Freeman Cebu Sports

2009 Tour De France Building a Tour team

- JV Araneta -

CEBU, Philippines – First, you have to establish a legal personality. High Road, a company owned by Bob Stapleton, is an example. When T-MOBILE had from image problems due to doping, they hired Stapleton, an American millionaire who earlier sold his telecommunication business to T-MOBILE. He previously managed the T-MOBILE women’s team.

However, a few months later, due to more doping problems, T-MOBILE finally had enough and walked out, leaving Stapleton with a budget for the rest of the year and none after. But with so many riders and support personnel under contract and depending on him for a job, he dug deep from his pocket and took over and named the team HIGHROAD, a name with morality written all over it. To attract a dwindling sponsorship base amidst a doping problem, his team philosophy included a zero tolerance to drugs and in-house drug controls. Unlike some team owners, he spent like Mark Cuban, but without the profit.

But because his team had good riders and won races under the zero-tolerance policy, he was able to convince a US apparel company, COLUMBIA, to put forth at least $10 million/year to back his team and. From that time on, Stapleton was making profit out of his company. In other words, while US POSTAL was the name of a team, it simply paid THRESHOLD SPORTS, the team owner, to put their names on their jerseys and run the team’s day to day operations.

Therefore, to get sponsorship for a team, the owner needs to be credible and should be able to spell out why sponsoring a cyclic team would improve a sponsor’s image or profits. But there are also sponsors who will seek an existing and successful team only when media exposure is at its highest like in the Tour. An example would be HTM, a telecommunications company whose name only appeared on COLUMBIA’s jersey at the start of the Tour. Another example is BERRY FLOOR, a wooden tile company who went to US POSTAL after their business rival, QUICKSTEP, gained great exposure after sponsoring a team with Johan Musseuw and now Tom Boonen.

How does a team to get a Tour spot?

There levels of professional cycling teams. At the top is the Pro Tour, where teams are required by the UCI (gives only 18 licenses at a given time) to ride the Pro-Tour races (e.g. Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders). The GT’s (Tour, Giro and Vuelta) are not part of the PT so the GT organizers are not obliged to invite all the Pro Tour teams. They also ban teams and riders from riding when there are doping and moral issues involved.

Usually, there are 21, 9-riders teams, in the Tour. 18 of them are PT teams and the last 3 (sometimes 4) are wildcards. CERVELO is not a PT team but because defending champion Carlos Sastre is with them, they got an automatic spot. However, most wildcards in the Tour are sponsored by French companies, just like a wildcards in the Giro is usually an Italian teams. This is an accepted practice in races all over the world. – THE FREEMAN

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