In the past three years, the TIAA-CREF team has grown from a development team of promising junior and U23 riders, to become one of three UCI-registered Professional Continental teams in North America. But just who is helping out behind the scenes? Mark Zalewski secured an exclusive first interview with that rarest of individuals - a wealthy American businessman prepared to invest in the sport.
Led by veteran American pro Jonathan Vaughters, the TIAA-CREF team has evolved into a program that states becoming a ProTour team as its ultimate goal. Since the early days, Vaughters has alluded to a silent partner in the process, providing the financial backing to jump-start the team and keep it running.
In 2007, that partner will be even more crucial as the team marches on without a title sponsor. So who is the man behind the curtain? It is New York financial investor, Doug Ellis.
To some inside the cycling world of North America, it has been known for some time that the TIAA-CREF team was supported by an outside and anonymous source. Throughout that time, team Vaughters refused to name names, or disclose how much this "benefactor" was donating. Eventually he disclosed that this person was the "team owner" and speculation began to circulate as to who this person with the deep pockets could be... a former pro, an industry magnate, Daddy Warbucks?
None of the above, actually. In fact, when hearing the name Doug Ellis, the average North American cycling fan might shrug. A European fan might think it be the former chairman of the Aston Villa football club. A select few might recognize the name from the USA Cycling Development Foundation donor list. Regardless, Ellis is a successful business investor from New York that is simply a fan of cycling, and wanted to get involved.
Read the full interview with Doug Ellis.