Scrymgeour interview: Velocio-SRAM replaces Specialized lululemon
Kristy Scrymgeour, the owner of the team which won the past three editions of the world championship team time trial, has revealed that her clothing company Velocio plus cycling component maker SRAM will be the new title backers of the former Specialized lululemon team in 2015.
Speaking in depth to CyclingTips, Scrymgeour said that SRAM had made a multi year commitment to the team, while Velocio will step into the first title backer role at this point in time.
Scrymgeour is currently in talks with companies from outside cycling in relation to that position, but makes clear that the team will remain ambitious and field a strong roster in the meantime.
That roster will include Lisa Brennauer, the most successful rider from the recent road world championships in Ponferrada, Spain. She was part of the gold medal-winning lineup in the team time trial, then went on to take a second gold in the individual time trial and to place a very close second in the road race.
Also remaining on board are six others from the 2014 Specialized lululemon team. They are the Australians Tiffany Cromwell and Loren Rowney, Brennauer’s German compatriot Trixi Worrack, the Canadian Karol Ann Canuel, the American Tayler Wiles and France’s Elise Delzenne.
Three new riders are coming on board, filling slots left by the departing riders Evelyn Stevens, Chantal Blaak, Carmen Small and Ally Stacher.
Scrymgeour said that the additions excited her and could bring a lot. “We have Alena Amialiusik from Belarus. She is an amazing rider, still pretty young but ranked ninth in the world,” she stated. “She is a great climber, a great all rounder, a good Classics rider. We are excited about her.
“We brought on a young sprinter, the Italian Barbara Guarischi. She started to win some great sprints this year. We have a lot of excitement about her. Of course, Lisa Brennauer has proved that she can be a great sprinter. Also Tiffany Cromwell and Lauren Rowney. We do have some people who can sprint on the team, but we consider Barbara a pure sprinter and that is something we have missed since Ina [Yoko Teutenberg] retired. So that is great.
“We have one other new rider, the German Mieke Kroeger. She was fourth in the individual time trial in the worlds. She is an amazing young talent, a super good time trialist. She will spend most of her time focussing on the track with the national team. She is very excited to be on the team to develop her road skills, and she will complement our team with her time trialing abilities.”
The team has been one of the most successful in the women’s peloton in the past three years, winning the worlds TTT but also a large number of other races. Scrymgeour has high ambitions for her line-up of riders, saying that the team will continue to race aggressively and ambitiously.
“The goals are very simple,” she said. “We are driven to win races, to help develop women’s professional cycling and to represent our sponsors on cycling’s biggest stage.”
“More specifically our initial goals for this coming camp are to get perfectly set up on our new equipment and set team goals and incorporate riders personal goals into that plan. We always go to every race to try to win and we will definitely want to continue our focus on the world championship team time trial and try to defend it again in September.”
“This team is too good not to support”
Scrymgeour faced a big change when Specialized and lululemon decided to transfer their backing to the Boels Dolmans team for 2015. The team set up a crowdfunding appeal in order to help guarantee its future and also to increase interaction between the squad and cycling fans; approximately 100,000 dollars was raised.
At the same time she spoke to sponsors and sealed the support of SRAM, which had backed the team for the past three years as a supplier, but wanted to step up a level.
“SRAM has been a major supporter of us since they found out that we needed new sponsors,” she said. “They have been super-helpful and they are really excited to step into a different level of support of teams. They have never done title sponsorship before in road cycling, so this is a first.”
According to the company’s Sponsorship Director Alex Wassman, coming on board in a bigger way was a simple choice. “This team is too good not to support. They focus on winning, specializing in races against the clock, and deliver pure professionalism through it all,” he said in a team announcement. “It’s the perfect formula for us as we continue to drive top level women’s racing globally.”
The team will use Cervelo bicycles with SRAM, Zipp and Quarq componentry.
Scrymgeour explained that the team have been speaking to several companies from outside the sport but, due to the clock ticking, the decision was made to go with backing from her apparel brand. “It is exciting for Velocio to be involved,” she said. “We are still very small, but we have decided to put everything into it. Myself and my business partners really believe in this. Whatever we can do to help the team now and in the future, then we will.”
In the meantime talks will continue with the companies she has been in discussions with. “We are definitely very keen on being in this position. Women’s cycling is growing,” she stated. “That said, we are definitely not in a position to give this team the best budget in the world.
“So my job is to keep looking for that big sponsor that will be able to come in with that three or four year contract to sustain the team in a bigger way and to create something big around the team.
“A lot of the teams are growing now, their budgets are growing, which is great. We are going to see the sport of women’s cycling grow tremendously next year, there are going to be more and more races on TV like we have talked about before.
“I think the natural curve is for women’s cycling to grow and expand. So we are very comfortable with our decision to do this, but we are very happy to step back if we bring in a nice big sponsor from outside the industry.”
Scrymgeour said that discussions will continue with potential backers and that there could be scope for a company to step into the title sponsor role during next season.
If and when that happens, the team would be in a position to further ramp up its racing programme and also potentially to bring more riders on board.
“We need over a million dollars a year to run the team,” she said. “Some of the women’s teams are running on quite a bit more than that right now.”
As regards the discussions with companies from outside the sport, she said that they have larger potential budgets than many of those who are directly involved in cycling. “I also think it is a good way to grow the sport, expanding outside the industry as well.”
Growth of the sport:
Separate to her team news, Scrymgeour said that the ongoing expansion of the women’s side of the sport was very exciting and something which could boost the prospects of all of the squads and riders.
“I am optimistic because this year was great,” she said. “We saw the new women’s Tour in the UK, we saw La Course. Off the back of that, we saw a lot of races increasing their races and also their efforts to get their races broadcast.
“I think with the UCI very focussed on that through the women’s commission, it is helping to enable races to broadcast. That is exactly what we need. As I said, it is not perfect yet, it is still difficult to find sponsorship, but it is only going in the right direction.”
Part of the plan to grow the sport depends on engaging with more fans and bringing new ones on board. As the Velocio-SRAM squad has an important crowdfunding element to it, Scrymgeour said that a lot of attention would be paid to try to ensure that engagement.
“We are meeting soon and will discuss that,” she said. “Our first training camp will be in Lanzarote in December. We are going to get everyone together and come up with ways we can interact with the new community that we have built.
“We have got a great group of supporters behind the team. They are really a part of the team. We created a lot of buzz around it and we are going to continue to do so with that community we have built up.”
Scrymgeour said that one of the team’s off-bike goals is to make a big impact this year with its marketing and our social media. That feeling is shared by others. “A lot of the partners who have come on board are super-exited about marketing the team, so I think we are going to do some fun things.
“Off the bike our goal is to really activate well with our partners and continue to attract new partners with the goal of creating a really sustainable program for the future. We want to continue to build a community around the team and, in turn, do our part to help the growth of women’s cycling.”
As for in-competition aims, the team has some real quality on board and should clock up plenty of attention in that regard too. While 2015 will bring changes, riders such as Brennauer will be fully focussed on continuing to make progress. She believes it is the best environment for her and the others who will be part of the setup. “I think the whole team does a very good job in developing riders, and the atmosphere is also really special. I’m confident this will continue next season.”
Also see: Lisa Brennauer interview: The most successful rider of the 2014 worlds