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An interview with Peter Knudsen, November 25, 2003
Introducing the Parish Foundation Pro Cycling Team
By Rob Karman
The Parish Foundation Pro Cycling Team is a new UCI Division 3 team based in the U.S. that has a unique and innovative sponsorship structure. Cyclingnews Senior Correspondent Rob Karman sat down for an exclusive interview with team manager and rider Peter Knudsen to get the inside scoop on how the team came to be, what they stand for and what their plans are for 2004.
Cyclingnews: The Parish Foundation Team has a unique sponsorship structure, can you tell us more about that? I hear that the title sponsor does not in fact give any money to the team.
Peter Knudsen: Right, our team is organized in a slightly different manner from most pro teams in that, as you said, our title sponsor is actually a cancer charity which is not directly contributing to the funding of our team. Our funding is coming from sponsors who are supporting the team with a sort of dual marketing/charitable purpose. Our logo space is still going to be filled by corporate sponsors, but the name of the foundation acts as a unifying title to bring the relatively large number of sponsors together under one name.
I am not sure about the exact structure of these teams, but I think that Amore e Vita in Italy and the former L.A. Sheriffs team utilized a relatively similar idea for sponsorship.
CN: How did the idea of this type of sponsorship come about and how did you get involved with the Parish Foundation?
PK: I think our friend and new Team Manager Greg Bourque deserves full credit for both the team's sponsorship concept and the connection with the foundation. Greg has experience in the past organizing large-scale fundraising rides for charitable purposes and also has been involved in the racing side of cycling for the better part of two decades. Greg arranged a meeting between a few of us and the CEO of The Parish Foundation, Lori Sorbo, earlier this fall when it was time to start thinking about our options for next season. Lori is a cyclist and cancer survivor herself who loved the idea of a professional team affiliated with the foundation and has since done everything that she could to make things happen for the team.
CN: What has the response been to this idea from both inside the cycling industry and from potential corporate sponsors outside of our little two wheeled world?
PK: We are actually amazed by the amount of support that we have had for our concept, both from inside and outside of the cycling world.
We first focused our efforts on finding money to run the team from outside of the industry and were immediately met with support from our first two sponsors, CSM and Amity Tech, both companies from the midwest who, besides money, really gave us the confidence to keep pursuing the formation of our own team. From there we have added a few sponsors from the San Diego area, Titan and Eastlake developments, and then we were far enough along with our budget to complete a full NRC schedule, or at least as full as our riders' bodies can tolerate. We have a number of deals in process right now though, which will allow us to run a much better program, and our full sponsorship line up is certainly not complete.
Our efforts inside the industry were put on hold until Interbike, where Adam Livingston and I went and walked ourselves to total exhaustion for three days in a row. A number of the product sponsors that we have worked with in the past were excited about our concept right from the start and we are really glad to be able to continue these relationships. Reynolds Composites, Sockguy, Speedplay Pedals, Maxxis Tires, and Incycle Bike Shop have been there for us for a few years and stepped right up for this next chapter.
There are also a few new sponsors for us that we can't wait to work with. Iron Horse Bikes has decided to make a push into professional road cycling this year and we are fortunate that they selected our team as their avenue into the sport. Also we have partnered with Lazer Helmets, Endurox and Accelerade, and Truvativ to add to our package for this year.
CN: The team is made up mostly of riders from last year's Schroeder Iron Squad, I assume you had pretty good synergy on the team that you all wanted to stick together?
PK: Right, our teammates had exceptionally good chemistry last season. As with any team there were a few ups and downs, but I think I would categorize the whole two plus season life of the team as a success. Frank Schroeder certainly had a tremendous impact on the careers of all of our guys and that is certainly something that we all appreciate. Admittedly, there was a bit of a boys club atmosphere to the team, but the guys absolutely stuck by each other during the season and now into the next.
CN: How and when did you guys get together and decide to take things into your own hands instead of trying to get contracts with already established teams?
PK: I think all of us certainly had a look at the possibility of riding elsewhere, but it was a very uncertain off-season as there were a few teams folding, and it was difficult to know what new ones actually come to fruition. We just collectively decided sometime around the start of October to stop waiting around, to take a more proactive approach and form our own squad.
Personally, one thing I have found a little disturbing in the sport has been the lack of job security, both during and after the season. This concept seemed like an opportunity for us to sort of hold the strings and I thought it was something really worth putting a full effort into.
CN: Who is on your roster and what strengths do you feel they bring to the start line?
PK: Well first of all not all of these riders are 100% committed to the team, although most of us are and the lowest commitment level anyone has is probably 97%. I don't want to get anyone in trouble with other teams that they might be negotiating with or anything though, so I guess this has to be considered a tentative roster for now. I am totally committed, so if this list doesn't look right to anyone reading it, blame me!
There are five of us on the team that raced together last year for Schroeder, and our biggest strength has to be our experience together. This core knows what the others are capable of and really gelled as a unit by the end of last summer. These riders are (tentatively) Me, Jake Erker, Adam Livingston, Aaron Olson, and Dane Jankowiak.
We have also made two additions so far, Drew Peters from Jittery Joe's, and Matt Sadauckas who has spent the last few seasons racing in Belgium. Both of them are great guys as well as great riders, and that has been a key for us when trying to add guys as our management structure is somewhere between minimal and non-existent. Very important for us is to find riders who will require a very small amount of management.
We still have one or maybe two spots open, but should have them filled fairly soon.
CN: What are the team's goals for this year?
PK: Our foremost goals are to really promote both the Parish Foundation and all of our partners who fund our racing. Hopefully we will keep this in mind with everything that we do and the race results will somehow take care of themselves. Especially for those of us who are actively running the team it will be an interesting balance between business and racing. Oddly enough, I so far feel much better on my bike now that I have to be more efficient with my time, but we will see how it all pans out.
As far as the actual racing goes, our feeling is that we will be a very good team, but still probably not capable of going head to head with the biggest teams. I would say our goal is probably to be the best of the teams that are riding for the scraps. We are going to have to spend our season trying to find any crack that the bigger teams leave so that we can make our own mark. Look for us to attack a lot, to try our best to win stages as opposed to GC, and to try and get Adam a KOM jersey or two. If we are attentive and keep trying I think we will surprise people in a few races.
CN: Anything else you would like to add?
PK: Please visit our website at www.theparishfoundation.org and check out the foundation as well as our team site. Our team is a work in progress, always incorporating new ideas, so really, feel free to contact us if you've got one. Or even better, send something to our sponsors so that they believe us about people actually following bike racing. Thanks for reading, we promise to have more news about our team out soon.