Jamie Finch-Penninger chats with Damo Harris

Jamie Finch-Penninger

BrakeDown Podcast founder

brakedownpodcast.weebly.com

Peloton Cafe guest writer Jamie Finch-Penninger talked to Damian Harris, Sports Director of State of Matter/MAAP about the current state of the NRS

 

?From a team director?s point of view, we just need the communication from CA, because there?s been very minimal communication to date. I know the review and stuff is happening, but personally I think now?s the time. Why not get the managers in the series involved, because we are really concerned at the moment.?

 

It?s a theme of neglect that has been brought up by a number of other managers of smaller teams as well, with phone calls going unanswered, and then many finding out via the media that Toowoomba wouldn?t be run. Along with the air of uncertainty that surrounds the domestic scene at the moment with a number of races facing precarious futures, it makes for a poor environment for sponsor?s to get certainty that their investment will pay off.

 

When asked how the sponsors will react to the cutting of race days and exposure, Damian Harris responded, ?Basically at this stage we don?t know. We?ve got our contracts locked away and the money paid, but at the end of the day, it makes it very hard to go back to them next year. Even if you have completed the races, done well and met your KPIs, they still get a little nervous. It?s like any sponsorship, they?ll give you money to help you go forward, but they have to get a return on their investment.?

 

The ones that stand to lose the most are the riders, with a lot of them committing to cycling as a part-time or even full-time job, and this loss of competition will see them have reduced opportunities to follow the pathways of Richie Porte, Nathan Haas or more recently, Patrick Bevin as NRS graduates who have joined the World Tour. Harris again,

 

?The NRS is a very good mold, and has shown that in the riders that have been produced. Myself and Andrew Christie-Johnston (Sports Director of Avanti IsoWhey Sports), we?ve been in touch, trying to work something out for the riders, they give up so much to ride the NRS and make it such a high level. They?re the ones missing out. A lot of them work part-time, study or are lucky enough to be supported by their parents, it gets a bit disheartening when you have the discussion, like I?ve had to have with them over the last week, of what races they?re going to do now.?

 

Harris is a pragmatic character, one of the reasons that he has built up such a successful team, and his thoughts on the future of the NRS are more grounded than ideas that can be found elsewhere. A lot of his focus is on how races can be kept running, by reducing costs, making a more attractive product for local councils and bringing cycling together.

 

?Probably what you?ll find in the future from race directors that don?t have the luxury of having the Police on their side or great financial backing is that we might race a lot more circuit races, doing multiples of 10-30km laps. At the moment, to keep costs down, that?s a way we can move forward. A lot of areas have quiet sections of roads that would be suitable. The cost of traffic management these days, not just in cycling but the working world, I work in construction, it costs a fortune.?

 

?As a bigger issue, for the NRS to survive we have to have the Men?s and Women?s on the same weekend. It is a bit of a drain on officials at times, but we?ve seen it work as well, at Adelaide and Sam Miranda (also the National Capital Tour -Ed). The girls will get more racing and so will the boys, with the costs being split between each of the series to try and help reduce the amount of money that everyone has to dip into their pocket for. It looks better as well, to have two lots of people in the regional areas we go to, using accommodation, spending money in the towns, which will increase local support. Local support will mean more dollars. I work down at Geelong, and they were talking about was how much money the Cadel Evans Road Race brought to the town. I don?t think the NRS could bring that much, but if we start combining our forces to get everyone racing that will grow the sport.?

 

With the NRS currently in a poor state, for Harris and other team directors, it is all about making sure that the races will be run, after the demise of the well-run Tour of Towoomba shocked many in the industry.

 

?We just want to do whatever we can to keep the races ticking along, history has shown that if you drop an event for a year, the likelihood of it coming back next year? it doesn?t happen. I?ll be honest it was probably the best run event on the NRS calendar, because it was well organised and John Osbourne (race director) has done a great job for a number of years. It makes it hard for the other races now, Battle on the Border is talking to the teams about putting packages together at a lesser cost and Grafton changed their date to try and help everyone, but they?ll probably end up getting hurt by it, as teams aren?t going to want to travel all that way for a one-day event at the start of the year. At the end of the day, races fail all over the world, we?ve just got to do what we can to secure the series.?

written by

Jamie Finch-Penninger

BrakeDown Podcast founder

brakedownpodcast.weebly.com