Today Matrix Fitness Pro Cycling – the UK team managed my Stefan Wyman – announced that it will be taking a new direction for 2017. With the continued support of Matrix Fitness, they will put a focus on developing a select roster of riders towards UCI pro level as opposed to following the format of a traditional racing team.
We’ve seen a fair amount of shift in focus for top end UK domestic and pro teams this year. Whilst established UCI Pro teams have largely maintained their status, smaller squads such as Matrix Pro Cycling and Podium Ambition have tried several methods to secure the best experience for their riders and sponsors. Wyman commented that though a host of strong teams would have been a "dream" a few years ago, some are now struggling with an "increasingly overcrowded market".
In 2015, the Matrix Fitness team took its first steps into the pro ranks. On the roster were Elinor Barker and Laura Trott, both looking for a team that would host them as they prepared for the Olympics in Rio.
In 2016, the team took a step back – deciding not to register as a UCI pro team, but instead keeping their schedule European. This was to allow them to develop riders – giving them the opportunity to gain confidence and perhaps move on to a pro team as Molly Weaver did in 2015 and Alice Cobb in 2016.
This year – the team have had time to evaluate their position. They’ve decided that rather than fight among the UK domestic teams for a share of the limited sponsorship available, their best off removing themselves from the traditional racing team structure, instead stepping back to focus on developing individuals with the goal of helping them to join a UCI pro team.
Wyman explained today: “Our new direction will put us into a unique space in the cycling arena and we look forward to an exciting start to the 2017 season."
"In 2010 it seemed a distant dream to have so many strong and successful teams at the top of the domestic scene."
Explaining the struggles that have led the team to adjust their focus, Wyman said: “In recent seasons we have worked in an increasingly crowded market, with more teams created and pushing for their place at the top of the domestic scene, most having very similar objectives and all targeting the same pool of riders. When we entered the sport under the Matrix banner in 2010 it seemed a distant dream to have so many strong and successful teams at the top of the domestic scene."
Though it’s great to see a high number of women’s teams supporting fantastic riders – overcrowding was one of the reasons Podium Ambition gave for ending their UCI pro dreams for 2017. There simply isn’t enough cash and support to go around, it seems.
“It has become clear that developing riders for strong international UCI teams is a far greater goal for us"
Always looking to invest in a way that’s truly beneficial to riders and development of the sport, Wyman has highlighted two goals for the team’s new direction. He explained: “It has become clear that developing riders for strong international UCI teams is a far greater goal for us and we are now looking at forging development pathways for riders in two ways. [Firstly:] Creating sustainable links to leading professional teams, and being able to provide those teams with World Tour level riders that match the skill set they are looking for. [Secondly: We plan to] continue putting the best riders we can into our set up, and giving them the highest support available in all the areas they can get, to allow them to move up to the right team."
So how will this work? Wyman can explain that too: “We will be moving away from the traditional racing team format, and creating a ‘performance centre’ environment, where we focus on fewer riders, with each rider having a far greater input from us into a fully customized program."
The team won't have a specific race program - with riders competing together at target events. Instead, the team members - who will span several disciplines with mixed ambitions and goals - will be more likely to race as individuals at races that suit them. The goal will be to allow talented riders to jump to the top of the sport, with the right support - as opposed to being 'stuck' at a middle ground.
He says that this sort of development is currently “missing in the sport for female riders". Matrix Fitness Pro Cycling will offer training facilities in Southern France, as well as Belgium. Here, Wyman says, they’ll create a tailored structure which will allow aspiring female riders to move up the ladder of women’s cycling. Headline sponsor Matrix Fitness will continue to support the team – this being their eight year working in partnership. However, the team are also looking for a large and long-term co-title sponsor to help them increase the scope of their programme.
Remaining with the roster, in its new direction, will be Olympic champions Corrine Hall, Lora Turnham and Elinor Barker. More riders will be announced soon.