Brian Smith has talked about his surprise departure from Dimension Data, telling Cyclingnews that the decision to leave was mutual and that he expects team owner Douglas Ryder to take over the vacated role of General Manager.
Smith was released from team duties after a decision was made last week, although he will carry on until the end of April as part of a handover period.
“It was a mutual break but I think that Douglas will step in and run the team,” he told Cyclingnews twenty-four hours after the news was released to the media.
Smith joined the team in 2014 as the then interim-manager. He helped sign a string of WorldTour level riders including Mark Cavendish, and oversaw the team’s first Tour de France stage win in 2015 courtesy of Steve Cummings. However with the team moving into the WorldTour ranks this season Smith’s role altered and instead of spending more time ‘at the coalface’ he was finding himself in more of an administrative role. With the team growing in the last twelve months, hiring more staff, and moving their service course, Smith felt that his time at the team was coming to an end, especially with Ryder able to devote more hands-on time.
“I came on as interim and then became general manager last year. I think that I did well when I was at the coalface and dealing with the riders but I was doing a lot more admin and logistics this year and that’s probably not where I wanted to be. It’s mutual though and I’ve got a lot of friends in the team. You have to remember that I hired a lot of the staff and riders. It’s hard to step away,” he said.
“The boxes have been ticked and with being in the WorldTour my job changed a little bit and it took some time away from other things. It came to the point where we’ve separated but I’ll continue to help the team where I can as I have a lot of friends there. The last thing I’ll do is cause any problems.”
Ryder spent most of 2015 searching for additional sponsorship as the team built on their then Pro Continental status. He successfully brought in Deloitte and Dimension Data, and essentially ensured that the team had a WorldTour foundation and the ability to attract and essentially pay for big-name riders.
“Douglas came over a couple of weeks ago and I think at the end of the day he will run the team. When I came on board a couple of years ago it was as general manager until we found a solution. Doug is now in a better position to run it and the time came,” added Smith.
“We talked about it as friends and decided that this was it. He’ll still be a friend even though it’s hard to walk away. I’ve sent them all a message wishing them the best, but now it’s onwards, maybe upwards. The first thing I’m going to do is spend time with my family.”
Over the winter the team also brought in Rolf Aldag, who came across with Cavendish from Etixx-QuickStep. The former German rider runs the performance side of the team and would be a possible replacement for Smith but the out-going general manager doesn’t believe that Aldag will fill his shoes.
“I’ve got total respect for Rolf. We’ve been communicating and the decision was made last week but I was working for the team this weekend, planning for Yorkshire and the Giro. I’ve got nothing bad to say about Rolf, he’s a good guy and know what he wants. I don’t think he’ll be the general manager though. I think he has enough on his plate with the performance side. There are certain pressures on the team, new people came in, and I was doing loads more admin like flights and there was a lot of pressure on me to deliver with our new service courses.”
“Doug has just decided that he wants to run the team but that was always in the background anyway. The only reason he didn’t do it earlier was because he was spending time with his family and he was looking for sponsors. Now he’s done that. The next natural choice for him was to run the team. I was happy with that because a lot of the stuff I was doing this year was totally different. I was doing a totally different job last year. I’m not leaving in bad terms though. Rolf has called and Cavendish, Edvald have all messaged me.”