Barney and Sarah Storey launched Storey Racing in 2017 as a new venture to try and reach their ambition of having a professional women’s cycling team that caters for British women who would like to make cycling their career but have not been accepted on to , or are coming off the British Cycling programme.
Having previously run the Podium Ambition set-up which ran as a UK Elite team in 2014 and 2015, then a UCI team in 2016, the Storeys are well versed in the challenges of maintaining a team and ensuring it is sufficiently funded to operate. Like all cycling teams, they rely on sponsorship which can be difficult to find in a sport where coverage is limited, there are few opportunities for Live TV even at the very top.
“When you are growing something from the ground up, the biggest challenge is securing sufficient sponsorship to operate,” commented Sarah Storey. “You have to cut your cloth accordingly and ensure you don’t make promises you can’t keep. Managing rider expectations is key to the team being stable too and as with anything there’s a lot of misunderstanding about how much support riders on bigger teams are actually getting.”
“The costs of running a smaller team properly are higher than most people think and you ideally need a mix of product in-kind and cash to operate effectively. It’s not cheap to enter and attend a UK race either, as unlike UCI events there is an entry fee per rider to pay and no accommodation or food provided as happens at UCI events. As most UK women’s races start at 9am every race requires overnight accommodation and we try and provide an evening meal too as riders wouldn’t be able to race very often if they also had to pay for hotel meals every time.”
The Storey family bought have a Motorhome which they loan to the team to make life easier and cheaper whilst on the road. It doubles up as accommodation and can cater for team meals too.
“Tha Motorhome has made life easier and reduced running costs for the team,” said Barney. “We have a big garage and can take up to 5 passengers so try and collect riders where we can to reduce their travel costs. As a team we don’t have a budget to pay travel expenses, but try to make up for that by making life easier in other areas.”
For the longer events and races where self-catering accommodation is possible to find, the team are also support by Sarah’s parents who come along to assist with the cooking, freeing up the soigneur to do more massages and ensuring the riders can focus on resting and preparing for the race.
“It’s real family affair,” laughs Sarah, “and my parents are well versed in catering for large groups having run a Scout Group and then a swimming team previously. They have always been keen to help and support my sporting endeavours, to the point the British Swim Team had then searching for a rice cooker and microwave in Germany at the 1999 European Swimming Champs!”
Like any cycling team, the future depends on sponsorship as cycling teams have few opportunities to generate revenue. Growing a team to the point it can achieve regular coverage on live TV is hard and needs creative ideas to ensure sponsors receive the return they are looking for. Even the endorsement of a high profile athlete like Sarah is not as lucrative as many would assume.
So far the team is run entirely by Sarah and Barney, who do it on a voluntary basis because the funding the team has prioritises the race calendar. Their roles cover everything from the team logistics such as booking hotels, entering races and organising the schedule to maintaining the bikes and equipment, washing the bottles, ordering product from sponsors, keeping the social media and website content ticking over and looking for new leads with potential sponsors. Sarah ran the crowdfunding campaign which provides the team with roughly 25% of their 2017 budget and allowed the team to provide UCI World Cup opportunity to Trike rider, Hannah Dines, and cycle-cross rider Bethany Crumpton. Something that wouldn’t have been possible to the same extent without the generous donations.
“It would be great to get to the point where we are able to get paid for the work we are doing,” said Sarah. “the priority is growing the brand and ensuring we provide the platform for race coverage and opportunity for riders. By doing that we can grow our worth and hopefully attract a bigger cash investment.”
“Paying staff is also on our wish list too, as this would allow us to generate more opportunity and provide more for the riders, which in turn would lead to rider wages. Doing everything with volunteers is time consuming as you have to be very organised to ensure you have people available. What we are asking of people could actually be a full-time job!”
The team is without doubt an inspiring group to be around and has the potential to deliver that to a wider audience. For the right level of investment a sponsor could land themselves a group of genuine role models who could deliver a range of opportunities to their audience. From competition opportunity to spend time with the team, or having riders lead corporate cycling events, there are many ways a sponsor can engage with a team.
“In the 25 years I have been an international athlete the percentage of sponsorship in women’s sport and the reasons for girls dropping out of sport in their teens, hasn’t changed!” marvelled Sarah. “We still see less than 1% of all sports sponsorship coming in to women’s sport and girls still say they aren’t interested in sport because it’s not feminine and they don’t want to have a shower after a PE lesson.”
“Girls need a greater number of positive role models, that reach out to them on the right level. There are celebrated female athletes in the spotlight but for many young girls they can’t identify with them and don’t feel confident to aspire to be like them. By engaging and promoting women’s sport at all levels we are going to have a greater impact on this age old problem of sport not being something for girls to do. It’s not about necessarily about creating Olympic Champions but about providing girls with a healthy lifestyle through sport and activity.”
The Storey Racing team have a multitude of talented women on their roster and all with interesting back stories. Each of them creatively maintaining their sporting aspirations through different working opportunities outside of their training and racing. All riders have high ambition and are achieving that despite the odds stacked against them, for Sarah and Barney they hope to ensure those dreams can be fulfilled and will be working hard to support that.
“I always tell riders that success is not a destination but the journey you go through in striving to improve your personal best,” explained Sarah. “We have an ethos which we hashtag for social media as #BestVersionOfYou. This defines our approach and provides riders with a focus for their journey. We are entirely process driven, ensuring everyone focuses on the nuts and bolts of a performance rather than the outcome goal. By teaching this ethos and practising it ourselves, we ensure the riders learn skills that will stand them in good stead for a career beyond their sporting life.”
“Enjoying the journey, however frustrating it might be to miss out on certain opportunities because you can’t afford to get there, is all part of the process and even as a successful athlete with a multitude of medals, I still have to work hard to pay for the opportunities I want to take. You never stop working, nothing is given to you on a plate and even at the highest level I have training camps and competition expenses that aren’t covered by being part of the GB Cycling team.”
“Hopefully we can all enjoy the journey together within Storey Racing, always striving to create more opportunity.”
If you are inspired by the idea of getting behind a British women’s cycling team, please contact the team via StoreyRacing@talktalk.net