Pro Cycling Teams Unite to Create a More Exciting, Stable and Credible Sport

Tue 25 Nov 2014

ORICA-GreenEDGE has joined ten fellow WorldTour outfits to today to launch Velon, the first joint venture of UCI WorldTour cycling teams.

This group brings together 11 leading teams - over 60 per cent of the WorldTour - to drive a financial model that, in line with other international sports, ensures a sustainable future for the teams. 

To achieve this the group wants to bring excitement to the sport, allowing fans to engage more with the teams than ever before. Velon’s aims are for a coherent season that excites people from start to finish and uses emerging technologies, such as on-bike cameras, that bring fans closer to the action.

Through Velon, the group will continue to work on partnerships with other stakeholders in the sport, including the UCI, the race organisers, and the AIGCP professional cycling association.

Velon’s founding members are Belkin Pro Cycling, BMC Racing Team, Garmin-Sharp, Lampre-Merida, Lotto-Belisol, Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, ORICA-GreenEDGE, Team Giant-Shimano, Team Sky, Tinkoff-Saxo and Trek Factory Racing. The group is open to working with other teams that share their objectives and values, either to join Velon or partner with the company on new business. 

ORICA-GreenEDGE team owner Gerry Ryan said the group was a huge positive step for the future of cycling.

“This initiative is a real milestone in the development of professional cycling," Mr Ryan said. "The teams are coming together to make the sport more attractive as a business by creating new ways for the fans to enjoy all the excitement it has to offer. It is key that the teams take this step together to help the long term strategy of cycling for everyone involved.

"As a team owner I'm pleased to see that this has now materialized with visible benefits for the sponsors, fans and all the other stakeholders in the sport. We are happy to make a very active contribution to this group.”

2014 Australian champion Simon Gerrans echoed Ryan's support of the initiative.

“It's great news for cycling that teams are coming together like this," Gerrans said. "This is a major step that will help in shaping the future of the sport in a way that will benefit the teams, the riders and definitely also the fans.

"As a team we have always tried to set the bar high when it comes to creating excitement around the races and now we can do that in a group that will help us all to boost the sport even more. The on-bike footage was the perfect way to kick-start this project and we are all looking forward to seeing more initiatives like that”

The core ideas and objectives for the teams in Velon are:

   -     More exciting sport: looking for a race calendar that tells a season long story, and is
         better understood by a growing international fan base, with more entertaining racing for
         the fans.

   -     New technology: bring the race alive from the rider’s perspective, showing the fans
         what it’s like from the saddle.

   -     Underpinned by sustainable, credible teams the fans can follow now and long into
         the future. Creating a new, better economic future for the sport, through collective action
         and increased co-operation between the teams and other stakeholders. 

The company has been created to work on behalf of these teams for new business creation. Each team is represented on the board and Graham Bartlett (formerly of UEFA, Nike and other major sports brands) has been appointed as CEO.

Bartlett said: “The existing, sponsor only, business model is fragile for all teams. We need to change this to a more rounded one with fans at the heart of it, investing in new technological initiatives to generate greater excitement from the races and bring the sport closer to its fans. The company will look to use the combined commitment of the teams to create new revenues.

“This combined commitment can help to deliver more of what the fans want to see from the sport – exciting races brought to life with great technology. What we’re trying to build will hopefully create a virtuous circle where it’s easier for fans to engage with the teams and riders and gives the teams even greater incentives to maintain credibility.” 

The first example of Velon’s work came earlier this year, when these teams got together to work with their riders and the race organisers to implement on-bike cameras during the races. 

Bartlett adds: “This could only have been negotiated and delivered with the organisers by having a unified group. Initially co-operating with IMG for the Tour de Suisse and then continuing with A.S.O. at the Tour de France, the Vuelta and a number of other big races in the calendar.

“By using new technology, and by working very closely with the race organisers, the teams were able to capture fantastic, never seen before footage showing the riders in spectacular fashion and the response from the fans was even better than we expected.”

The Tour de Suisse on-bike camera videos syndicated to Cyclingnews and InCycle (which is also an IMG Media/Velon collaboration) were viewed over 1 million times. The videos from other races also gave significant YouTube traffic for the teams themselves, ORICA-GreenEDGE’s Tour de France stage-5 footage, for example, was viewed over 108,000 times, creating significant interest for the team. 

Fans and financial partners must trust the sport and the teams must be open, honest and transparent. The integrity of cycling is also the foundation for a healthy following, increased investment and further growth. This must be based on a sound, stable business model for the teams.