A new Chinese team plans to make a splash into cycling with a huge budget, new business approach and massive ambition to help secure future investment.
Team CEO Tim Kay is rounding up investors to debut China’s first top tier cycling team, with support from Brian Smith and Shane Sutton, in 2020.
“I’m not going for a small amount of money,” Kay told Cycling Weekly.
“I’m going for a huge amout of investment. I don’t want discuss the budget, but it’ll be bigger than Team Sky.”
Team Sky boasts a much bigger budget than most rival teams, reportedly running on £34.5 or €39.1 million budget in 2017. Rival teams, like Quick-Step Floors counts €18 million (or £15.9m), and struggles to court new financial backers.
Kay and Smith broke news of the team, now known as GCP, last week. Its lofty goals include a 2020 debut in cycling’s top tier and China’s first Tour de France winner by 2025.
“We want to win the Tour de France from year one,” Kay said. “Our budget will be big enough to bring in the best riders in the world from day one and give our team the chance to win in 2020.”
Considering Kay’s past, it may be possible. From the Wirral, he raced at a low level and poured his energy into real estate investments. He helped investors from China invest in properties and developed an understanding of what they want to support.
The idea of a team came last year when he saw several top teams struggling to continue.
“I dived in to how UCI operated, and how teams are run, their business models. Team Sky is run like a cooperate business, they are doing things right, but many are run a lot more loosely without structure, foundations and business strategy,” he explained.
“I started thinking about how I could bring in a WorldTour team and create a business model with return on investment, strategy and creating a sustainable business, giving longevity . I am familiar with China and how they like to invest.”
“I brought in Brian Smith to advise, I explained what I wanted to do, the structure. We brought in big sports lawyers, getting advice. Cycling needs a platform, a business model, something investors/sponsors can invest into”
Kay plans on offering investment opportunities, like cycling themed hotels, luxury private rented city centre developments and athletic centres in China. Those profits would give investors return and fund the team.
“I’m not just another business guy, but I’m here for cycling. I’m not trying to make it a different world, but make cycling a positive space to making it easier for the WorldTour teams to get big brand sponsorships, and become a viable opportunity for big brand sponsors to invest with long term strategy.”
Once the team is up and running, Kay wants to allow rival teams and riders to invest as well so that they too can attract big-dollar sponsorships and make returns back to their teams and increase team revenues.
“We will have investment models, we want to open them up in years to come to other WorldTour teams. I want to make cycling stronger,” he explained.
“We also want longevity, the team will be one small cog and part of a much bigger venture globally. We have a big project behind this, long-term investments, low-risk and high-rewards, we see them as investments and not sponsors,” Kay said.
In return, Kay plans on a close connection with China’s cycling association, where Sutton directs the track team. He wants to develop future stars in the way Great Britain did with its academy programme, which produced riders like Geraint Thomas and Mark Cavendish.
It is a big step for a country that only counts one rider currently in a WorldTour team, Mei-Yin Wang with Bahrain-Merida.
“Right now, there is no bridge between China and Europe for riders to come over as a cyclist and make it. Why would European teams open the doors to a Chinese rider? We are developing that path. There are a lot of great riders out there to make it happen.”
The project will be put together via investments, a fraction of that income will fund GCP, which could race under a generic team name, perhaps its adopted motto “Jingshen” or Spirit.
“Cycling doesn’t sit on a great business model right now, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be done,” Kay added.
“We have created a charity to support the continued growth in health and well-being, while getting more people on bikes in China, we will have a beautiful country to show case our mass participation events and develop the sport and bringing China to the forefront of professional cycling”