New Chinese team ready to rock cycling’s boat

VeloNews caught up with Tim Kay, the CEO of a new China-based cycling project that's aiming to launch in 2020.

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — A new Chinese team, set for a 2020 debut in the WorldTour, wants to “rock the boat in cycling.”

The new GCP team announced last week aims to bring in a different investment model for sponsors — which it also wants to share with its rival teams.

“I’m here to rock the boat in cycling in a positive way,” team CEO Tim Kay told VeloNews.

“I’m not just another business guy, but I’m here for cycling. I’m not trying to make it a different world, but make cycling a positive space, making it easier for the WorldTour teams to get big brand sponsorships, and become a viable opportunity for big brand sponsors to invest with long term strategy.”

Once the team is up and running, Kay wants to allow rival teams and cyclists to invest as well so that they too can attract big-dollar sponsorships and make returns back to their teams and increase team revenues.

“We will have investment models, we want to open them up in years to come to other WorldTour teams. I want to make cycling stronger,” he explained.

“If I bring in big companies, then other big brands will follow. The cyclists can invest in our investments, something riders can get involved in to follow up on after their careers.”

Kay’s team is aiming to debut in the WorldTour in 2020 as the first top-level Chinese team. It wants to produce the first Chinese Tour de France winner by 2025.

Kay rode in England and grew up with cyclists like Steve Cummings. Through his work developing properties with Chinese clients, Kay began to believe the time is right to create a structured team and attract Eastern investors.

“I saw a lot of WorldTour teams suffering last year with sponsorship. I couldn’t get my head around why so many successful cycling teams in big countries like us couldn’t find big brand sponsors. There are big companies out there looking to invest large amounts in sport right now,” continued Kay.

“I dived in to how UCI operated, and how teams are run, their business models. Team Sky is run like a cooperate business, they are doing things right, but many are run a lot more loosely without structure, foundations and business strategy. I started thinking about how I could bring in a WorldTour team and create a business model with return on investment, strategy and creating a sustainable business giving longevity . I am familiar with China and how they like to invest.”

Over the last year, Kay has been developing this team starting with meetings with the UCI governing body and bringing in Brian Smith as team manager and sports lawyers. He also made a deal with Shane Sutton, the former British and Sky coach, who now directs the Chinese track team.

“We also want longevity, the team will be one small cog and part of a much bigger venture globally. We have a big project behind this, long-term investments, low-risk and high-rewards, we see them as investments and not sponsors,” Kay said.

Along with a top-level cycling team, GCP will include a development team of all Chinese riders. They will be based in China, working with the national association, and will travel to the team’s base in Girona, Spain. Running parallel, they will support a fan base and create mass participation programs and track events around China.

The project with be put together via investments. A fraction of that income will fund GCP, which could race under a generic team name — perhaps its adopted motto “Jingshen,” or Spirit.

“Cycling doesn’t sit on a great business model right now, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be done,” Kay added.

“The project and the money? Yes, it’s serious. You’ll know or have heard of the companies, we are speaking to massive brands, some private investors. We are in talks with big clients, the big guys in China.”

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