Archive for February, 2013

To ride for one’s club or to sell one’s soul and ride for a sponsor…

If you talk to the ‘old timers’ it seems the club kit doesn’t have the prestige it once had.  Riders used to be chuffed pulling on the club colours and rolling up to races to ride as part of their ‘team’.  Now that only seems to happen at events like the Club Teams where it is mandatory to wear club kit.  Is this a good thing or should we be encouraging our juniors to ride for their club?

A mix of club kit and sponsor kit usually make up any junior peloton.

A mix of club kit, ‘coach kit’ and sponsor kit usually make up any junior peloton.

Whether you come from this belief or not, the fact remains that there are sponsors out there happy to support young riders… some are even actively seeking them… check out this recent Tweet from shoe manufacturer Gaerne Australia.

How much do you ‘take’ from your club?  Do they provide coaching sessions?  Do they provide safe group rides?  Do they provide shelter at events?  My feeling is if you are ‘taking’ from your club: utilising its services, it is the right thing to do give back… and one way you can do this is to wear the club kit when racing.  If, on the other hand, you don’t rely heavily on your club or your club doesn’t offer a lot of support, and you’re offered a sponsorship by a LBS or some other corporate team, then go for your life.

Most junior LBS sponsorships will include things like:

  • Register you as a sponsored rider with your State body
  • Free servicing of your bike
  • Free set-up and fit
  • Free kit
  • Discount across the board – from bikes to parts to accessories

For this the junior rider is expected to:

  • Always wear your sponsor kit (for training and racing)
  • Promote the shop to your friends and family – try and get them to buy from your LBS
  • Buy all your needs from your LBS – NOT ONLINE!
  • Promote your sponsorship via your social media
  • Join in on the shop rides
  • Be respectful when wearing your sponsors kit (no running red lights etc.)

The discount you get vary from LBS to LBS.  Usually somewhere between the 15-30% off.  There isn’t a lot of margin on some things so the discount may vary from item to item.  Often your LBS will negotiate on your behalf with a bike manufacturer (or importer) for a great deal on a bike for you.  This might be a discount on cost (say cost less 20%) or it might be an open invoice (you get the bike at cost but don’t need to pay for it for 12-months at which time you sell it while updating your own ride with another 12-month open invoice).  The better you look after your bike the more you get for it when you sell it so you might even make money on each bike + you get a new bike every year!

Some other things that a sponsor might do include paying for your race entries or contributing to your cost of travel.  They might even pay you a bonus when you win races.

There has also been a growth in junior teams.  Teams like the Racing Kangaroos, GDT Flanders and Team Bike Ride Tasmania offer junior riders with a good structure that might include: training camps, overseas racing opportunities and discounts on bikes and accessories.  They also offer kids the chance to feel they’re part of something bigger; part of a ‘team’ in a sport that is seen as being individual, especially when racing as a junior.

Team Bike Ride Tasmania using social media to thank one of their sponsors.

Team Bike Ride Tasmania using social media to thank one of their sponsors – the NAB.  This group of young Tasmanian riders raise money for the plight of the now endangered Tasmanian Devil.

The other kit you see a lot is ‘coach kit’.  That is, you ride in the colours of your coaching group.  Not sure why you’d do this unless the coach was giving you a discount on coaching or at the very least free kit?

So how do you go about getting a sponsor and keeping a sponsor?  Keep your eye out when the above teams call for nominations. In the mean time, put together a two or three page palmarès (or cycling CV).  Include a little about you, what’s important to you, what your goals are, your past results.  Include lots of glossy photos.  Include a para to demonstrate you understand what you’ll do for a sponsor (see above list).

Once you have a sponsor, make sure you service them.  Send them updates from races and photos on a Monday.  Give them an end of season wrap with photos and summary of results.  By them a case of beer for Christmas.  It’s the little things that count.  Also show loyalty.  Don’t go changing from sponsor-to-sponsor because you might get what sounds like a better offer.  There are a lot of fly-by-nighters out there so if you’ve developed a good relationship, place a high value on it.

At the end of the day, the sponsorship needs to work for both parties.  You need to get something out of it, but you also need to give something back.  Whether that be with your club or with your LBS or any other corporate/team sponsor.  But remember, a sponsor isn’t be the be-all and end-all… kids spending their time training while you’re trying to find a sponsor will probably beat you.  And you should feel proud to wear your club kit with all its history and heritage.

Good luck to all for the up-coming Junior Track Champs in Adelaide and for the fast approaching road season.

Well worth the trip…

Posted: February 13, 2013 in Racing

With track season coming to an end, its time to plan for the upcoming road season and which events your juniors might target.  I’ve mentioned in a previous post, contemplating a National Junior Road Series, some of the better Junior Tours to consider.  One such tour is first off the bat: The Central Districts Cycling Club’s Santos Junior Tour.  Moved to a mid-April slot for 2013 (13th and 14th April) it ticks all the boxes with arguably the best parcours of all Junior Tours as well as a well organised and safe racing environment.

2012 winners are grinners!

2012 winners are grinners!

Some other pluses:

    • It’s won on time (not points)!
    • It’s a full four-stages (unlike most of the Victorian JTs!)
    • There are very cool jerseys for the leaders to wear and the winners to take home.
    • Stage two includes a climb of Menglers Hill (which often features in the Tour Down Under).
    • The ITT fourth stage is a cracker on a tough rolling out-and-back course.
    • It’s held in the heart of the Barossa Valley (actually the nextdoor Flaxman Valley) so there are great wineries for mum & dad.
    • Despite popular myth, South Australians pretty nice, welcoming people!
    • Oh, and you get to wear cool coloured helmet covers…???

With the recently completed TDU, NJTS event and now the Junior Track Nationals in South Australia, I imagine a few of you have been over there recently.  All I can say is its worth another trip for this event.  Now in its 46th year its got some pretty impressive names on its honour roll.  Try John Beasley (1978), Pat Jonker (1985), Brett Aitkin (1987), Luke Roberts (1993) and in more recent times the likes of Luke Durbridge, Dale Parker, Alex Edmondson, Brad Lindfield and Callum Scottson.  Leigh Howard also won the under-15 tour in 2003!

So its got the history; the course; the organisation; and the safety.  Catch a plane, jump in the car or on the train, just get over there and kick your JT season off with a bang!  Oh, and did I mention about the coloured helmet covers – a different colour for each age category!  I think its a South Australian thing…

What'd I tell you about the coloured helmet covers... I think it looks cool!?!

What’d I tell you about the coloured helmet covers… I think it looks cool!?!

As a lover of all sport, I listened with mixed emotions as Brad McGee sat in the Fox Sports News studio not long after the ACC revelations came out about the level of performance enhancing drug taking in Australian sport.  He made one point that perhaps got missed by most, but immediately got my attention.  He said we need to change our culture and gave, as an example, how in junior cycling some parents and coaches give their kids energy drinks like Mother, V and Red Bull to help them try and win a race.

Having been in the sport now for some time I’ve seen kids, as young as 11, drinking energy drinks to try and ‘pep up’ for the next race.  It seems to be a bit of a taboo area to discuss in the infield, so great that Brad brought it up and suggested that its something that culturally needs to stop and could potentially be the beginning of a slippery slope.  I’m not trying to say that all the kids I’ve seen drinking a V are going to end up drug cheats… but Brad (an Olympic and World Championship medallist and wearer of the yellow jersey) is saying that its this culture of seeking benefit from artificial stimuli that needs to be stamped out.

The fact that the manufacturers of these drinks actually tell you on the label that they’re not suitable for children should really raise a red flag for parents.  There are studies that show that their consumption will adversely effect your endurance performance rather than improve it and there is just too much unknown as to the long terms effects of a lot of the ingredients.

Cans of energy... or cans of sugar?

Cans of energy… or cans of sugar?

But I don’t think Brad was referring to the ingredients, more the idea of taking something like an energy drink to seek an advantage over your competitors.  Having made the decision its OK to take an energy drink to improve your performance, then is it also OK to take a No Doze or similar stimulant that is sold over the counter (like AFL players do?).  And then where does that lead you…

I’m not having a crack at those kids that choose to drink a V or a Red Bull before a big race… or their parents.  But it doesn’t seem to be being talked about amongst parents; there seems to be something of an Omertà on the subject.  I hope Brad bringing it up gets us thinking about it and talking about it.  Oh, and it was terrific to hear CA talk about Cam Meyer who doesn’t take any supplements, instead getting all his nutrition needs from food as well as ensuring he gets 10-12-hours sleep per night!