significant enough to help us achieve that while keeping the right balance of riders, personalities, maintaining continuity if possible, and balancing rider ambitions. Of course, there are 30 plus other teams looking to do the same thing.

The bigger goal mentioned above would be to win points in the newly appointed WWT events. Now, the big assumption here is going to be which races are WWT events, and also the assumption entry to the WWT will be based on points accrued. We know some events, but not others. So any early rider signings have to be based on trying to score points in events that we aren’t sure of the terrain, timing on the calendar, etc etc. So that’s a small item to provide a minor headache. That’s not an issue for the biggest teams, with huge rosters of riders coving every eventuality, but to have a successful WWT, we need more than 8 teams. We need competition for places and many more teams with ambitions of reaching the WWT. Obviously the renewed focus of the WWT to provide a media return is going to help many teams and provide a real incentive to reach to the top ranked division. The WWT is also going to give us a clear pathway of divisions of team – Club/Amateur, Continental, WWT. This is going to help everyone understand the sport better.

So more big events, more UCI/WWT points, and bigger ambitions come at a cost. But when we wrote about the costs of running a team two years ago, Nick Hussey of Vulpine said, “It is exceptional, almost embarrassingly good value. Cycling as a whole is booming. Everyone wants to be involved. Women’s racing offers immense value on many levels for a potential sponsor.” This hasn’t changed, and the introduction of the WWT only increases the exceptional good value of the sport.

So how have the numbers change:

£350,000 – Total Team Budget Goal  (£250,000 in 2013)

This is the total budget to establish/maintain a high-level professional team given the new WWT. By high level you would be looking at a ranking of between 10th and 20th in the World, maybe higher depending on the time available to sign riders (There is a huge benefit to having confirmed sponsorship known in advance of deadlines). Remember a top 15 ranking would guarantee the team entry to every WWT event (One day races, top 20, and Stage races, top 15). Given these events include Tour of Flanders, Fleche Wallonne, La Course, Tour of Italy, Tour of Britain (All assumed but widely spoken about), the value is clear to see. These are the biggest events in the world. 

As per 2013, you can still take on up to 2 named partners, and these companies actually become the name of the team. This amount creates a 12 to 14 rider team that can field its best team (Generally 6 riders) for specific events, whether it’s the London Nocturne, or the Tour of Britain.

The sponsors can expect signed jerseys, team cars splashed with their logo, kit in their colours, VIP packages, riding in the team car, photo shoot at your office with the team.  As Nick confirmed in 2013, it doesn’t quite get a huge Death Star style team bus though, although that wouldn’t be too far off.

£100,000 – Co-Title Sponsor 

On it’s own this is enough to create a non-professional team feeding the top ranked teams with developing riders. But this amount would make a company a co-title sponsor of a professional team. You’re company name would part of the teams name, giving you all of the benefits seen above. 

This could be the difference between being able to provide a minimum salary to riders meaning they can concentrate completely on racing, and put a team up to 5 years ahead of the planned introduction of a minimum salary across the board officially by the UCI.

“Lashings of value for sponsors”, but not quite the all bells and whistles big time super-team of the £250,000 package.

£25,000 to £50,000 (Depending on Return points and future options) – Key Partnership

This figure would allow a company to feature prominently on the team race clothing, vehicles, and also take on ride Ambassador who provides specific return to that company. 

As well as customized return for each company, standard points of return such as corporate days with the team including rides with the team from your company HQ, full access to the team launch and use of the team at your trade shows or events. 

£15,000 (Up to 10 partnerships exist per season) – Provision of a rider Ambassador.

Corporate days with the rider at leading events. Corporate logo on the team jersey and vehicles.

Product Partnership 

Don’t forget, teams need products. These partnerships are vital for team, from bikes to cars, to embrocation. It’s a fantastic way for a new company to become involved with top level racing, and also an opportunity to dip your toes in the water of sponsorship. You can find out if it’s for you, your fellow board members, and then move up the sponsorship chain over time. 

So, as you can see, entry to the world of women’s professional cycling is still exceptional value. International teams all around the world however are fighting to open boardroom doors in time to make a difference for the 2016 season, and to be honest time is ticking by pretty quickly. It’s Olympic year and with the introduction of the WWT it should be a real year of celebration for the sport. We certainly hope that we can be a part of it.


A window of opportunity

Thoughts on the Aviva Tour – the biggest stage race in women’s cycling

The AVIVA Tour is the biggest stage race in women’s cycling in our opinion. It’s not only the huge prize money and unrivalled organisational standards, but mainly the media focus on the race. This translates into an opportunity for the team to springboard into the following year that other multi-day events just don’t provide us. It’s the clear focus of our racing year and much of our preparation and racing is based on performances at this event. This year, race organisers SweetSpot took the view that they’d let us, and the world, know early that both ourselves and Pearl Izumi were selected for the race. This gave us an opportunity to ensure we could maximise the opportunity on and off the bike.

For us there were some unforeseen bumps in the road with 3 of our provisionally selected riders becoming unavailable. Molly Weaver had stepped up so much this season she moved to a higher ranked team with our full backing, leaving us with a minor issue of replacing a potential leader. Harriet, who’d been working extremely hard to be in the selection and provide sprint support at the end of stages broke her hand just before the tour. Then there is Baku, the European Games, which has sprung onto the calendar this year and left us lacking Christina in the selection, our consistent finisher from Denmark and a powerhouse of our squad in bunch finishes. But with these losses comes opportunity, and those riders who thought a chance wouldn’t come their way, were ready to step up and grabbed the chance with both hands. Enter Kim le Court and Mel Lowther.

The months preceding the tour are a chain of promotional events for the organisers and the local councils that back the race to try to help promote their region. We’ve travelled thousands of kilometres to events from our base in Oudenaarde, squeezing these appearances in between key preparation races. One of those was in Aldeburgh and not only was it a chance to ride the course for stage 1 of the tour, but also a chance to help some young adults as they look at their career options and education. Professional women riders are such good ambassadors for their sponsors and their sport, it’s always a pleasure to see them inspire future generations to be follow their dreams.

But how does all of this help the team leap forward? Well coming into the race we had one clear goal; be on the podium. The 2014 tour was a tough event for us as an amateur team. It was a case of survival in reality, but we rode strongly, all of our riders completed the 5-day event, and we had some strong performances to look back on. Putting ourselves on the podium in 2015 would confirm our growth as a team, and it puts you in an elite club, as not many teams get that opportunity. The reality is the podium of major races is a lockout in general terms by the big players, and it’s certainly a challenge a team like ours is willing to take on, as we look to join that exclusive club over the next few years.

Confirming that you’re better than last year alone wont help the leap forward, but it does help increase interest in the team. To step forward, we are under no illusions that we need to add a sprinkling of talent to the team, adding more experienced and varied leaders will help our current crop progress quickly. We have a fantastic team behind the scenes. From soigneurs, mechanics, media staff, to Sports Psychologists, physios, Coaches and Sponsors.   But announcing ourselves as a team in the best way possible, by being on the podium, it helps to attract a level of riders that might otherwise skip our team over when they scan the results and ranking in their hunt for a new home.

Media interest around the team was certainly at an all time high during this event. That’s partly the Laura Trott effect, we know that and we’re not blinkered to that. We actually had to bring in staff specifically to deal with the high number of media demands to ensure that Laura could race relaxed and focus on her performance for the team, leading to a top 20 on the GC for her, and us (Last year our highest finisher was 45th). But the general media in the run up to the event has never been higher. ITV featured the team, with 15 minutes of film being produced giving a good view of what goes on at a stage race (Part 1 & Part 2 of the main feature are here), BBC featured the team during the race with a day behind the scenes with the team, and local news featured the team daily.

But how do you convert that interest into structured growth for a team. Well I guess that comes down to the mini window of opportunity we now sit in. The AVIVA Tour is the start of that window, and in reality finishes shortly after the Ride London event that is on live television on 1 August. These two great events are the bread around a La Course sandwich, which is a huge event for us, going out to 150 countries for live transmission. Who’d of thought all of this could even be dreamed about 5 years ago when this team was formed. The sport in some ways has revolutionised.

This mini-window is where we do, or don’t secure our future. It’s where we do or don’t guarantee the future of the riders and staff under this umbrella. We’re in a good position, with loyal sponsors, good media, and keen interest in the team, but to springboard forward means we have to take 2 steps forward this winter. We know we took a huge stride this season; we’ve gone from unlikely survivors to podiums in 12 months. But the sport has also moved forward. The top teams have, thankfully, got stronger. Their dominance is clear, and breaking into the top 10 of the sport is harder every year. You can’t move just one step forward over the winter, or you’re just treading water. You have to move forward two steps, at least, if you have any ambition of moving up the rankings.

To move forward there is a combination of needs. Money, of course we need money, but women’s teams are a cheap entry point to the market for potential sponsors. A £300,000 cash budget is a strong budget in women’s cycling, which when used smartly can see you firmly in the Worlds top 10. Making sure that money comes from sustainable sources is key as stability has always been a core value of the team. Opportunity comes with money when spent wisely, and ensuring as a team we have a winter which is full of training and learning opportunities is going to fast track and polish our rough diamonds into jewels worthy of the World Tour events that look to be put onto the calendar in 2016.

The Women’s Tour gave us the showcase we needed to open our mini-window, with streets lined with fans, television coverage and a commercial and professional organisation bringingw big names to the table. The sport is in the spotlight, and now it’s up to us to use that spotlight to grow.

You can see the AVIVA Women’s Tour Highlights on ITV player via this link