Privateer Planning for 2024
We're back on the multi-discipline stuff for another year.
One of these days I’m going to get the regularity of my Substack articles nailed. Today is not that day, but thank you for coming back to read on my ad-hoc upload schedule.
I’m writing this from Canada, a small town called Maple Ridge just east of Vancouver to be specific. I’ve been here for just over two weeks now and I’ll be heading home in a few days. This trip to Canada is in the “pleasure”, rather than “business” category.
I’m out here with my girlfriend, staying with her family and generally having a couple of weeks disconnected from the cycling world before heading back for winter in Girona. I picked up the bike pretty much as soon as I landed here, gradually getting into the groove of things and putting right the wrongs of off-season.
There have been plenty of slow and steady miles, getting the engine refiring and generally enjoying riding again. The trails here are spectacular, the roads are very straight. I’ve got my Ribble Gravel SL out here which means I can get away with riding pretty much anything I want.
I’ve ventured down to the Canada-USA border on the road, which to my surprise is just a grassy ditch. I’ve ridden on Vancouver Island for the first time since BWR earlier this summer and it reaffirmed its place in my eyes as one of the best places to ride a bike in the world.
In the background of all this, and probably why a lot of you are reading, I’ve been planning for 2024.
Where do you start when planning a privateer season? If I were still a roadie, I’d try to renew my contract and hopefully they’d send me a new deal. If my team didn’t want me, I’d go looking for another. Once the contract is signed, you’re left to it. There’ll be an email to submit kit sizes, maybe another email about training camps. Then, until training camp you’re left alone. Not anymore.
Racing as a privateer on the other hand is akin to having ivy vines winding up your house. Each piece of the puzzle for the year ahead is criss-crossing over itself, every vine has an impact on another and you don’t know where to start.
I have a draft calendar, but I don’t have the money to fulfil it all without a full roster of sponsors. Do I go looking for the money or the races first? Bear in mind, lots of Gravel races require entries in advance. I’m already touching $2,000+ deep in entry fees for 2024.
Where shall I travel and when? How early shall I book flights? What does the host housing situation look like?
How many sponsor events can I commit too? What do they look like, how much travel do they require?
Money! Can I build a model where I can afford to pay myself a small salary so I don’t have to do as much freelance writing? At the moment I’m training as a pro rider, ‘managing’ a team, doing logistics, searching for sponsors and working as a freelancer. Is that sustainable?
How much can I promise to each sponsor? Wait, you want the centre of the jersey? Is Sponsor X happy with Sponsor Y? Are there any potential conflicts?
There are other things that come to mind like I want to keep my kit as pure as possible. For 2024, my bike sponsor (guess who…) are allowing me to design my own kit for all privateering business. I’m planning a British racing green colourway…
So what’s news?
I’ve re-signed with Pullwood Consulting until at least the end of 2025. That’s a two year contract to put it simply.
Pullwood offer performance consultancy that helps individuals, teams, and organisations get better at the things that matter to them. Both Nick and Jon are a bucket load of fun to work with. They bring their learnings from the world of corporate business and tech into the sports arena. They’re all about performance, and at a recent event we did together in London truly got me thinking about what “performance” means.
In partnership with Pullwood, we’re planning more “Performance Evening” events, after our first trial this past month in London. They’ve got an open mindset to see where the partnership goes, they want to look beyond traditional sports sponsorship and make it a true partnership.
More to come…
Here’s the Gravel calendar for next year. Emphasis on GRAVEL calendar, though I think I left some TT stuff in there too. The calendar excites me. There are big blocks in the US, visits to some of my favourite races from this year (Unbound), and then races I have unfinished business with (Blue Mountains).
There’s a load of road racing coming next year too but I can’t say anything about it yet…
Looking back at this time last year, I can only smile. There are points that I feel I’m drastically underprepared. I’m still on the lookout for sponsors, mainly in the non-cycling world. I’m still short of money to make all of my 2024 plans come to fruition, but it's night and day compared to this time last year.
When I think back to November last year, I had no idea what I wanted to do. If things were ever so slightly different, I wouldn’t be writing this blog at all, I’d be travelling Down Under, or doing something else.
There are two events which stand out from last winter. The first with Antho Walsh, the host of Roadman Podcast. Sitting at the Konig Bar in Placa Independencia, over a pint and some bravas we debated my next moves. It was a case of putting together my skills both on and off the bike to create a cashflow which’d allow me to race a calendar.
While I’m still trying to figure out a load of off-bike stuff and how to activate the media side, I’d say the season is a success when looking back to that conversation.
The other memory is with two of my close friends, again sometime in December, again in Placa Independencia. Sitting on the bench outside my apartment we were having the deep meaningful conversations that only come with ice cream in hand.
“I know what I don’t want to do, I just don’t know what I do want to do.” I declared to them both. At the time, while this is almost certainly not true, it felt as if the world was against me. Everyone was trying to give me their opinion on what I should do, and selfishly I wanted to be left alone.
I’m harsh on myself. We recently held an event in central London (Substack to come), and although I was feeling under the weather which probably didn’t help, my talk possibly came across a touch pessimistic.
I may not have won a race or set the world on fire this year. But, as a year goes, when I look back on what it could’ve been, I think we’ll mark it as a success.
Project TAG, proudly partnering (both for my athletic and influencing ability) with…
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