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The Ribble Collective: Explained
Announcing my 2023 bike sponsor!
In 2023, I’ll be riding on a…*drumroll please*…Ribble!
Okay, this hasn’t been my best kept secret. From rolling around Girona in Ribble kit, to heading on a “Top Secret” camp in Calpe, and a cryptic trip to the North-West to pick-up my bikes. Many of you guessed my bike partner this year, so congrats.
If you told me this time last year that I’d be riding a Ribble in 2023, I wouldn’t have necessarily been surprised. Granted, Joe a year ago would have thought it would have been as part of the Ribble sponsored Continental team which sadly folded due to a secondary sponsor pulling out.
If you’d have told Joe a year ago that he would have been riding for the “Ribble Collective” he’d have been quite confused. Probably just as confused as you are reading this. Let me explain.
What is the Ribble Collective?
The Ribble Collective is exactly what it says on the tin, a collective of riders, not a team. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “it’s just another gravel group trying to sound cool”.
You’d be wrong.
The Ribble Collective is a multi-discipline, multi-gender set-up - I REALLY want to use the word team but that isn’t really true. There are twelve of us in the year one intake for the collective, and it has been set-up solely by Ribble. You could look at it like a “Factory Race” style thing.
The reason I’m trying to avoid the phrase “team” is because bar riding in Collective kit, there are few traditional team commitments. For example, we choose our own calendar and can have our own sponsors.
The freedom of the calendar really appealed to me. The last thing I wanted to do was “sell out” to something that took the freedom from Project TAG. I wanted to maintain control of what races I was doing, and that’s exactly what Ribble wanted me to do too.
The most interesting, and what was potentially going to be the biggest stumbling block in negotiations is the Collective’s “partners”. The Ribble Collective has multiple partners, not sponsors. This effectively means that brands support the project, but riders aren’t contractually obliged to go with them.
The best example of this is kit. I had already signed my partnership with Velotec before Ribble came along. On my first call with Ribble, after they had spent the last twenty minutes pitching me the Collective, I had one question: “Would I be able to stay with Velotec?”. The answer was an immediate yes.
Away from kit, wheels are another area where the Collective has “partners”, not sponsors. I will be riding Mavic wheels this year, who are a partner of the Collective. However, Cam Jeffers is using Halo Wheels, Maddy Nutt is using Parcours.
The freedom that this project gives us riders is refreshing. Ribble could quite easily have contractually obliged us to use company X, Y or Z and locked us into those deals. Yet, they wanted to do it different and give us freedom.
Without this freedom, I wouldn’t have been able to search for personal partners, and in turn wouldn’t have been able to generate enough income to fund my grand TAG plan.
How it came about:
You know when sometimes things just work out perfectly? That was what happened with this Ribble partnership.
On January 24th, I published this Substack post launching my 2023 plans and telling the world where I was. At that point, I hadn’t even started talking to Ribble.
Enter Simon Wainwright, my old team mechanic from the HMT Hospitals junior days. Simon had read my article and reached out to some of his industry contacts to see if anything would suit. It’s well published that the cycling market is currently struggling and after months of searching, I was grateful for this helping hand.
Simon sent an email to Jamie Burrows, the Head of Product at Ribble, who forwarded it onto Neil Pinkawa, their Head of Marketing. Within hours, Neil was pitching me the idea of the Ribble Collective. They’d signed everyone, but had one space remaining.
A few emails to and fro, a few negotiations later and we signed the contract. Within 72hrs, I’d gone from having no contact at all with them to being a signed rider for 2023. Sometimes, things just fit well.
The next week I hopped on a train from my Girona home to Calpe and joined the Collective on a media/training camp. Everything happened very, very fast.
What will I be riding?
I’ll be riding the Ultra SL on the road, equipped with Shimano Ultegra Di2 and Mavic wheels. For Gravel, I will be riding the Gravel SL, with Shimano GRX and Mavic wheels. I will also be using their Ultra time trial frame as part of “Project TT” that I’m doing top.
I’ll give a full breakdown of my bikes at a later date.
My Honest Thoughts
Given that I’ll be riding in Ribble Collective kit, it’s easy to look at this and think I “sold out”, and didn’t stay true to what I said when I launched Project TAG. If I’m being honest, I would have liked to maintain some design control of my kit, but that just wasn’t meant to be. I will be riding Ribble Collective branded kit, I will be riding Ribble bikes, but Project TAG is still my own thing.
It is nice to be working directly in a “factory racing” type set-up. In the past, whenever I’ve raced on a pro team there has been a disconnect in the rider-team-sponsor chain. It is the team management that goes after, and deals directly with the sponsor. With this being a personal relationship and me dealing directly with people who work at Ribble, there is no doubt that I have greater affinity to the brand.
I’m looking forward to the challenge. In the first year of a project like this there will be hiccups, there will be teething problems. It’s not as easy as turning up to training camp and having a bike waiting for me like it has been in previous years.
So there we have it, the secret is out and I’ll be a Ribble sponsored rider in 2023. Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments below.
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…