Building the Perfect Storm - The Procella Sports Story
Continuing with our ever popular FE Sports Ambassador Athlete Series we have Procella Sports owner/manager Thomas Collier guest blog about the origins of his team, explaining how they came to be as well as the goals and ambitions surrounding the identification and development of young talented cyclists. With an impressive list of achievements so far the future is certainly bright for one of the most prominent and well recognised cycling groups in South East Queensland.
Procella Sports was born many moons ago when I still lived in the UK. A friend and I were trying to start a team and I came up with the name after trawling my old Latin class notes, procella meaning “storm, hurricane or tempest”. I liked it and it stuck! Fast forward a few years, I'm living and racing in Brisbane, Australia and after a few great personal results and years of being asked for training tips, I formalised things with a Cycling Australia coaching qualification and started coaching junior and masters riders.
The first Procella Kit came out in 2014, so our riders could wear the gear in races and promote the name and brand. At first I partnered with small local companies (nutrition, cycling orthotics manufacturer, a gym etc), this has always been hugely important to me, we're local and use local. As the number of riders I coached grew, so did the team and in 2015 we had some great Elite B riders and young lads on board winning races and soon a women's team was started, and attention to what I was doing grew in our distinctive blue regalia.
My vision was always to help develop young riders in that transition from the junior to senior ranks and to provide a stepping stone to bigger squads and overseas racing. But I needed more. More sponsors, more cash and more riders to make it happen. A meeting with an old racing buddy Adam Baker (Belbaker Bus Charter) led to a growth of this vision and a commitment of investment. A masters rider I coached brought on Jumbo Interactive (operate the national lottery) which was our naming sponsor in 2016. We were away, sending shoots out to various corners of Queensland we were lucky enough to recruit around 20 juniors and many other Elite riders whilst maintaining a group of amazing masters hitting a roster of around 45 riders sitting at around 50 today. Whilst not coaching so many riders in 2016 (due to time and team commitments) we grew in stature and presence in Queensland and beyond, winning National Junior titles on the Track and Road as well as 25 State titles across many disciplines. With over 80 race wins and far more podium places, it was a truly special year.
Working with many athletes from the Queensland Academy of Sport and their coaches, or riders with their own World Class coaches, we have provided a platform for them to race, travel and develop both on the bike and off it. Off bike development is key, being a good bike rider is not enough anymore, excellent media presence, presentation, professionalism, communication and many other attributes make today's most successful athletes.
Natural progression and organic growth has led us to an even stronger team in 2017. We partnered with more key local companies such as Mainline Waterproofing, AllenCon and Skratch Labs via FE Sports for our nutrition, and of course the amazing Ridley Bikes for some of our juniors. The core squad was retained and the signature Blue Kit from Bioracer in Belgium tweaked for a fresh look. Our investment received is directly used to pay for our rider's race entries, clothing, accommodation, flights, treatment, equipment and many other valuable uses and our product partners like Skratch Labs ensure our riders are informed about the way to fuel themselves, recover and hydrate while having access to the best products.
2017 is flying by and the results and the achievements also. When I sat down in 2016 and wrote our KPI's and three year plan (hate to sound like a city business but goals and pathways are essential!) we aimed for a rider to represent Australia by 2017, and a rider to go to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Whilst we still hope a rider or alumni will get to the Olympics we are well on the way to achieving our other major goals. Junior road star Sebastian Berwick (one of our Ridley Bikes ambassadors) has won the Oceania Championships in both the Road and Time Trial and is off to the Youth Commonwealth Games in the Bahamas in July, his first chance to represent Australia. He is also very much in the running for the Australian squad to contest the UCI World Road Championships in Bergen, Norway later in the year. Seb will likely graduate from us at the end of 2017 and move onto an U23 academy or UCI team, this is our goal, a pathway with defined objectives for young riders. Along with his coach Peter Richards (Teco Training) we are always in contact with agents, teams and race organisers to assist riders like Seb.
Alexandra Martin-Wallace (our second Ridley Bikes ambassador) is in her first year of Junior U19 competition and in her second year with the team has continued to impress. Now a fully supported Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS) rider Alex has been announced in the Australian Junior Track Team for the World Track Championships in Italy in August where she will race the endurance events off the back of her amazing 2000m Individual Pursuit National Title where she rode the 2nd fastest time in history earlier this year! Alex is also a Ridley Bikes and Stages Cycling ambassador and when not with the QAS races for us in the Procella Bluetrain colours.
So with Alex and Seb we've hit our KPI's but we won't stop there! The next wave of riders is coming on fast and we have U17 riders like James Moriarty and Declan Trezise, U19's like Ben and James Weir (Cyclo Cross and Road), Elliot Mckean a great climber and U23 development riders Patrick Kennedy and Daniel Luke (to name a few) finding their feet within senior racing and likely to burst onto the National Road Series and beyond very soon.
Our vision is to keep this successful model going whilst improving our networks, relationships and channels for riders. We are potentially looking at developing a UCI registered team in the future and getting riders into Europe, Asia and the USA to experience cycling life outside of Australia. Of course this takes time, effort and money, the generosity of our sponsors humbles me daily and we are so glad to have them all on board. To go that next level would take a significant step up, but we believe we can do it and that cycling is a fantastic sport for companies to invest in and support. Especially given the positive difference they can make to each rider within our squad and the positive outward message we provide. We look forward to what the future may hold for the Procella Bluetrain.