Thomas Umhaller and Matej Mugerli have transformed the end of one Austrian Continental team into the birth of a new team. Following the demise of My Bike Stevens, the duo formed Continental Team SPORT.LAND Niederösterreich – Selle SMP – St. Rich Bike Wear, which debuted this season with nine riders.
The 23-year-old, Umhaller took the initiative and planned to establish a new elite team. Based on his long-year experience, Mugerli advised him to go Continental and helped him write the concept to form a new team with the My Bike Stevens license. He found numerous sponsors, including the first title sponsor, with Mugerli bringing in Selle SMP and St. Rich.
Umhaller told Cyclingnews, that the whole thing came together within 10 days. The team's aim is to find and develop young Austrian riders, he said, guiding them on their way up through the pro ranks. For this reason, he brought Mugerli on board. The two had been teammates for the previous two years.
“With Matej, we have a very experienced rider who has won almost 50 UCI races in the past,” Umhaller said. “His job will be to help the young riders make the transition.”
Umhaller has concentrated on riding during the season, while Mugerli has taken on the sports director role. The Austrian arranges races, hotels, trips, and sponsors in Austria, while Mugerli does those tasks for the team in other countries. At 37, Mugerli is almost a generation older than his colleague. He put in four years at the ProTour level, with Liquigas early in his career.
“I missed most of the 2018 season due to knee problems. It is getting better but is not quite there. I may miss the early races as a rider but I will sit in the team car and serve as DS,” he told Cyclingnews. “Both roles give me the chance to help these young riders and share my experience with them.”
It is not only his riding experience which has come into play, he explained. “I have been with every level of cycling teams. The top ranks with Liquigas, Elite, and Continental. I have worked with an amateur team for 10 years, and also done marketing for the Slovenian Cycling Federation. So I know the differences in all the ranks, what to expect, how to run things, how to work with riders.
“This organizational experience is a very important aspect. I know how big teams work and I know the problems of small teams and what the teams and riders have to do to develop.”
The team's goal is to support and challenge young Austrian riders and help them on their way to professional careers. Five of the riders come over from MyBike Stevens: Mugerli, Umhaller, his brother Andreas Umhaller, Julian Gruber, and Stefan Mastaller. Twin brothers Raphael and Marvin Hammerschmid are coming over from the Elite ranks, while Michael Holland and track rider Lukas Viehberger are moving up from the Juniors.
The young riders have not yet brought in any results, but that is not important, Mugerli said. “Our goal is to develop them, not to rush them along. I am pleased with how they have already grown so far, both individually and as a team.”
Sport.land Niederösterreich has already been awarded an invitation to the 2.1 Österreich Rundfahrt, July 6-12.