ORICA-AIS’ Martin Barras on UCI races and the women’s road calendar
Earlier in the week I interviewed Matrix Fitness DS Stefan Wyman about the new UCI races and how the changes to the calendar impact on his team, but that’s a small team and I’ve been wondering about how different it is for the top 10 UCI-ranked teams. So I asked Martin (Marv) Barras, the DS of ORICA-AIS about how he found out about the “surprise” races, and how it impacted on his team, and his answers are so good that I’m just going to share what he wrote, unembellished:
I received a first communication from the Tour of California to gauge our interest in the event in mid December 2014, which was followed up by an invitation in mid January. Most of the other new USA UCI events I found out through the cycling press (I did receive a contact from the new organisers of the Philly World Cup in Mid February after they were appointed). The same applies to the South African event (I am only aware of 1 race, last week end Hibiscus).
On one hand it is great that Women’s Cycling is seeing this sort of growth into new areas and it is to be expected that this can happen on short notice, such is the budding nature of the discipline.
On the other, most teams will be planning their budgets (and therefore racing programs) one year in advance, and anything new popping up within this deadline is very difficult to fit in. We are not yet at the point where the UCI manages the information about these races status within the UCI Women’s calendar – and it reinforces the need to have a women specific office within the Road Management Committee. This could be the “one stop shop” port of call for anything relating to Women’s racing and would streamline the propagation of information within the discipline.
For our team, our budgetary period is from July 1st to June 30th every year, so our budget and rough outline of the racing schedule is usually set by June 30th [eg the rough outline for 2016 will be set by June 2015]. This means that any new event announced after June 30th will be very difficult to consider for the following season (January 1st onwards). A good example of this is this year’s announcement about The Tour of California, Tour of the Gila and Joe Martin Stage Race – they came in after our budgetary cycle was already started .
Our considerations for the races we attend are as follow: we are an Australian team based in Europe with an Australian sponsor with a limited international footprint (Jayco) and a secondary sponsor with a large international footprint directed mainly at the mining industry (ORICA). Our operational base is European (Gavirate, Italy) and our principal objective is to offer Australian riders an opportunity to grow in the top International echelon of racing in a professional and competitive environment.
- We attend all of the major events on the Australian calendar during the Australian summer (Mitchelton Bay Series, National Championships, Tour Down Under, Cadel Evans’ race, Oceania Championships)
- We prioritise the top tier European based events, taking into account our goal and the location of our base
- We then consider out of European events based on the quality of the event, the cost associated with it and the sponsor market it falls in. The region our sponsors are most interested in is Asia. Jayco also sells in the USA and this is a consideration, although it is fair to say that Gerry (Ryan, owner of Jayco and principal sponsor of the team) has always been very amenable in that case, in regards to our budget.
[On the Tour de Languedoc Roussillon suddenly appearing as a UCI race…]
Considering the way Languedoc Rousillon treated the teams over the first two editions of their race, one of which was cancelled as teams were arriving, they can promote themselves all they want but will ultimately need to organise a good little race for a few years before convincing any big team to come over. Same applies to the Giro della Toscana feminile !
The introduction of new races is a vital part of moving into a World Tour scenario for Women’s racing. As long as the schedule is managed and the timing of the races proceed in a logical manner, this will assist in creating a proper two tier system of races: World Tour races, where the best riders and the best teams will race one another in the best events (this is where the attraction is for the public and sponsor) and a series of races aimed at development towards the World Tour.
Obviously, in the lead up to the establishment of the World Tour, a team will first and foremost look carefully at its recruitment of riders, then at what events can produce the best outcome in terms of performances and ranking in order to access this World Tour.
The Olympics are an interesting issue. They are not a World Tour event although the prestige of having the Olympic Champion on your team is enormous (moreso for the women than the men). Those credible candidates will normally have no issue qualifying a spot for themselves, almost regardless of their country’s performance (Emma Johansson is a very good example of this), so unless a Pro team has made a commitment to support their potential Olympians (Boels Dolmans and ORICA- AIS are examples of that) then it is up to the National Teams to cover the races that guarantees their qualifications. In the current system this is clearly possible but the advent of a World Tour will make that task much more difficult (just like it is for the men).
Finally, my hope for the World Tour is what I have stated before: A Tour that offers all the best riders and teams racing the best races all the time – this will be compelling racing that will attract interest from the public, teams, organisers, media and sponsors. This Tour needs to have blocks of races organised logically in all our major areas: Europe, North America, Asia/Oceania. It needs to be organised as a league where all participants (riders, teams media, organisers and sponsors) have a common interest and share the ownership and benefits, so there is no more of the cannibalising that reduces our current organisation of the sport.
Women’s Cycling is at a point where this is possible simply from the fact that there is no overwhelmingly dominant constituent in it’s structure and it is a clean slate to start with. It has got tremendous potential and could easily become the forerunner in a global re organisation of road cycling. The (my) mind boggles !!!
Follow the fortunes of ORICA-AIS through their website and twitter. For more of my articles on how the UCI women’s road calendar has been changing over time, head over to the story stream on Podium Café.