Brand Champions

Tour de France the goal for Canadian cycling team

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Team co-owner Steve Bauer, an Olympic silver medallist and Canadian cycling legend, already has his sights fixed on SpiderTech moving into the major leagues and wearing the Maple Leaf at the 2013 Tour de France.

“We are knocking down doors,” Bauer said in a telephone interview from St. Catharines, Ont., Wednesday. “Things are growing.

“We’re good. We’ve done exceptional things. It’s just a matter of time. We will shoot to be at the top.”

For the last three years the team has competed on the Continental level, the third rung of professional road cycling. SpiderTech ended 2010 ranked as the top-ranked North American team on the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) America Tour.

The next step for SpiderTech is to be one of the 18 teams granted a license for the UCI World Tour, which includes prestigious races like the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España.

To make that jump, SpiderTech’s riders must prove themselves in Continental Professional level races in France, Cuba, Italy, Belgium and other countries.

“Our team will be going to Europe and will be competing in some pretty serious races,” said Bauer. “Our guys will evolve and grow and get better.”

For the last two years the Cervelo TestTeam, owned by Canadian bike manufacturer Cervelo, had an entry in the Tour de France. The team has since joined forces with Garmin to create Garmin-Cervelo.

It’s no accident that of the 17 riders SpiderTech has under contract, 14 are Canadian.

“The goal is to work with the best Canadians and to have a clear Canadian essence as we progress,” said Bauer. “Will all the guys on our team make World Tour? No. Will some of them? Yes, absolutely.”

SpiderTech added to its already impressive roster of riders by signing Olympian Svein Tuft of Langely, B.C., to a contract.

Tuft won a silver medal at the 2008 road world championships in Varese, Italy, and a stage in the 2010 Eneco Tour. He was a member of the U.S.-based Garmin-Transitions team in 2010.

“We are super happy to have a guy like Svein,” said Bauer. “He’s going to add tremendously to the roster we have.”

Other riders wearing SpiderTech colours include Guillaume Boivin of Longueuil, Que.; David Boily of Quebec City and Keven Lacombe of Montreal.

Having the talent to be competitive is necessary to make the move to the World Tour, but money is also a major factor.

Bauer said it costs a team between $15 million and $20 million to operate a successful program at the top level. He wouldn’t say what SpiderTech’s budget will be in 2011.

“We’re an entry level team,” Bauer said. “We are on a financial budget I would consider fairly minimum-needs requirement to do what we need to do.

“I think what we’ve achieved on the budget that we’ve had over the past three years has been pretty amazing. I think we can be competitive and I think we can get in the game with our current budget and our current roster. To grow we almost have to double our budget every year.”

Riders currently employed by SpiderTech earn a minimum salary of around $50,000 a year. They also share in any prize money from races.

The minimum salary at the World Tour level is $60,000. The top riders earn anywhere from $250,000 to over $1 million.

Officially known as SpiderTech powered by C10, the team is backed by some powerful Canadian companies. SpiderTech produces high-tech therapeutic tape used by athletes. Other sponsors include BlackBerry maker Research In Motion; dairy producer Saputo; wholesale energy provider Planet Energy; and Catalyst Capital Group.

Bauer, 51, is a Canadian pioneer in international cycling. He finished fourth in the 1988 Tour de France, where he won one stage and wore the yellow jersey for five stages. He also held the yellow jersey for nine stages in the 1990 race.

He was a silver medallist in the road race at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

For Bauer, overseeing the team’s progress has been like a father watching a family grow.

“The guys are getting better every year,” he said. “On the financial side, it’s always ongoing to raise dollars through sponsorship and to add new partners that are willing to help.”

While the date may be flexible, Bauer won’t hedge on his promise to have SpiderTech race the Tour de France.

“Time lines are challenging,” Bauer laughed. “I’d rather under promise and over deliver.

“If it takes to 2014 or 2015 so be it. It’s not an overnight thing.”

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Posted on 2011-08-01