Steve Bauer announced today that he has abandoned attempts to bring back his Canadian-based Professional Continental team SpiderTech in 2014. Bauer told Cyclingnews that the abrupt loss of its title sponsor last fall coupled with the negative publicity surrounding Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal this spring made it impossible for him to secure funding for the cycling program.
Bauer founded the team in 2008 under the original title Team R.A.C.E. It changed names to Planet Energy in 2009, added SpiderTech to its title sponsors in 2010 and jumped from Continental status to Professional Continental for the following two seasons.
Last year, when the team was at the height if its success, Bauer announced that it would take a one-year break in order to search for additional funding to bring the team to the WorldTour level in 2014, and helped to place his riders on different teams. In the following interview, Bauer explains what went wrong.
Cyclingnews: Did SpiderTech provide you with a reason for ending its funding on such short notice last October?
Steve Bauer: There are probably many reasons. I think the most important reason was that SpiderTech had trouble being profitable or even actually selling the product. They hadn’t entered the market place and they weren’t in stores. Their distribution plan, sales plan and product placement plan was non-existent. They weren’t selling anything or making any money. They were continuing to just invest money into the company.
That’s not our fault, but they were too slow at starting to make money. It’s unfortunate that they didn’t tell us this in sooner because we would have had time to find a different partner and transition the team into some kind of continuity, maybe we would have had to step back to a Continental team or to a development program. We had multiple partners that were willing to continue, but our lead sponsor dropped off at the wrong moment and the house of cards fell down for us. It’s all about timing and they really set us up for failure, unfortunately.
CN: What made you believe that you could bring the team back in 2014 at a WorldTour level?
SB: That was based on enthusiasm. At the same time that SpiderTech said they would pause the team, the Lance Armstrong doping story came out. That was a big problem for us. What major company wants to invest in cycling with that kind of turmoil happening? Unfortunately, professional cycling needs to find its stability. The sport is unstable from the top with inner fighting, who knows what’s going on with Pat McQuaid, it’s a flawed structure at the WorldTour level with too many races, licensing controls, no revenue sharing and no balance. It makes it extremely difficult for a financial sponsor to want to invest its marketing dollars in professional cycling.
CN: Did you try to find a replacement sponsor?
SB: Last May, SpiderTech told us they were going to do a three-year deal. The sad truth is that SpiderTech decided to stop its funding in October. Everything was going well and then they basically killed the team. They told us on October 9, so we had no time. We were ambitious to think that we had a shot while we still had some momentum. This year, we spent some time trying to find a new sponsor but not too long because of the turmoil in cycling. It was discouraging. How do you knock down doors for professional cycling when the Lance Armstrong doping affair is coming out on the Oprah Winfrey show. It wasn’t an ideal environment to ask for millions of dollars.
CN: Did you hope that Ryder Hesjedal winning the Giro d’Italia last year might translate into more funding for your team and for Canadian cycling in general?
SB: Yes, I think we had everything aligned well. Ryder winning the Giro was a great thing and we had the momentum. We had a lot of great partners that were willing to stay with our program. I think we needed more time. I’m not saying we would have reached the WorldTour, but at least if SpiderTech would have given us enough time and not dropped the ball on us maybe we could have continued. Maybe as an under 23 team or we might have had some kind of sustainability that would have had a lot of value for Canadian road cycling, instead of just killing us.
CN: After investing years into the team, how much of a personal and emotional loss was this for you?
SB: This was a very big loss. I totally believed that we were doing the right thing for the sport in Canada and to lead by example in our profession. We wanted to give our athletes a place to perform on the world stage. To lose all that because we had the wrong partner was a shame.
CN: Will you stay involved in cycling on some level?
SB: I’m playing it low-key and thinking about the direction I want to take now. I need some time. There are a lot of things that I think I can do but when I make that decision it’s important to engage in doing something well. I want to take some time and see what Steve Bauer and Cycle Sport Management Inc. can do to build cycling in Canada.