Flow Style Headline The New FS Patrol Funn Downhill MTB Race Team
A rider led World Cup team...
In a World Cup scene dominated by big teams on budgets running close to a million euro's, it’s easy to think that the rider-owned spirit could be in jeopardy heading into the 2017 season. Contracts, marketing budgets, bonuses, and targets could be seen to have taken precedent over riding, racing, and living for the feeling that first got you hooked on riding bikes. Yet, there are still a few riders left pursuing that dream where the boundary between rider and manager overlaps: A dream where you have all the risk—but all of the reward.
Made up of three riders from across the globe, bringing FS Patrol Funn together hasn’t been an easy task. Harry Molloy (Tunbridge Wells, England), Veronika Widmann (Bozen, Italy) and Bryn Dikerson (Wellington, New Zealand) are forming the eclectic trio and will be racing a full UCI World Cup Calendar in 2017, in addition to IXS Cups, national rounds, the infamous Asian Pacific DH Challenge and much more.
Harry Molloy has scored top 30 results at the World Cup level and is keen to break into the top 20 in 2017. His experience as a racer in various World Cup teams over the last 5 years landed him the role of rider/manager. With the task of sourcing sponsors, mechanic, pit setups, kit designs, travel, logistics and team registrations, it’s been a full-time job for Harry over the last 6 months.
Veronika Widmann is one of the new breed of young DH racers looking to shake up the regular faces on the podium in the women's category. With an Italian National championship win, IXS series title and narrowly missing out on a podium step at the Fort William World Cup she is intent on bringing some UCI medals home this year. Veronika comes from an XC background and certainly has the right mix of skill and "flat out" style that could take her far.
A World Cup team isn't right without a crazy Kiwi. Bryn Dikerson is the teams' resident New Zealander, the 2016 Oceana Champ and IXS Cup winner.
Setting up a team is often the dream of many riders at all levels, but it takes a serious determination and tenacity that few can appreciate "First you've got the surprisingly tricky task have find your riders. We were good friends on the scene last year and all had a similar outlook. Most importantly we get on well, which is key when you’re spending half the year on the road together.”
“Being from 3 different countries doesn’t make it easy! Bryn is probably pretty sick of me Skype calling him and waking him up in the middle of the night over in NZ. Through the season it’ll be easier- we’ll be traveling around together in a van, getting the pits setup at races ourselves and just racing”.
An Italian, a Brit and a Kiwi may seem like an exotic combination (or a dodgy joke) but the process of coming together has been organic in the way it developed. Instead of going out on the hunt for riders out of contract, or riders looking for a change, Harry managed to bring a team of friends together, which he hopes will be a huge benefit during the long, and the sometimes arduous racing season.
"We have all got on great together for a while around the races. I’ve had a laugh through the few years that I’ve known Bryn. It's not easy living opposite ends of the world but in the seasons we ride and have stayed together… the banter levels fly high and he’s a very strong, respected rider. I’ve known Veronika for a while too. Managing SRF, they had me searching for a top female rider for 2016. It didn’t quite work out then but I could help through the season where needed and we get on great. We actually all shared a big house together in Mont Sainte Anne last year too"
On paper, the sponsorship pitch of a global World Cup team sounds strong, but there are many unseen factors at work here. Economic policy, the current state of the market—not least import, export, and production costs, all affect budgets that potential sponsors can invest in a race program. Harry may be a relative veteran of the scene, but his team is a new project and convincing marketing managers that you have what it takes is no easy feat—bikes may be fun, but companies need to see a return on their investments. There is, as they say, no such thing as a free ride.
“Pitching to potential sponsors as a new team is hard and it’s the first time we’ve done it really, it’s a huge learning curve and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been pretty stressed at times. We were pretty lucky to have made contacts over the last few years over racing. I say contacts but really these people were friends on the circuit, people who were passionate about their products who you can just talk openly to about our team plans. We wanted sponsors who we have a good relationship with, companies who you can call them after a race and talk things through- we’re lucky to have such a good bunch supporting us”.
That support is key to making the dream a reality. As a privateer, you'll be looking at at least €10–20k to fund yourself around the World Cup circuit. When you add in two more riders, all from different countries you begin to see why the larger teams employ full-time managers, logistic managers and more. Harry has taken this whole process on himself, while still trying to juggle training and getting out on the bike.
Of course, the riders will not be fixing their bikes themselves: mechanics are a special breed that is hard to find—let alone a mechanic who just happens to be free for half the year to travel around on the road with a World Cup team. Often under the radar, mechanics are a vital cog in the machine.
Any top WC racer will tell you that a wrench is so much more than someone who makes sure your equipment is fast and safe—they are a sounding board, a counsellor and play a vital support role in a racer's life. It's a role that many would shy away from—always in the shadows of the rider, getting little recognition and dealing with the pressure of knowing that you can shape a racer's entire weekend by how you yourself perform at your role. Henry Quinney will be new to the World Cup circuit, but he is well known to those in the southern hemisphere having wrenched at the now globally known Vertigo Bikes in Queenstown.
Vertigo has a history of supplying top mechanics to World Cup teams—both Mick and Tracey Hannah's mechanics have served time at the shop - "Henry came with strong recommendations from close friends in the scene. He is a top athlete himself too racing crazy, long endurance events… he knows and understands the top level support that is needed and the importance of it from a riders perspective. He fits into the team spot on."
Setting up the team requires perseverance and a drive that matches any racers desire to succeed, but ultimately the sacrifices required are worth it in the long run. The financial rewards may be a driving force in the bigger teams, but the desire to ride a bike full time is driven by a passion for racing.
"You know, it's been a long off-season creating this team and I’ve been training harder than ever. I’m literally buzzing to hear those beeps again and get stuck into some proper DH!"
If Harry could offer any advice to those thinking about entering the world of race teams, he does so with caution but stresses the importance of optimism and good old fashioned face to face relationships "Be ready for the unexpected for one. I knew it would be a task and a half to take this on but I couldn’t have imagined some of it. Another thing is… Go and meet the guys in charge of the brands that you want to promote. They probably get hundreds of emails a week and if you go over for a meeting, you can tell them all about what you want to do for them".
Harry and the team would like to thank the 2017 Sponsors and here's to creating some amazing memories through the year!