In my last post of life updates, I mentioned that we are in the third year of Orion Racing, so I’d like to take some time and talk a little more about the joys and challenges of starting a team.
Orion Racing was born of a conversation with my teammate on a different team in 2014 and another friend/ local racer. We all struggled with the reality that there wasn’t a women’s team in Minnesota that provided development opportunities for local women to get from a high-level cat 3 racer to a comfortable cat 1/2 pro peloton racer. We had all made that transition at different times and in different ways and felt that we could contribute something to the local scene by starting a team focused on that piece of development.
Three seasons later, we have successfully mentored women riders at all levels, offered spots and support at large NRC/UCI races to riders who otherwise struggled to find a team, and hosted clinics and events to engage the cycling community outside of our team. It is by far one of the parts of my cycling career I am most proud of and it’s definitely what keeps me interested and engaged in racing (even this year when I cannot race).
I will say that not everything has been easy. Navigating relationships with sponsors is a challenge. Trying to build a team of like-minded riders is a challenge. What has NOT been a challenge is letting teammates guide their own development, on both the racing side and the team management side. Watching everyone seize the day and take ownership of organizing something, be it a sponsor relationship, wrangling support for a multi-day UCI race, or running our annual Pedal4Parity charity event, has been amazing.
If you are thinking about starting your own team or taking on a leadership role in an existing team, here are a few points I would advise you to consider.
1. Is there another team that already fills the niche of your proposed team? If so, you may want to link up with them instead of starting your own. Diluting the efforts of the cycling community actually leads to less community, and you might be stronger working with an existing framework.
2. How comfortable are you with asking for support or sponsorship? What would your team have to offer potential sponsors? How would you frame that offer? What would you do if a relationship with a sponsor was no longer working out? Figure out these answers before starting your team because all of these things will happen.
3. Would participating in team management augment your passion for cycling or diminish from your passion? It takes time and energy. Do you have that time and energy available year round? You can’t half-ass these things, but you can share the workload with teammates if they agree to it. If they don’t, can you manage everything without assistance?
4. Can you think of team goals to build a plan for the season? The calendar year? The next five years? Be visionary! Be ambitious! But also be realistic.
5. Create a mission for your team. Our team rallies around our mission of development for elite women cyclists. It drives so much of our decision making and our actions. It motivates us to host our annual charity event, to travel to big races with enough support staff to max out our team roster, and to work with and ride with junior racers and beginner racers. It absolutely helps us stay focused and build our brand, which in turn has helped us build our sponsor relationships. Teams with missions have better longevity and success. Period.
Hopefully this has given you a few things to ponder as you consider setting up a cycling team or working with an existing program.
Do you have any questions about starting a team? Leave me a comment below!