Like spotting a robin or witnessing the first crocuses poking out of the soil, speculating about the start of the cycling season is always a welcome harbinger of spring. One of the biggest stories of 2023 is the debut of the Swiss Tudor Pro Racing Team on the Pro Team circuit.
New blood is always invigorating but we’re extra invested in this debut. Professional cycling has gone through a lot of changes over the last few years so not only are we excited about tracking the times and placements of the various cyclists and teams but we’re also following the behind-the-scenes storylines. And the team with the most incredible tale this season is Tudor Pro Cycling.
Our fascination began in 2022 when Fabian Cancellara, winner of multiple Olympic and World Championships, took control of the team formerly known as the Swiss Racing Academy. Tudor, an equally iconic Swiss watchmaker, signed up as a sponsor shortly after.
Watch brands have long sponsored athletes and events. Without corporate backing, few teams could afford to compete at the international level. And behind every Cancellara-level legend of the sport are a force of trainers, medical support, logistics personnel, and mechanics.
Cancellara recognizes the importance of having all these moving parts aligned. This is why the partnership between the man they call Spartacus and Tudor feels like an act that could have a big impact on charting the course of road racing.
The team was founded as the Swiss Racing Academy and registered with a UCI Continental lisence for the 2019 season. Cancellara took over in 2022 which is also when Tudor joined as the sponsor.
At the time, Cancellara told Cycling News, “For me, it’s more important to talk about the team than about who is going to come in,” Cancellara said. And he considers Tudor as part of the squad.
While Tudor has been around since 1926, the brand has also adopted a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race policy. In an industry with an emphasis on blockbuster limited edition releases, the Swiss brand prides itself on building out its existing collections in different model sizes or with upgraded mechanisms, all while coming in at an “accessible luxury” price point. This has made Tudor’s timepieces very appealing to a generation that values sustainability.
So far, Cancellara’s moves have been impressive. Even though he’s a world-time trial champion and Classics winner, he sees his role more as a steward than a coach. As part of his long-term vision for the team, 15 new riders will join five returning teammates for the 2023 season. They will be competing in UCI’s ProTeam class and a development team to qualify for the Continental and ultimately the International levels.
Most notably, the Tudor Pro cycling has introduced a solid behind-the-scenes staff. Ricardo Scheidecker, former technical and development director of the Belgian team Deceuninck-Quick-Step, now his expertise to the TUDOR Pro Cycling Team to cultivate the talents of these future champions. And retired German road racer Sebastian Deckert has signed on as Head Coach.
These appointments all signal that the team is focused on sustainable growth. According to Tudor, “the growth of the team is all part of the shared vision of Cancellara and Tudor that emphasizes the human aspect of cycling. Results matter, of course, but it’s the day-to-day commitment from riders to push themselves both mentally and physically and concentrate on how they cross the finish line as much as when.”
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I once interviewed a group of pro cyclists about tips they could share with amateur road racers and the overwhelming response was that you should always look ahead toward your destination. Glancing to the side can cause you to steer off course. Having secured a naming rights sponsorship with a brand that’s committed to similar long-term provides a lot of emotional security for racers as well. But what’s in it for the watchmaker? Surely they could have ponied up the dough for an already established World Tour team?
By sponsoring a young team, Tudor can weave itself into their story. Beginning with the U23 Paris-Roubaix on May 15, the Tudor Pro Cycling Team will race with a new black jersey with the Tudor shield predominantly featured on the front. And of course, the Team name will be repeated over and over in all media coverage of all the events.
“We are Swiss, and we want to have the Swiss mentality, which doesn’t mean that we only have money,” Cancellara said. “No, we don’t have money to throw around. But when the Swiss do organization, I think they do it right.”
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