Interview: Stefan Wyman
Interview with Horizon Fitness RT-Prendas Ciclismo manager and sports-director Stefan Wyman. Wyman talks about a.o. the past season and looks forward to the Olympic season.
Horizon Fitness-Prendas Ciclismo manager and sports-director Stefan Wyman talks about the past season in which the team took it's first big international win. Further he looks forward to the Olympic Season and talks about the 2012 team, the plan to become UCI in 2013 and much more. The interview:
How do you look back at the past season for Horizon Fitness - Prendas Ciclismo? Having National, European- and World Champions on your team.
It was good season for us. Throughout the year weíve already been planning for 2012 and 2013 to be honest as we have a long term focus that requires a huge amount of time. The results of riders like Dani and Jo while they are with the Great Britain team are fantastic, and nothing less than they deserve. They are hugely dedicated and professional athletes. The levels of hard work they put in are no different to what we hope to get from all of the riders on the team.†
The riders Horizon Fitness - Prendas Ciclismo was very successful this season. On the photo Dani King, Penny Rowson, Hannah Rich, Jo Rowsell and Annie Simpson. All will ride for the team in 2012 as well. Photo ©
2011 Bart Hazen
Did the season meet your expectations?
We got our first professional win (Hanka Kupfernagel won the ITT in Krasna Lipa), competed very well in the major UK races and provided a good return to our sponsors. Hopefully we, along with our sponsors, also played our part in the further development of womenís racing in the UK.† So I have to say yes, however of course there are things that didnít go quite as well.† But they are lessons; we move on and donít make the same mistakes again. I guess in the structure we have, errors fall on my shoulders and Iím big enough to deal with that.†
The major positive for me was the rapid development of some of the young riders on the team.†Iíve seen real focus from them and they moved forward so much. This culminated in the race in Sparkassen Giro, where Iíve never seen such a good team performance. Hanka spoke to everyone after the race and congratulated them all on their ride; a proud moment for them and for me. It was a long season and people shouldn't forget our riders are still at school or university and are competing against the best in the world.
What went good and what needs to be improved for 2012?
I think we need to be more consistently at our best.† So we are going to focus very hard on choosing the races that we want to add to our program and try to prepare for them in most professional and correct way possible. Weíll have several new faces and we need to make sure they integrate with the team very quickly and everyone can ride instinctively well as a team when the important targets come around.†
2012 might not be a year where we go out and dominate in terms of wins, but it can be a year where we can stand out with our team work and professionalism. Hopefully more people will aspire to be on a well structured team and weíll be able to make the final push to being a UCI registered team for 2013. Thatís where we want to be.
Stefan is discussing the tactics with Hanka Kupfernagel in Krasna Lipa. Photo ©
2011 Bart Hazen
Jessie Walker and Sarah Byrne are joining the team while several others leave. Is the 2012 set-up completed or can we expect more surprising news around the team soon?
Everything is going to plan, but itís a very hard environment. Weíve had tremendous backing from Horizon Fitness for the past 2 year and Prendas Ciclsmo really stepped up this year with us.† They are the perfect partners for us as they want to be involved in a 2 way relationship and develop the team, and in doing so, develop the commercial return they get. These guys really understand the benefit of sponsoring teams, and specifically sponsoring womenís teams.†
Yes, we need more partners for sure, for both products and finance. We have made agreements with some great people for 2012 and everything looks good, but the door is still open to more people to join whatís happening here. We work with 2 specialists to ensure we give a good return.†One on the online side and social media, and the other on the seeking of sponsors and ensuring they get an unrivalled level of return. It works well for us to have professionals doing the right jobs.
The team next year will be very young. What do you expect from the (new) riders next season?
I want them to enjoy learning, training and to enjoy racing. Above all I want them to be willing to try to take steps forward.†Whether their long term future is with us, or somewhere else, Iím sure we can help put them on a good path.
Today is your day Annie (Simpson) Stefan said. Guess what? Annie Simpson won the race in Oldham that day. Photo ©
2011 Bart Hazen
What are your goals for the new (Olympic) season? And what will the program more or less look like for Horizon Fitness - †Prendas Ciclismo?
Weíll have a similar program to 2011 in terms of our international program. Perhaps weíll add a little more national level racing in Belgium and Holland, but weíll certainly be pushing for entries to races such as Luxembourg and Thuringen again. Itís very important when we go to major races, they are very well organized, and also they are a step up in terms of the level of racing.
Racing in the UK is at a good level. The down sides are the small pelotons, and sometimes the courses arenít very challenging.†This leads to negative racing, crashes and in the end some negative comments. But the top end of UK racing is very good. We now have the Junior World Champion in the UK and there was a great team of riders out there in Denmark to support her. That shows that something in the UK is very right.†
When we go to Belgium, a kermesse race is like a UK race with a big peloton. That teaches some new skills but doesnít step the level up.†Whereas Thuringen is another level all together and I find that brings out the best in the riders and re-adjusts their aspirations.
Last year Hanka Kupfernagel rode as guest for the team in Krasna Lipa, ThŁringen Rundfahrt and Sparkassen Giro Bochum and with success. Do you want to have/use more guest riders next year for the big races?
I think having some guest riders in the sport isnít a bad thing. Hanka has a lot to offer the sport and a huge amount to offer a team like ours. Sheís is a legend of the sport and continues to be as devoted to gaining success as anyone at the top. With the experience I had with Hanka this year I donít see any reason why we wouldnít do the same again. But I donít think in all circumstances itís the right thing to do. I think young riders need to get in teams and learn from the team and deal with the responsibilities that come in a team.†That relies on there being teams for them to join, but it really surprises me that so many female riders choose to ride solo in national level events.†
Hanka fits the criteria in my mind, as a rider who has been there, done it, and most importantly is still doing it. Now sheís in the right position commercially to be able to negotiate terms with a team such as ours that suits her goals. This year Hanka has TTíd, ridden pro road races, had success in cyclo-cross as well as dipping into track racing with great results. There arenít many people that can do that.
Following his wife Helen in the team car in the Krasna Lipa ITT. Photo ©
2011 Bart Hazen
As 2012 will be an Olympic Season Dani and Jo probably will be claimed by British Cycling until after the Olympics. How does that situation work as you probably canít use them in many road races?
We are working very closely with British Cycling on this. Paul Manning is in charge of the Team Pursuit program and heís a good guy who is very focused on the success of the National Team at the Olympic Games.† He was a top rider and I believe he knows what heís doing, and he is working with the best interest of the riders in mind as well as a gold medal. Their careers seem to be in safe hands with Paul.
But these riders are of course available to us, they ride for Horizon Fitness Ė Prendas Ciclismo, we are their team. But they have a goal that Iím sure they will fulfil. They will just do that in a GB jersey. There is a lot of negativity toward to British Cycling as itís very much Olympic focused. But as I often say we have the track focus and lottery funding to thank for a lot of the great things happening in the sport in the UK. †The races they (Jo and Dani) do with us will be part of the stepping stone to becoming Olympic Champions in London, and that means our program is pretty important for them.†
We now have the Menís road race World Champion, and he came through a track program. We also have the Junior womenís World Champion on the road along with a massive list of female track stars. Not just the likes of Pendleton, but Becky James, Rowsell , King and Jess Varnish to name a few.† Each of these riders will inspire even more and we end up in a situation where we are the strongest nation.†
Will the team ride on the same equipment in 2012? Or are there any changes in the material?
We have a pretty exciting line up of equipment and parts partners for 2012.† Itís an area Iím working flat out on and trying to bring in more partners as I think we can offer people a great opportunity to work with an amazing group of riders. Iím really excited about the bikes weíll be riding next year, and weíre lucky to be retaining the services of a lot of existing partners.
We strive to be the best in all areas. With the resources we have we do everything we can to ensure we have all the advantages we can and provide our great young riders with the equipment they deserve. But itís really hard to get people on board. There are a lot of teams in the UK fighting in a small market and bad economy.†
I have a lot of people speak to me and say, Ďwhy donít you just phone up ...... , theyíd be sure to back you.í† But itís really not that easy.† Itís hard to find a chain lube sponsor, let alone a sponsor that would bring as much to the table as someone like Prendas or Horizon Fitness.† Itís a full time job that basically means being rejected over and over again. But itís worth the fight, isnít it?
In 2012 the aim is to see more of this kind of perfect team work. Photo ©
2011 Bart Hazen
Apart from the riders and the equipment the team needs a good technical staff. I suppose there will be a few changes. How does the staff line-up look like for the new season?
Jamie Burrow (former pro from a.o. US Postal) has been added to the team as Director Sportif, and thatís a key change for us.† Iíll be far more behind the scenes working on the development of the corporate side of the team and working with our sponsors.† When you work in the womenís racing environment, you need to innovate and that takes a lot of time away from racing. So the appointment of Jamie is the biggest step there.†
Jamie is a close friend, who has a massive knowledge of cycling and he offers a different perspective to me.† Heís very important to us and brings a different set of skills to help the development of our riders. We work very well together and I think our time in the team car together will be good.† I just need to teach him how to use a right hand drive car now.†
Recently thereís been a discussion/debate about a minimum wage for women cyclists. UCI president McQuaid stated that the sport donít have the level yet. Vos, Teutenberg and Bronzini took offense and supported the idea. What are your thoughts? Or what needs to be changed to get this idea started.
I think there should be a minimum wage, but I also think it goes hand in hand with other changes that are long overdue for the sport.
Firstly we need to reclassify the way teams are registered and make a two tier system.† At the minute every team is a Continental team (That is not a professional team in the eye of the UCI). We need Pro Teams and Continental teams. Simple differences between the two should be set and the pro teams should have a minimum wage. They should also have a guaranteed entry to the biggest races.†So very similar to the Ďidealsí of the World Tour structure for men.
Continental teams have lower requirements, but there should be a focus from the UCI on getting those teams well structured, rather than excluding a team because they donít have a bank guarantee of 20,000 Euro.†
A clear pathway for riders and stepping stones....whatever next!
The ambiance in the team is very good. Photo ©
2011 Bart Hazen
Are you optimistic about the growth and popularity of women's racing?
I think the sport has a good future or I wouldnít do what I do. We just need some people in charge who have the best interest of womenís cycling at heart. Menís cycling and womenís cycling are two very different animals and you canít just force one sport to adopt the others rules.
There are places where they can work a lot better together. For example we need more menís races to have a womenís race on the same day and course as the men (As per Sparkassen, Flanders and Fleche).† Also more menís teams need a structured womenís teams that aspire to be at the top of the sport.
But these changes arenít out of the question, and in the meantime there is a lot that can be done at a lower level and more local level.
Final question. What is your motto?
Iím a pretty easy person to understand. I give 100%, I expect 100% and I donít suffer fools very easily.
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