Jayco Herald Sun Tour  , Healesville to Healesville 126.1km Road Race, Victoria, Australia, Saturday, January, 2016. Con Chronis
  • Addendum #1: St. George Merida has just made the step-up to Conti but at the other end of the spectrum, Avanti IsoWhey would still “love” to step up to Pro Continental. Here’s Andrew Christie-Johnston on those goals:

    “We’d love to go to Pro Continental level but loving to doesn’t get you there. [Basically] we’ve got to find that additional sponsorship to do that and for us, we’d like to either step up into Pro Conti or to have a higher budget at a Continental level. And that’s really just the ability to do things a little bit better and be able to support a few of our riders a little better as well.

    “We only pay maybe three or four riders in any one year and certainly a lot more of them deserve to be paid for what they do for the team but we just don’t have that budget. The minimum sort of budget would be around AU$2 million [to step up].”

  • Addendum #2: Here’s ACJ on why Avanti IsoWhey came back to Australia in 2016:

    “Our intention was to stay in New Zealand. Obviously what makes up your mix of where you register is you have to have a maximum amount of riders from that country. Last year we had more Kiwi riders. This year we knew we had to replace Paddy Bevin and get one on to keep that registration but then we had a couple other riders that moved on to other teams that we just weren’t aware of until pretty late in the piece.

    “And when that happened I started searching around for a few other New Zealand riders and sort of everyone that I chatted to happened to be already signed.

    “And I just looked at the quality difference to be honest in Australia vs New Zealand at the time … Due to quite a few teams folding in Australia there was a lot of good Australian riders that were going to be left without rides and I just said to Steve [Price – Avanti IsoWhey co-owner] … it was just a shame to see so many there so we said ‘Maybe we just go and do this year and sign a few of those Australian riders up and go to Australia for another year and then maybe the following year we go back to New Zealand.’

    “Our major sponsors are both active in Australia and New Zealand and it doesn’t matter to them where we’re registered. So it wasn’t actually the plan to register in Australia it was just the way it turned out in the end.”

    Their race calendar will be more or less the same this year as it was last year.

  • Arfy

    The lack of media coverage is highlighted as the issue for sponsorship, regardless of level of racing in Australia. Why, then, are the big NRS races held in rural areas and not close to or in the major cities? If you want to attract media attention, you need to bring the racing to the people, not hold them in outback locations out of sight. Cycling’s always talked about as one of the most accessible sports for the public to watch, but NRS races are doing the opposite.

    • Robert Merkel

      How many people based in the major cities are going to go watch an NRS race?

      I think you’re actually more likely to get a crowd in regional areas.

      • Also: based on what race organisers have told us, getting police approval for races in rural areas is hard enough. Bringing the races closer to bigger cities would, I imagine, make that even more difficult.

        • Arfy

          Perhaps, but not necessarily. In regional areas the power lies with regional Councils and the Police, if one of them doesn’t support the event then it’s over. But in the city there’s other political forces, and some of these could be brought onside if they see the value. We need to remember that all professional sports are part of the entertainment industry, that’s where the dollars lie, but cycling’s acting more like an amateur participation sport in Australia. I’d like to see CA take a step back and develop a vision based on the value they can build into the NRS, one that will attract they lay sports person, the media, and hence sponsorship dollars. This is the only way to build a thriving NRS.

          • donncha

            Not going to happen in Sydney anyway. Roads Minister hates cyclists and if you close a single road you’ll have the Daily Telegraph doing a front page special on how the city is going to grind to a halt.

      • Dave

        That depends on the state.

        Victoria, for example, has a much more evenly spread regional population than SA/WA where you wouldn’t want to hold a bike race any more than 90 minutes drive from Adelaide/Perth.

      • Arfy

        You need to build a fan base, I wouldn’t expect it to happen overnight. I don’t claim to have all the answers (or maybe any), but perhaps a “glass half full” approach is needed. How many people in Australia actually know about the NRS? I’d suggest only those involved in cycling and those few thousand people in the regional areas the races are held in. Certainly not the millions of people who read daily sports news in the major cities. I suspect many people could name at least one domestic soccer club, one domestic cricket club, one AFL club and one NRL club. These are all domestic competitions, and in the case of cricket (think Big Bash League clubs) and soccer, these domestic competitions have garnered home city fans by having one or two clubs associated with each major city. Is it really out of the question to have a similar structure for NRS clubs, and to have a series of races in the city? Even it it starts with a set or critieriums on know crit circuits such as Hawthorn’s teardrop and St Kilda’s Sth Melb? You can still have your regional stage races, but if you want more sponsors, you need more fans, and this would be a way to do it.

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  • Cycling iQ

    I’m concerned for Continental teams from Australia who rely too much on Asia Tour starts.

    European teams received almost five times more Asia Tour race invitations in 2015 than teams from Oceania. Overall, less than 6% of all Asia Tour race invitations were allocated to Oceanian teams – including at WT and PCT level. That figure drops to 3.5% when only Continental teams are considered. This alone should turn off any sponsor looking for exposure in Asia through an Australian Continental team.

    Then again, what are the alternatives – race only the NRS and the Oceania Tour? I’d be happy if a well-informed person could explain how that is a viable platform.

    There is certainly a case for Cycling Australia and the Oceania Cycling Confederation to lobby the UCI and the Asian Cycling Confederation for guaranteed Asia Tour race starts. Cycling Australia could also go a step further and seek affiliation to the ACC, following the example of Football Australia. At least then, AUS teams could aim to guarantee more race starts by being top three on the Asia Tour team rankings.

    Failing that – and such an attempt may be destined to fail – I liked the model that OCBC and Search 2 Retain tried to set up, whereby they had a ‘rider exchange’ to allow Asian riders to compete in the NRS and AUS riders to race in the Asia Tour. However, that really only works if the same circle of sponsors are involved – otherwise, you’re just a mercenary.

    The takeaway for me is that most AUS Conti teams, if not all, exist primarily as conduits for rider development.

    I’d also be interested to learn what measurable return St George Merida’s sponsors received aside from TV time. Eyeballs ? conversion.

    • Great insight Cam, as always.

    • Dave

      I can’t see CA switching from Oceania to Asia as a realistic option, losing the bonus slots we get for continental champions would be detrimental for the various world championship events which bring home the bacon from Canberra. The number one priority of any institution is its continued survival, and this is just as true for CA as for anyone else.

      Reciprocal agreements with Asian race organisers (i.e. you give a couple of our teams a start in some of your races, we’ll reserve a couple of spots at CEGORR & HST for your teams) might be the way to go. If there are some Asian Tour races struggling to attract WorldTour teams, CA could also offer to help them out by offering OGE attendance so long as the favour is returned with an invite for an Aussie Continental team.

      There’s no reason that reciprocal agreements couldn’t also be exchanged with race organisers in Europe or North America as well. Tennis Australia does this with their French counterparts, wildcard entries for the French Open are offered to up and coming Aussie players (that’s how Nick Kyrgios got his big break) and French players get to come to Melbourne in January.

      • AJB

        I have to agree along these lines Dave, no need to go to Asia like FFA. I also believe that the Conti teams need Conti races in Australia/NZ. In reality CEGORR and HST are more Pro Conti. Add say four or five Conti level races in Australia/NZ and invite Asian teams here. Then we will have more opportunity to get AUS/NZ entry to Asian races, and potentially other places. The NRS then becomes a feeder series to the Conti teams, a real national series. Would only really need six to eight races at that level then, add to the ones similar to VRS/Open events and we have a pathway. CA and Bike NZ should work together. IMO CA has really failed. As an example if you go to the NRS website it is still 2015. The problem with teams disappearing is the same problem as teams registering for Conti it to try and get exposure or races and then still not getting them, no Conti level racing for them.

        • Dave

          There’s got to be a balance though.

          CA would be trying to ‘buy’ spots in the international marketplace, but it’s a seller’s market. If we want to get Aussie teams into decent races overseas, we need to offer international teams something a bit juicier (i.e. televised events like the two Victorian UCI events) than just NRS races rebranded as UCI 1.2/2.2 events.

          Perhaps the rebranded NRS events could serve as ‘qualifying races’ with the three best performing international Continental teams each year winning entry to CEGORR and HST the following year, and the best international Pro Continental team getting both those races plus an invitational entry to the TDU which has capacity for up to three more wildcards.

          The one ace that CA has in their pocket is OGE, a WorldTour team is a great way to bring some star power to an otherwise ordinary 1.1/2.1 race.

      • Cycling iQ

        Though I don’t believe a transfer of affiliation by CA is on the radar, to what extent would this have an impact on Government funding?

        The quality and number of WorldTour riders from Australia all but guarantees a maximum quota at the World Road Cycling Championships (based on WT nation ranking). If that is to remain the case, then creating a bigger rider base through increased racing exposure (ie Asia Tour) would seem a reasonable way to achieve the outcome, no?

        Same for the Olympics.

        Or am I overlooking a funding stream other than that from the ASC?

        • Dave

          The men’s road race has a different qualification system to the other road events. Most of the other road events offer additional slots to the continental champions, and the same goes for track as well.

          We were not ranked high enough to get a full size team for the men’s road race at the Olympics this year.

          • Cycling iQ

            Australian riders would likely do very well in the Asian Continental Championships anyway, so potentially no changes in Games/Worlds quotas (hence Govt funding potentially also doesn’t suffer so long as the results keep coming) and more Aussie riders get to race in Asia. It seems to me like a sustainable model which better promotes rider development.

            • Dave

              Unless one of our teams works its way into the top ranked teams, I don’t think it’s anywhere near being guaranteed that a significantly larger number of race invites would come our way without Australian races first inviting other Asian teams – which takes us right back to reciprocal agreements.

              The powers that be in Asian cycling might look to the situation in the soccer and decide not to accept Australia, as our presence there has been far from universally popular.

              • Cycling iQ

                Based on 2015 UCI Asia Tour team rankings, ART could have easily achieved top three (and mandatory invitations from race organisers) had it received a couple more race starts – which would come with ACC affiliation.

                But yes, the hoo-ha over FFA’s place in the Asian Confederation has been amusing and perhaps wouldn’t serve in CA’s favour if Asian NCF’s take that as an example.

  • Cam

    What hope does a team have of attracting or retaining sponsors when there is no certainty over the race program for the year. If you were an NRS team trying to pitch sponsorship in the current environment you would be relying on a lot of goodwill.

  • Cam

    What hope does a team have of attracting or retaining sponsors when there is no certainty over the race program for the year. If you were an NRS team trying to pitch sponsorship in the current environment you would be relying on a lot of goodwill.

  • jules

    it’s too expensive, apparently. why not piggy back on state-level races, like the VRS in Victoria? some of the women’s NRS races seem to do that.

    also why not move further towards a club-affiliated team structure? some of the clubs are growing and have quite good organisational and fund-raising capabilities. while cycling has a tradition of trade teams, the Conti teams seem to just float out there in no-man’s land. you could still have sponsors, but a lot of the trade Conti teams end up as orphans. it doesn’t seem like a great model.

    • gaz

      I like the suggestion of a club structure. Get St Kilda racing against SUVelo,, create some tribalism, supporter base and community interest.

  • JCJordan

    Cycling is more reliant on sponsor dollars than most other sports and the only way to attract those dollars is by giving them something of value.
    TV time is that something. NRS racing to survive needs to invest in coverage and find a way to distribute the content. If they can’t get commercial stations or SBS/ABC to show it then create a YouTube channel.
    Secondly they need to look at the cost of running these events and where the supporters are. this may also mean abandoning states like NSW where they will get no government support.

  • markpa

    In terms of location for the NRS races I reckon that circuits near the larger regional cities would work.
    You want it close to a population centre big enough to draw a crowd, and with TV infrastructure but small enough that there is sufficient value to the location (i.e. direct visitors, promote tourism etc…) that the Council will agree to close roads and support event directly.
    In larger regional cities I would include Hobart, Launceston, Canberra.


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