What teams are doing to create interest during the racing shutdown

Women's Tour Down Under, Stage 3

With no traditional races on, teams have looked to virtual racing and alternative means of providing value to their sponsors.

Roxsolt-Attaquer team part-owner Kelvin Rundle brought it back to being about the companies that fund the bottom line of the sport.

“In terms of our sponsors, we will promote our sponsors in other ways, such as eSports and we are currently working on this,” said Rundle. “I think this is where women’s teams have an advantage over men’s teams, we are used to promotion beyond racing to deliver sponsor value.

“With so many people working from home and a lot of Liv stores offering home delivery it’s a great time to gain some fitness. Attaquer can have new kit to your door the next day. You can join a Zwift bunch nearly any time now and you never know who who will get to ride and chat with!”

Looking for these alternative strategies to deliver value to sponsors has come after a strong start to the 2020 season for the Australian UCI-registered team, who went into the season with high ambitions and achieved very good results early on.

“We were really disappointed initially with having to miss Tour of Flanders after securing an invite and of course we are disappointed with missing out on the USA crit season and chasing the Oceania Champions jersey,” said Rundle. “However, we could see the situation unfolding back at the end of January so we financially have only lost about $2,500 on entries and accommodation for Tour de Brisbane. The situation could have been much worse for us than it is.”

Another team with early season success has been the ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast squad, with Taj Jones taking a highlight win at the Tour de Langkawi. It has been around the edges of things that has seen the most development for the Queensland squad, as high performance director Stuart Shaw explained to Australian Cycling Insider.

 “It puts a strain on the team, all this,” said Shaw. “We’re trying to work hard to provide the riders things to do, now we do gym sessions on Zoom, with our trainer still in the gym at the University of Sunshine Coast but with everyone else at home.

“Also working hard for our sponsors to deliver some content. There’s the first of our Strava challenges coming up and there will be a whole bunch of short videos that will coming out on our Youtube and Instagram channels that will keep the riders busy and add value to our cycling.”

ARA-Pro Racing Sunshine Coast are normally based on Sunshine Coast University campus, alongside gym facilities and dedicated cycling programs run by the team. Most of the team are home with families now, but the benefits of being linked with the university aren’t limited to training riders. A new videographer who rides regularly and studies at the University of the Sunshine Coast has been brought on board.

As a team with a lot of young riders looking to progress to the next level, 2020 was set to be a crucial development year, not only to improve skills but also to show themselves to teams at that next level.

“If we just sit here and lose a year, a lot of our riders… they can’t afford to lose that time,” said Shaw. “They have to continue with that physical development. In Australia, we don’t race too much anyway and some of our big results have come despite not having that much racing. If the team, staff and riders, work hard then we can continue that development.

“We had a trip planned to the USA and races in Asia, obviously that stuff’s off. The first thing we expect to come back is the National Road Series and we’ve said to the riders to be prepared for that racing to come back first and be ready for it. We’ve spoken to Kipp (Kaufmann, Cycling Australia Head of Sport) at CA and said that we really want to back that as we think it’s really important to keep those events and there’s the possibility that if we don’t have those events then there will be challenges to staging them in the future.”

Teams will likely have to continue to be innovative in these strange times for racing, with interesting content at a premium in these event-starved times.

Mitchelton-Scott have been ahead of the curve in the adoption of virtual racing and engaging with fans through the Zwift platform.

Nero Continental are consistently top performers in the video game, and while there aren’t any race videos added to their library at the moment, Chris Miller is still churning out fun, engaging and superbly edited cycling content.

If you prefer your racing to be ‘real’ SBS Cycling Central has been running replays of classic editions of the classics, with the 2013 Tour of Flanders and the 2016 Paris-Roubaix shown over the weekend. You can head to the videos section of the site to watch these or head to SBS OnDemand to find that one race that you loved.

Also from SBS, if you’re in the situation where you’ve got kids at home and are looking for home-schooling help, there’s a handy teaching resource from SBS Learn that covers cycling, safety and the Tour de France. Also includes some interesting articles around sustainability, racing and an interview with Michael Rogers. Plus videos with Mike Tomalaris!

If you like your cycling mixed with a bit of comedy, the Tour de Quarantine is the one for you!

In terms of Australian Cycling Insider, we’re always interested for out-of-the-box content ideas and suggestions, if you have any, send them to australiancyclinginsider@gmail.com

By Jamie Finch-Penninger