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i've been busy - Project TAG is a Go
I have a bike sponsor and I've secured my budget. Here's how the last few months have played out
Saying that a lot has happened since my last Substack post is a bit of an understatement. I hope this piece goes someway to explaining what the last couple of months have been like as I tried to get Project TAG off the ground.
It’s a very wet day in Northern Spain and I’m sitting on a direct train from Girona to Alicante with the final destination of Calpe. Unfortunately, it looks to be very wet there too.
There were many hours, days, weeks and even months wondering if I’d ever get to this point. Countless sleepless nights. At first I was chasing the elusive pro-road contract and when that seemed less and less likely I switched my focus to launching what I’ve titled Project TAG - here’s the link to an explainer piece on TAG.
Why it might have looked like I had everything under control, I can assure you that wasn’t the case. It was only eleven days ago, on Friday January 27th when everything fell into place.
Let me take you inside my last couple of months.
The story starts in a street close to the Truman Brewery in Shoreditch, London. I was in town to speak at the Rouleur Classic and meeting up with my closest friends from Girona. One of those two friends is a pro-triathlete, and had been meeting with his agent, Ryan, that day. My situation was mentioned in passing, and an introduction was made.
This is early November, and the focus is still on getting a pro contract. We pitch a dual model to teams, the opportunity of signing me as a rider-writer - an athlete and a marketing asset. We came close, but there was never a piece of paper to sign. The week before Christmas I pulled the trigger on us pivoting to where I find myself now. (Sorry for stealing your “pivot” analogy Nathan)
A new pitch deck was created and new conversations opened. This whole time, I had a ticking time bomb hanging over me, the return of my team bike. I don’t own a bike so there was a very real scenario where I’d be a bike rider without a bike. To Axeon’s credit, they understood and allowed me to keep pushing the return date back.
January rolls around and we go into full work mode. I’m working my contact book, Ryan working his. I use the analogy of “flirting” when it comes to conversations with potential partners. You’re both trying to learn more about the other and figure out what they really want. We wanted to get my sponsors on board before I officially launched, but as anyone will tell you, the cycling market is rough at the minute.
I went into “Do not Disturb” mode, as I saw someone describe it, for all of January. I was either training or working. I notched up 91-hours of training across the month and countless hours working. I was either on my bike or in front of my laptop. Some of my close friends and family probably thought I was a bit of an arse last month, sometimes it be like that.
Velotec, my kit partner, were the first to come onboard. We were on the same page from the first call, and within a couple of days of the first meeting, the contract was signed. I had kit, but no bike and I was quickly running out of time.
Sometimes, things just fall into place. January 27th was that day.
I publicly launched Project TAG on January 24th, and seemingly spent every hour that week on the phone. One of the many conversations started was by my old team mechanic, Simon Wainwright. Simon sent a few emails on my behalf, and one struck gold. A few hours later I was on the phone, and it turned out that my calendar perfectly matched a new project that is being launched in the UK. I signed up immediately, that project is the reason I’m in Calpe, but that’ll all be revealed at the end of the month.
Happy that I’d solved the bike problem, I felt a weight come off my shoulders.
This whole time, we were looking outside of the cycling industry too. Look at the World Tour and you can see that most of the money comes from outside the sport.
This is where Pullwood Consulting comes into the picture. I was first connected with Jon Twigg in 2021 after appearing on a podcast with Michael Hutchinson. Jon reached out to me on LinkedIn and offered to help me out with some financial support for aero-testing.
Jon is a director at Pullwood Consulting, and has helped cycling teams look for sponsorship in the past. I sent him a copy of my pitch deck to ask for advice, and halfway through his reply email, he told me that I should be pitching to him. A phone call is arranged for the week later, I do my first “corporate” (very haphazard and probably wayyy too honest) pitch to him and he tells me that he’ll be in touch.
A few days later, he meets with Ryan to talk through the financials, and then an offer arrives on, you guessed it, January 27th. I sign, and Pullwood Consulting become my third partner.
I’ll go into more detail with how I’m working with each of my partners at a later date. I see it as a partnership, not a traditional sponsorship but something that is mutually beneficial. With Pullwood working outside of the cycling bubble, I’m really excited to be involved with something completely different.
January 27th, the day I woke up with Project TAG still being a dream, but went to sleep with it being a reality.
The last time I was in Calpe was February 2019 with Madison Genesis. It was the first of two winter training camps, both of which I had to get special permission from my headmaster to attend. I was young, I was naive, I was still in school. I was just a kid with a dream.
To name but a few of my teammates: Bibby, Moses, Mould, McEvoy, Holmes and Swift. I was surrounded by a who’s who of the Golden Era from the British Domestic scene. Little did we know that it was the beginning of the end for that era of riders. Most went on to retire a mere six months after that camp.
Madison Genesis were the final giant to fall. The final British domestic team that paid all of its riders at least close to a living wage. If there was still a scene like there was in the mid 2010s, then I wouldn’t be writing this piece, I’d be racing in the UK, but that’s an article for another day.
If you’d have told that kid with a dream where he’d be four years later, I think he’d be surprised at where he’d been. He’d be proud. Granted, he’d be a little disappointed too. On one hand, eighteen year old Joe was all about chasing the World Tour contract. On the other hand, he had no idea what that really meant.
While I may not be living eighteen year old Joe’s, or the traditional cycling dream, I’m well aware that I’m living a version of it. I get paid to ride my bike, write about riding my bike and travel to races all over the world. The best thing is, I’m still racing to win but it’s on my terms now.
Project TAG is a go, and it’s going to be one hell of a year.
While you’re here…
I’ve added both paid subscription and a ‘Buy Me A Coffee’ link to this post. As the year progresses, I’m planning on building this blog and putting out articles which I’ve always wanted to write but for whatever reason, haven’t wanted to pitch.
Any money that I make from either my Substack, or BMC link will go straight back into supporting my 2023 racing project. I am planning on keeping all content on here free to view though.
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Project TAG, proudly partnering with