The ONE Pro Cycling team is working hard to become a WorldTour team in 2017, with team owner and former international cricket player Matt Prior apparently close to reaching an agreement with a major sponsor to fund the British team’s next step up in professional cycling.
ONE Pro Cycling made the jump to Professional Continental level for 2016. They impressed at the recent Dubai Tour, where Marcin Bialoblocki won the sprints jersey, and at the Herald Sun Tour, where Dion Smith was third on the toughest stage behind Chris Froome and Pete Kennaugh.
Prior was in Dubai and confirmed to Cyclingnews this plan to step up to the WorldTour in 2017 or 2018. He would not reveal the name of his potential new title sponsor but multiple sources told Cyclingnews that the team is well placed to reach an agreement with a major company that is attracted to the team’s British profile and has been impressed by Prior’s ambition and the professional approach of the team’s management and riders.
“The plan is ultimately to keep building, keep stepping forward. We’ve made a big jump in the first year, we’re Pro Continental now. Next year the goal would be get involved in Grand Tours, if not even become a WorldTour team. That’s where we want to go and is our next step.” Prior told Cyclingnews in an exclusive interview.
“There is no doubt that to make a step up to WorldTour, like in any other sport in the world, you need backing, you need sponsorship. There’s no getting away from that fact. We now have the opportunity to look for that. We are actively looking for the partner that is going to take us up to next step.”
“Were having a number of conversations with a lot of people and there’s been a lot of interest. It’s all very exciting and that’s all I’m going to say about it right now because I’m also hugely superstitious. I don’t want to count any chickens.”
Taking on Team Sky and other big teams in the WorldTour
Thanks to his experience as part of the successful England cricket team and his understanding of the world of sporting sponsorship, Prior is aware that a team must offer any potential sponsor an attractive team if it is to secure a major sponsorship deal. That is why he has worked hard to build the ONE Pro Cycling team first and then pursue major sponsorship. It seems Prior has financial support from Leeds-based businessman Simon Chappell, who is the Chairman of the team and was also in Dubai.
“It’s an interesting one, it’s like the chicken and the egg: which one do you get first? The huge sponsor and then do the stuff? Or do you go and create something that people want to be part of? That’s what we’ve done. We’ve worked to create something that people will look at and say: ‘I want to be part of that’.” Prior said.
“That’s why the professionalism of every aspect of the team is so important. Not only on the bike, it’s also the PR, it’s the marketing, it’s the whole machine of what it is to be a professional sports team. That’s where were trying to make a few steps up, so that when people do see us, they say: ‘That’s pretty cool and we want to be part of it.’ When you create that, people buy into it.”
ONE Pro cycling could be competing with Team Sky for the support of British cycling fans in 2017. Prior has a similar vision as Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford and is equally as competitive.
“It’s not just about (racing against) Team Sky, it’s about the Giants, the Tinkoffs, it’s about being at the top level of the sport. That’s where we want to be,” Prior explained to Cyclingnews.
“When I was 12 years old and wanted to be a cricketer, it wasn’t about playing club cricket on a Saturday, it was about playing in the Ashes and in World Cups, and at the MCG in front of 100,000 people, in those big events. This is exactly the same for me. It’s not about competing with one or two guys, it’s about being involved in the biggest part of the sport and in the big events, that everyone wants to watch and come to. That’s the excitement for us.”