As we head to the 2016 Global Relay Canadian Road Championships p/b Lexus, I thought it would be good to share a sense of our goals, values and appreciation of the contributions made by Cycle Sport Management to cycling in Canada…
SpiderTech-C10 was Canada’s most successful cycling team ever. It’s important to understand, however, that the team really began as a Division 3/UCI Continental team named Team RACE Pro in 2008, rebranded itself as Planet Energy in 2009, became SpiderTech presented by Planet Energy in 2010. In 2011 & 2012, the team received a Division 2 or UCI Pro Continental license under the name SpiderTech-C10. The company behind these transformations was Cycle Sport Management (CSM), spearheaded by Steve Bauer and Josée Laroque. So we’re really talking about the legacies of CSM, the company that built the racing platform that eventually became SpiderTech.
So what do I mean by “legacies” in this context?
Silber Pro Cycling is also operated by a company: À bloc Sports Management, that is owned by Arthur Silber, Michael Wolfe and myself. We have 3 kinds of goals: 1. Race goals: overall, we want to produce the best team on the UCI America Tour; 2. Business goals: to provide tailored marketing strategies and content for sponsors in order to sustain a race program that attracts and develops the best racers in Canada; 3. Social goals: we want to make a significant and sustained contribution to Canadian cycling.
We are achieving our race goals. Matteo Dal-Cin won the overall at Redlands; Nigel Ellsay and Alex Cataford were both second overall at the Joe Martin Stage Race and the Tour of the Gila, respectively. Ryan Roth snagged a huge win at the Winston Salem Cycling Classic, then took the overall at the GP Cycliste de Saguenay. We had 5 riders finish in the top 10 in the General Classification. We are, therefore, currently one of the best teams in North America.
On the business side, we have successfully grown the team every year, and we are currently putting another 3-year plan into play designed to support continued growth. Since many people are asking, yes, we are positioning ourselves to become a Pro Continental team but we are carefully building our infrastructure first.
Today I want to talk about our social goals. Our mission is to make a “significant and sustained contribution to Canadian cycling.” What does that mean and how can we evaluate our social impact?
To answer that question, I decided to map the concrete contributions of Cycle Sport Management, the company that created the best team in Canadian history. I came up with 4 “legacies”. I’m positive there are more, but the goal here is to start thinking more specifically about what a Continental-level team like Silber Pro Cycling contributes to Canadian cycling. So here’s one legacy that I’m not even going to count: CSM’s SpiderTech remains a yardstick for Canada’s current Continental Pro teams to measure themselves against.
CSM Legacy #1: Management Skills now used by Program Heads, Industry Leaders
As a Division 3 or Continental level team, the management, sponsors and staff at Silber Pro Cycling are gaining a better macro-understanding, or ‘big picture’ of how cycling works in North America. SpiderTech, however, became a Division 2, or Pro Continental team and maintained a calendar beyond North America and into both South America and Europe. There’s a huge difference between running a Continental and running a Pro Continental team just in terms of administration and logistics, let alone business development, marketing and budget. Very few people in Canada have the experience of working at this level of the sport.
So what did managing a pro team like SpiderTech mean for Canadian cycling? Yes, Steve Bauer had connections, a rider’s understanding of how the UCI works, plus experience racing internationally at the highest level, but the skills required to run a team are very different. Yes, Josée Larocque brought managerial and event-driven logistics experience related to the bicycle industry through her work with companies such as Devinci and Specialized, but once again that’s different than the legal, administrative, medical and business development needs of a team with goals of being in the Tour de France. And yes, the team had Kevin Field as a Sports Director who had worked with Slipstream but also another of Canada’s most successful teams, Symmetrics; and yes, he probably operated as a strategist and project manager as well, but I’m guessing as the team grew all three were learning on the fly.
Imagine the managerial skills and formative experience gained at CSM as the team applied for and received a Pro Continental license? Bauer, Laroque, Field… and I could add the learning curve experienced by Kris Westwood, Guy Napert-Frenette and staff, such as mechanics who learned how to be head mechanics, soigneurs who learned how to be head soigneurs, etc. Imagine the growth of their contacts: race organizers, cycling’s various governing bodies, media, industry, staff, riders, sponsors…
The knowledge-base gained by Cycle Sport Management is now operating within national cycling organizations and the bicycle industry in Canada. We should not underestimate the significance of that professional learning process that is now available to the public sector and private projects. Where are they now?
• Steve Bauer: Head Coach responsible for programming at the Milton Cycling Academy within the Mattamy National Cycling Centre.
• Josée Larocque: Coach/Commissaire/Consultant focusing on the development of women’s cycling in Canada; CEO of Cycle Sport Management, which operates as a race organizer (Steve Bauer Bike Classic) and Steve Bauer Bike Tours.
• Kris Westwood: High Performance Manager for Cycling Canada
• Jon Adams: Head Soigneur at SpiderTech who worked with both the athletes and helped manage the service course. He is currently working on the World Tour with Cannondale Pro Cycling.
Think of how many Canadians and Canadian programs are impacted by just these 4 people who deliver their experience at SpiderTech to the room every time they sit down at a meeting. All four, and Guy Napert-Frenette also, have helped our company with advice, contacts, administrative assistance, marketing, human resources, partnerships… But the value of sport-specific management skills has reached beyond the pro ranks and into specific National development programs. Think about the impact of CSM’s experience on the programming at the Milton Cycling Academy, as 100s of youth enter development programs. Think about Kevin Field and Kris Westwood’s contacts, marketing experience and their ability to interface with both government and the private sector, while contributing to Cycling Canada’s programs. CSM’s racing platform provided managerial training that you can’t get elsewhere… and now it’s being shared throughout the country.
CSM Legacy #2: A significant training ground for coaches, mentors, funders
Pro teams provide training grounds for coaches. Ex-pro riders can easily brand themselves and gain authority having ridden with pro teams. They also are in a context where riders, coaches, directors, physiotherapists, massage therapists, nutritionists, doctors, sports scientists, etc share cycling-specific knowledge. Professional racing is a testing ground for periodization, evaluations of training stress, race preparation, approaches to nutrition and so forth.
• Past SpiderTech riders Andrew Randell, Simon Lambert-Lemay, Will Routley, Bruno Langlois and François Parisien, to name just a few, all coach racers and recreational riders.
• There are at least 10 current and past riders from Silber Pro Cycling that operate as coaches in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and BC.
• If we add the staff of SpiderTech and Silber Pro Cycling who work as coaches to this list, plus all riders and staff from Garneau and H&R Block, it is easy to see that pro teams produce coaches that reach out to people of all ages and abilities across the country. In fact the value of the formation gained from pro teams rivals that offered by national coaching programs, though ideally the two work together to produce experienced, certified coaches.
Mentors & Funders
• Ryan Anderson, Svein Tuft and Will Routley sit alongside other pro/ex-pro cyclists on the board of Global Relay Bridge the Gap, an organization that provides coaching, mentorship, resources and equipment to help younger cyclists get to the professional level. Some of our riders consult with the board regularly. In effect, Cycle Sport Management provided a stepping stone for cyclists who learned how hard it is to get a pro contract and who wanted to help others succeed. Keep in mind that the board at Global Relay Bridge the Gap provides more than money. It shares the “big-picture” of cycling to riders across the country, and it is very successful at helping riders succeed.
• Zach Bell has started the Parcours Institute, which develops courses and certification programs for aspiring professional cyclists. Again, Bell has identified a need for riders to learn in a hands-on way what it takes to race professionally. In a sense, the Parcours Institute offers a macro-picture of cycling to aspiring club riders.
There were no programs such as Global Relay Bridge the Gap and the Parcours Institute before SpiderTech because the knowledge-base was not developed broadly enough until CSM brought the team into being. Previously, that knowledge-base was limited to individuals working at Cycling Canada, several Provincial cycling bodies and a handful of coaches.
CSM Legacy #3: Marketing of Canadian bike manufacturers
• Arguably Montreal’s Argon 18 learned the ropes of marketing via pro teams with RACE, Planet Energy then SpiderTech; and now use a platform of Continental teams (including Silber Pro Cycling) plus the Conti-Pro team Bora – Argon 18 to market their bikes globally. Incredibly, owner Gervais Rioux has successfully steered Argon 18 to the point where they are co-title sponsor of a team that will be competing for a second year in a row at the Tour de France–the largest marketing vehicle in the sport of cycling.
• Ex-SpiderTech riders, Maxime and Charly Vives are working with ex-Europcar racer David Veilleux to promote Devinci Cycles. Again, pro cyclists providing big picture knowledge and marketing to Canadian manufacturers.
Pro teams help Canadian manufacturers and distributors with more than marketing. They provide working contexts and future human resources for astute industry partners.
CSM Legacy #4: Marketing of Canadian Cycling
Canada has a long history of great individual cyclists, at least half of whom are women. SpiderTech was the first Canadian team to convincingly describe itself as a Canadian project with the goal of getting to the Tour de France. Brash, ambitious, all-Canadian and steered by an icon of Canadian cycling–the team was just beginning to establish its brand in Europe and the Americas when it was forced to cease operations. In other words, it was branding Canadian cycling, or Canada as a great place to cycle, to the world. It was announcing the rich culture of cycling in Canada by celebrating our athletes, manufacturers, outdoorsy nationalism and through Bauer, our history of cycling excellence.
We can dwell on the reasons for the team’s collapse but one has to account for its rich legacy to realize the full ongoing value of CSM’s success. Cycle Sport Management boosted the general knowledge of the sport in this country and injected high-level managerial experience into Cycling Canada; it provided a substantial training ground for coaches working with athletes of all ages and it boosted the bike industry while helping companies such as Argon 18 develop strategies for global growth. Finally, CSM helped many racers, but it also raised the profile of Canadian cycling at home and abroad by providing a focal point for the nation to identify with the sport. If Silber Pro Cycling’s mission is to make a significant and sustained contribution to Canadian cycling, we need to take advantage of all that CSM has provided and continues to provide–and we need to rebuild that focal point for road cycling in this country.
**This blog originally appeared June 1 on Scott McFarlane’s LinkedIn page. Images courtesy of CSM**