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Belgium based SDWorx is an international company specializing in payroll and HR. Their commitment to the team proves that, at least for now, standalone women’s teams are commercially viable.
The search for new backers began at the 2019 world championships last September, when Boels Rental and Dolmans Landscaping announced their withdrawal at the end of 2020, ending eight successful season with the women’s WorldTour team.
But, without a four-year guarantee of funding, the team was unable to apply as one of the new UCI Women’s WorldTour teams, something that was to prove a hurdle in sponsor negotiations.
Boels-Dolmans attracted sponsors—and riders—through unprecedented success. In recent seasons, the team won nearly every top level race at least once. They produced four successive road world champions between 2015 and 2018, won the team time trial world title, and topped the world rankings for each of the last four years.
Much of that success can be credited to Danny Stam. The 47 year-old Dutchman is the team’s lead sports director, and not only is he tactically astute on the road, he has successfully balanced the ambitions of the world’s best riders.
Stam has molded the individuals into a team, a tight unit, who are happy to ride and fight for the collective.
Following the recent sponsorship announcement VeloNews spoke with Stam about the deal, team, and the future of women’s cycling.
VeloNews: How long had you been talking to SDWorx?
Danny Stam: We already had them on board as a cosponsor as FlexPoint, and then they [FlexPoint] were taken over by SDWorx. So we knew each other already, a little bit. But actually, [over] the last three weeks it started to go very fast and everything happened and it was done.
VN: The sponsorship starts immediately. Will that change the team this season at all?
DS: No, they start as a co-sponsor [and will be displayed] on the bib shorts, but to be clear: they are going to be the main sponsor from 2021.
VN: How does the new deal affect your budget?
DS: Let me say I think we are getting a budget that we think we can fight again with the top of the WorldTour teams. We can definitely be on a level with the top teams.
VN: As a headline sponsor SDWorx is a big new company for the sport. How significant is it they are going with an independent women’s team?
DS: All the time we kept saying that we wanted to be an independent women’s team and actually that works for a sponsor.
SDWorx wants to be fighting for the top three in the world, instead of being a small part in a men’s team, they want to be winners and they can do that do with a much smaller budget than with the men. It also shows that companies like this see the possibilities in women’s cycling.
VN: How difficult was the search for sponsors, and how close did you come to not continuing?
DS: Finding a sponsor for this kind of amount is never easy, that should be clear. But if you you can announce in February a new sponsor for 2021, then you can say you were never in panic! The season didn’t start yet, and you can announce everything at the team presentation. Then, I think you can be proud of everybody who made that possible.
VN: How close did you come to partnering with other companies, and why did they not sign off in the end?
DS: We had two companies we were really, really close with, and actually the main point was the four years [for title-sponsor commitment]. That amount of money was a little bit of a struggle for a lot of companies; they would like to jump in but for a shorter amount of time.
VN: This you gives you space to plan the future.
DS: It shows to me that we can be proud of the last five or six years, that we have had with Boels and Dolmans. We made something together so other main sponsors can see, and what kind of visibility they get, and how much more their name is known from sponsoring a women’s team.
VN: SDWorx are a Belgian sponsor with an international customer base. How does being an international company affect the team?
DS: I don’t think it will affect my team. I prefer to have riders from different nationalities, and that is also what they prefer. So we continue with the team, but there is a possibility that we have less Dutch people. I think it’s good to have a team with a lot different nationalities because every culture of every country is different and it pushes your riders to a different level.
VN: When the search for sponsorship was announced you said you wanted to increase the number of riders you have on the team, what can we expect in the next four seasons?
DS: I think the goal is by the end of the [Olympic] cycle, you need to have 16 or 18 riders.
I think next year, we will go for the WorldTour team status, and for that we already need to have around 14 riders because the program has that much traveling and is that intensive that you need more than 12 riders.
VN: How stressful has this been for you?
DS: Stressful is a big word! It keeps you busy. I like to have things done how I want it, and I really wanted to continue, and I heard a lot of rumors that it was impossible, and that gave me a nice trigger to get it done. Now it’s up to us, and to the riders to continue where we are.