|The World's Best Cycling Team Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary
[27.08 19:55] It is about 10 years ago that the foundation for Denmark's first big professional cycling team was laid – a team, which was later to become the best cycling team in the world. So what would be more fitting than a trip down memory lane?
The summer of 1997 saw the launch of a Danish 2nd division team, which is what it was called at the time, via sponsor contracts with real estate chain Home and clothes brand Jack & Jones. This would enable the team to take part in UCI competitions during the 1998 season. Already in 1996 the company “Professional Cycling Denmark ApS” was founded with the purpose of working towards finding these sponsors.
After that the work to build up the organization behind the cycling team itself began.
There are still four people left from that very organization: doctors Piet De Moor and Joost De Maeseneer, mechanic Christophe Desimpelaere and present Chairman of the Board Henrik Schlüter, who started out as the team lawyer primarily in charge of the drafting of various contracts with sponsors, riders and staff.
The day to day running of the team was managed by two people, one being former pro rider Alex Pedersen, who was the sports director responsible for the sport side and the other being Torben Kølbæk, who took care of the administrative side of things such as negations with riders.
"I knew Alex Pedersen from before and I happened to bump in to him at the Danish Championships in the summer of 1997. He asked me if I wanted to join the team as a mechanic and I quickly agreed, even though at the time we didn't even know which races we'd be taking part in or which riders would be on the team," explains Desimplaere, who was already living in Denmark then and working as a mechanic in a bike shop.
"The most important profile to sign with the team was Brian Holm, who became a kind of front figure. Both because he was the first to sign, but especially because his name could draw instant interest from sponsors and the press. Later Jesper Skibby joined as well and there were now two riders to build a team around. It was vital to have some interesting riders to draw both sponsors and spectators here in Denmark," continues Desimplaere.
The numbers increased with the signing of Danish riders like Christian Andersen, Marc Strange Jakobsen, Mikael Kyneb, René Jørgensen, Michael Steen Nielsen and Michael Rosborg as well as Dutchman Danny Nelissen, Latvian Arvis Piziks and Estonian Juris Silovs. Not a bad line-up considering the fact that it was a brand new team.
The team was off to a good start with several fine results at the beginning of the season, which meant invitations for Amstel Gold Race and Tour de Suisse.
The results in the debut season were good – especially at the beginning and that gave us the impression that it was possible to create a great cycling team in Denmark, which has undeniably proven to be true over the years. Already the following year the team signed more riders and in 2000 a very important invitation for Tour de France arrived and after Bjarne Riis took over in Autumn 2000 the team has grown to become the winner of the ProTour for the last two years.
A lot has happened since the beginning with a single sports director and 11 riders till now, where 28 riders and six sports directors were employed at the beginning of the season. The actual organization has expanded quite a bit as well, for instance the administration, which now counts more people than the entire company back in 1998. The administration is now involved in several different activities, which did not exist at the beginning – the latest one being a distribution department, which distributes a number of the products used by the riders such as Cervélo bikes, energy drinks, bars and gels from SiS and oil from Morgan Blue.