Launching in 2022, our race team became the highest ranked regional team in the East Midlands, in our inaugural season. Following our popular social rides, we saw the desire and talent of riders turning up and decided to create the platform for these people to race and aimed it at local cyclists wanting to push themselves further, and represent their local bike shop with friends.
Moving into 2023 we have broadened our area to develop the team and attract more riders, with the main incentive being to grow our women’s team and create more opportunity for female cyclists to race and experience the team camaraderie which led to a successful first season. This goal led to the attraction of our sponsor for 2023, Contiki. Contiki, saw our mission and invested in VB, as we parallel their core values of ‘bringing people together’ and ‘making every moment count’.
Contiki VBRT is designed to be seen and inspire many more to jump on a bike and have a go. As such, we wanted to create bold and exciting kit, and are privileged to work alongside Santini to help us facilitate this.
Our roster this coming season will comprise of around 11 women and 23 men who will all race under the same team name and in the same kit, marking our intention of being ‘one team’, with equal opportunities for all. More information, below.
The Velo Bavarian Race Team, which enjoyed significant success in its first year, finishing on top of the British Cycling East Midlands regional points table has recently relaunched as Contiki Velo Bavarian Race Team (Contiki VBRT). So why, for such a young team, does this subtle change make such a big difference?
The 2022 season was the first year of competition for the Velo Bavarian Race Team, this pilot season was aimed at proving they could build and operate an open, competitive, enjoyable and above all sustainable team centred around shared values of opportunity and community. The brainchild of Luke Frixou (Velo Bavarian MD, former GB athlete and rugby player) and supported in his vision by General Manager John Vicars (ex-Raleigh GAC Pro Cycling and Derby County Football Club) the foundations for something meaningful were quickly laid.
John Vicars (right) with Coach, Matt Waterfield ahead of the team’s first official training session.
2023 however was earmarked to realise the real reason for the team: increasing the participation of women in the sport of cycling. Women are dramatically underrepresented in the sport despite their capability to compete and the accepted physical and mental health benefits of cycling. Only last year we witnessed the return, after an absence of 33 years of the Tour de France Femmes, the female version of arguably the most prestigious cycling event in the world.
Vicars said ‘It’s surprising that it took so long to get such a prestige women’s event back up and running and it was patently clear from the response that the world wanted it. Given the right environment and continued investment there is every chance now that the profile of women’s cycling can become significant on the world stage’. Vicars understands that the elite level of sport directly impacts upon participation at lower levels, and he hopes that sporting bodies and relevant authorities take note.
Arame (pictured above), is a full-time firefighter part of the Greater Manchester Fire Rescue Service
Female participation is a big subject to tackle though and not one that can be resolved quickly, in this sense Velo Bavarian are always learning. Team owner, Luke Frixou, said ‘we are fully aware that competitive cycling is an increasingly, expensive sport so being able to offer financial support through team kit etc is important, but it is much deeper than that’. He continued, ‘the sense of belonging, the support from other riders and the camaraderie are what set us apart, and why we were successful in our first season, with most of our riders having never raced before. Our culture, is that of a proper team; both our men and women support one another, on and off the bike’.
The team development is timely. Somewhat coincidentally, The UK government wants to reach its own targets to increase levels of walking and cycling around Britain, and recently announced a £200m pot to increase participation but sighted women’s safety as paramount. Vicars remarked on this: ‘Cycling can offer women a safe and convenient mode of transport, so long as they feel confident on a bike. It is part of our mission to use the team to raise awareness of cycling for good, not just competition. We want to run various courses to increase road safety on bikes such as bike handling sessions on closed roads, supported by Contiki. Contiki VBRT is setting itself up to shine a light on and be able to focus on all elements of cycling’.
Contiki VBRT is designed to be seen and inspire many more to jump on a bike and have a go. Frixou doesn’t expect everyone to want to race but he does want everyone to feel they have the opportunity to enjoy the many benefits of cycling and that’s where the wider cycling club of Velo Bavarian comes in. Frixou said ‘The race team sits alongside the Velo Bavarian Cycling Club (VBCC). The VBCC is great way to try cycling, group rides, races or just to come along and socialise totally for free, no memberships or subscriptions. It really is a social community built around a shared passion for riding bikes’.
A survey of its female VBCC members highlighted that, despite wanting to, 75% of women found it difficult to integrate into new groups especially when it related to mixed gender sport pursuits. This would likely lead them to not try. Frixou and Vicars recognised this as an essential element to tackle if they were to be successful. And tackle it they are, the VBCC now comprises of more than 552 members of which 20% are female. They put this early success down to a supportive environment, women only events and early confidence courses. It’s a job that’s never done though and they have a target to grow this by a further 10% over the next 3 years. ‘We put on our first, ladies only group ride on a freezing day in March 2022 and had over 20 women attend. Since then, we have seen over 50 different, local women attend our rides which is huge growth in a short space of time. If this doesn’t indicate that there is a need for what we are doing then I don’t know what would’ said Frixou.
It’s not just Velo Bavarian that feel this passionately. The development of women in the sport of cycling is something very close to the heart of team supporter Cherie Pridham, whom herself holds the notable position of Sports Director for Team Lotto Dstny, and indeed the first woman, on the men’s professional World Cycling Tour to have this role.
Local resident Cherie Pridham – pictured with VBCC riders on a ‘ladies only’ ride.
On the work being done by Contiki VBRT Cherie said ‘there is clear support for female cycling in the upper echelons of the sport, you can see this now in the women’s calendar with increased visibility in spectators, media, and television coverage. The sport now has its own role models such as Annemiek Van Vleuten and the UK’s Lizzie Deignan and it’s great to see the steps being made. The investment and attention must equally be at the bottom of the pyramid though, to ensure we have new talent coming through’. Pridham feels more can be done to increase the confidence and participation of women at grassroots level and that programs such as this from Contiki VBRT can only be a good thing for women’s cycling’.
So, to the 2023 season and Contiki joins Velo Bavarian to create Contiki VBRT. Contiki CMO Simon Llanos said, ‘when we heard about the mission and vision of the team we were only too happy to get involved and offer our support’. Contiki’s involvement mean the team can offer more spots and support more riders at every level of performance. Llanos stated ‘Contiki seeks to actively open opportunities to those who ordinarily wouldn’t have them and to realise the amazing benefits in every setting of a community, travelling together or riding together. It felt so aligned. Not to mention, the more confident riders setting an example for more sustainable modes of transport. Something really close to our heart as we move to Net Zero trips’.
With a roster of 34 riders (23 men and 11 women), Contiki VBRT have already successfully kicked off their 23-race calendar with an inaugural podium place for rider Melissa Denman at a race in Darlington. The start of many, Contiki VBRT hopes.
2023 promises to be an exciting ‘ride’ with lots of development opportunities. Contiki VBRT still has open roster spots available for women who are either experienced racers or looking to get into the sport, and encourage interested riders to contact them to discuss how Contiki VBRT can support them.
The team is proudly supported by Santini Custom UK and Veloforte nutrition.
For more information on Contiki please visit: www.contiki.com
Photos by Averill Photography part of ‘AVIT Media.