How a Dutch ProAm Team operates
09 November 2016
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Hello and welcome to our latest edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike Podcast, I’m Gerald de Kock and plenty of mountain biking going round, certainly in mid-summer. This is the mountain bike season. It’s the stage race season if you like in South Africa. Mind you there are all manner of races going on all over the place, every weekend. One day races, stage races, and the like. So whatever you’re doing on the mountain bike enjoy it as we chat mountain biking.
There’s been an influx of international riders coming to South Africa to take part in one of their big, early summer events or almost mid-summer events, the Cape Pioneer Trek. From the Netherlands, the KMC team sent out quite a big team and this year they’ve got a number of riders here. But particularly the two riders, Gerben Mos and Bram Rood who were on the podium last year. They’re back to race again this year and the man who’s looking after the team, I’m going to ask him to pronounce his name, and your surname, Martin?
Martin Schuttert: My surname is Schuttert.
GDK: Okay we’ll leave it at that. I’ll get a spelling later, but Martin you’ve come out here with your riders. How important is this event for your team at this stage of the year?
MS: Yes, for us it’s the last race of the year so to say. We had the national championships last week and this is the season closure for Bram and Gerben and yes, of course it’s important. Last year they were tourists, so yes, they came here to equalise at third place and yes, maybe improve. But it will be hard as it looks now, but it’s still possible to finish third I think.
How does your team function?
GDK: Right, we see your teams and similar teams come out to race these events, but we’re not entirely sure of how they operate. Are they a professional team, is it an amateur team, or is it a bit of both?
MS: Yes, it’s a mix of both. You see we as a team, we try to take care of everything for the riders concerning material, travel expenses, and so on. Some of the riders have a small fee which they can use to cover their costs during the season and yes, for the rest they have to work, besides the mountain biking.
GDK: So they’re working full-time?
MS: No, not full-time, some work almost full-time, some work half-time, some work a little bit more in the winter and they do less in summer. So yes, it’s a little bit depending per rider.
GDK: Do most of them work in the bicycling industry?
MS: Yes, it’s quite funny, we have four riders who work in a bike shop yes. In total we have six riders and one female rider, so in total we are with seven. But four of the riders work in a bike shop.
GDK: What level are we talking here? Obviously Braam and Gerber are high level, they’re right at the top three at the Cape Pioneer last year. But in European terms, what level are they racing at?
MS: Yes, they are just behind the top riders so to say. If we do Transalp, Bram, and Ramses on for our team, they finished twice at eighth place for example. So that’s the level compared to the top teams so to say.
GDK: Yourself, your involvement in the team, describe what it is that you do with the team.
MS: What I do with the team is that I’ve worked for eight years at KOGA in the Netherlands. The bike brand KOGA, which is our bike sponsor at the moment. A year ago I started my own company and product development and still working for KOGA, but also for KMC, our main sponsor. For other companies which sponsor our team. Not necessarily that they sponsor our team, but it’s preferable to do projects, to develop products with our partners together with our riders.
GDK: It’s an interesting hybrid almost. You’re not fully professional, but you’re not completely amateur, but you keep a foot in both the development of the sport. The competitive side of the sport, is it borne of a passion for mountain biking and for the sport, is that where it comes from?
MS: Yes, for me it’s for sure, but I also know for my riders it’s for the passion. Because Ramses, for example, he’s 40 years old and still competing at a very, very high level, won several races this year again. He won in Crocodile Trophy of a former national champion marathon. The same for Braam, so I know for the whole team it comes from the passion.
South African events rate up there with the best in the World
GDK: Now comparing this event to other events they’d go to other, obviously Crocodile Trophy is one, but others in Europe perhaps? How does this, or how do our events stack up against those in Europe?
MS: Yes, this is a high-level event. If you look at the level of organising, how everything is arranged and yes, this is high-level. But for example, Transalp is as well. So yes, we try to pick out several of those events during the year and in between we do smaller races in the Netherlands and Germany. We went to Norway this year, great country, met Greg Saul there as well. So it’s also good to explore and to discover new races and new countries. I think it’s good for our sponsors, it’s good for our riders.
GDK: Is it good for the sponsors from a product development perspective? I mean, are they taking note of the different terrain, different conditions here and bringing that into the development of their product?
MS: Yes, for example, with KOGA in the past, we developed a special bike for beach racing as that’s one of the things we do in winter and when we come back. I think three, four days later Bram, we had a start of 130km beach race from the South to the North in the Netherlands. Yes, Bram is a former national competition winner of beach racing two years ago. In this way it works out for the sponsors as well because we developed this special bike for these beach conditions for them.
GDK: That’s new isn’t it? We know about Cyclocross in the winter in Europe, but beach racing, I mean is that on mountain bikes? So to say you’ve developed a bike, but is it predominately done on Mountain bikes and are there big numbers involved?
Beach racing is very popular
MS: Yes, there are big numbers involved. In the races for example, they vary between 800 and 3000 participants in one race. Those are one-day races and they vary between 40 and 60km mostly and we have the one race of 130km. Yes, if you look at the material, a lot of people ride on mountain bikes with special tyres, but we developed a special bike with a kind of semi-drop handlebar.
Also with a special geometry to get easily to the loose ends. You need a stable bike in the loose ends. But on the other hand, the riders want a very steep c-tube angle to be in a kind of time trial position. That’s what we made with this bike, together with some other smart things, which make these bikes very suitable for racing on the beach.
GDK: I suppose it just illustrates to us how passionate the Dutch are about cycling. You’re finding every opportunity, every place to try and ride and race your bikes.
MS: Yes, because I think in many cases it’s also the fastest way to travel, not only in the Netherlands, I think. But yes, I think if it is the fastest way, it is stupid not to take the bike.
GDK: It’s amazing to see the number of riders from Belgium, from the Netherlands and Europe coming out to South Africa at this time of year. I suppose the summer months, this is the time you would like to get away from Europe. The weather’s turning a bit there.
MS: Yes, the weather is certainly turning. I just read a WhatsApp of a friend of mine and yes, it’s good we’re here.
GDK: Okay, you, you ride?
MS: Yes, I go for a ride now, so when the riders are finished and we’ve cleaned the bikes and everything is set up, then I go for a small ride myself or for a small run.
Is your example something our guys could implement?
GDK: Just going back to the make-up of the team. I know in South Africa we have difficulties in finding sponsors and chaps are looking to become professional, ride full-time, but they’re not finding sponsors. Should we be maybe following the example of what you guys, a few small sponsors and then working and riding?
MS: Yes, I think that you have to offer your sponsors more than only this logo on the shirt. I think, you see it’s heading more and more about the passion for the sport. Yes, do a co-creation with your sponsors and not only on the products side.
But maybe also on the event kind of side. So you do clinics for them. Two weeks ago we had a clinic for Zeiss, they sponsor our clothing and you find that 30 people, and me and Ramses, we went on the beach with them and had a good day.
GDK: So it’s giving back and that’s more and more, you know athletes tend to sort of quite often in some sports take and not give back. So we’re talking about the two-way street here.
MS: Yes, I think if you only take, it’s short-term, and if you give and take then it’s a long-term. For example, the KOGA is for 12 years, our bike sponsor at the moment. KMC is for the fourth year, we have a sponsor for our sports arrangements, is already there, I think for almost 20 years when I started the team. So I think it’s about commitment from both sides and yes, then it works also with the long-term.
GDK: So this is your baby, your team.
MS: Yes, the team is certainly my baby together with my brother, but yes, I have to be, or if I have to say that I’m very proud we have riders like Bram, Ramses, Gerben in my team. Not to forget the other riders, but riders who are passionate and who are always ready there for the team. If I ever have to ask something to do for a sponsor or to go to a show or to lend a bike or to bring the bike or whatever it is, they’re always there, so that’s important I think.
The big terrain difference to the Netherlands
GDK: Finally, the terrain that they’re riding in South Africa, I mean how different is it to what they ride in Europe?
MS: The main difference is for example, the first stages you had the loose grounds where you have not so much grip and that’s not what we’re used to. We are used to the knobs get into the ground and you have the grip. I heard from Bram today, it was already more like that and that’s preferable for us because we are used to those kinds of conditions and not to the slippery ones.
GDK: So you do this one big trip a year, is that where it stops or are you looking to expand or is it, you’ve got to be careful each year and how you spend your money?
MS: Yes, we have to be careful and we try to do every rider, one big trip, so this is Braam and Gerben, their big trip. Ramses had his big trip in Iron Bike, Robby went to Poland to do a stage race and Karen also had a big trip. So yes, we try to divide it a little bit, that’s how we do it.
GDK: There are lots of trails and events to explore in South Africa.
MS: Yes, I know and we sure want to do so yes.
GDK: Yes, well Martin thanks very much, thanks very much for coming out and sharing your story and sharing your riders with us here in South Africa. They’re certainly providing good competition and I hope they’re enjoying it as much as we’re enjoying seeing them race.
MS: Yes, I know for sure they will do.
GDK: Martin, your surname again, one last time.
GDK: I’m not even going to try it, I tell you. Thanks very much for chatting to us. He is the man who owns and runs the KMC, actually the full name of the team is?
MS: KMC-Fruit to Go.
GDK: There we go KMC-Fruit to Go, and Bram Rood and Gerben Mos are the two riders who have come out here and are really doing fantastic things at the Cape Pioneer Trek in South Africa. Look forward to seeing them back here in South Africa in the future at this and maybe other events. Thank you for downloading our latest podcast here on Old Mutual Live Mountain Biking. If you enjoyed it download once more. Until then, cheers.