Posted by Editor on 07/8/14
With the 2014 Tour de France under way, Team SmartStop Pro Cycling Team has announced that it is moving its general operations to Canada in 2015 and is launching a fundraising challenge that will permit the team to acquire a UCI Pro Continental license for future considerations including Tour de France eligibility.
"The time is now," says Jamie Bennett, Canadian owner of Premier Sports Group LLC, the parent company of SmartStop Pro Cycling, "Canada is primed and ready to have a Division 2 Team, and we are the country's best opportunity to bring a program of this scale to reality. Right now, we are the #1 professional road cycling team in North and South America."
The team is launching an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign to raise an additional $500,000 to apply toward a UCI license, biological passports, and minimum salaries. "The team has already secured significant funding to cover the logistics, equipment, and hard assets," explains Bennett.
"This initiative with crowd funding is really a test to see if Canada is supportive of bringing a world class cycling organization back to the country. We are sure that corporate sponsorship will follow once we have an initial vote of confidence and the movers and shakers in Canadian cycling open up their pocketbooks in support of this initiative. If we don't reach our goals, we will return the money to those who supported us and work on Pro Continental status in 2016.
"We are offering a select number of founding partner gift packages at $5,000 each to assist in reaching this fundraising goal and asking Canadians to help us accelerate our existing growth plan by one year," continues Bennett. "Founding partners will receive exclusive access to the team through social events and training camps, an exclusive VIP team kit, and special arrangements for race-day hospitality at major UCI races with access to riders and a seat in a team vehicle."
Pat Raines, who is Bennett's managing partner, acknowledges that the window of time to raise the required funds for at 2015 team may seem aggressive, however, he feels that Canadian interest in professional cycling is growing and that Canada is ready for the return of a top-tier team.
"Canada has two amazing athletes in the Tour de France this year, yet only has two UCI teams that race domestically. The country still lacks a program that puts the next generation of athletes into a position to compete in the biggest races on the world stage," adds Raines. "We can fill that gap and provide a program that the entire country can rally behind and support."
Team SmartStop has achieved unprecedented success in 2014 by winning the US National Road Cycling Championships and the U23 Canadian National TT Championships. The squad is also leading the UCI America Tour/NCS/NCC rankings, and has out-performed many of North America's top Division 2 and Division 1 Teams. SmartStop has also received invitations to internationally-televised Tours in North America including Utah, Alberta, as well as UCI races in Europe and South America.
Assisting in SmartStop's Canadian development efforts are Jon Watkin and David Strasser, who have been managing the Victoria BC-based Accent Inns/Russ Hay's Cycling Team since 2012. The team has been at the forefront of Canadian cycling development, highlighted by marquee performances at the Canadian National Cycling Championships and major cycling events in Western Canada and US Pacific Northwest.
"For David and I, this is a logical progression of our desire to continue to develop and grow the sport in Canada," explains Watkin, "We bring a Canadian grass-roots element to SmartStop's strategic plan, but we also bring over 25 years of combined marketing and business management experience that will help lay the foundation of a sustainable and successful program."
The Indiegogo campaign has begun, with the deadline to reach its objective placed for August 15th.
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