CHIANG MAI, Thailand (VN) — In a few short years Champion System has gone from a start-up performance apparel company to the owner of a pro road team. And if the four founders of the company have their way things won’t stop there.
In mid-January the new 15-member squad held a team camp in the town of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. Registered as a UCI Continental Team in Hong Kong, Team Champion System’s multinational riders will race primarily in Asia, with forays into Europe and North America in 2011.
The squad — made up of Chinese, Estonians, Germans, Austrians, Swiss and Australians — is built to sprint, and accentuating that is Champion System’s signing of veteran Jaan Kirsipuu.
The 41-year-old Estonian sprinter will bring his credentials — four Tour de France stage wins, wearer of the yellow jersey for six days in 1999, holder of the green jersey, 120-plus UCI wins — to the team and work as a mentor.
“My main role is help the young riders make the right decisions in the races and just to keep the team together,” Kirsipuu said. “And of course I don’t mind to travel around the world, especially in Asia at the same time racing.”
Champion System bikes?
Team CS will race on its own Champion System frames developed by the company. The frames are molded in Uni-Directional (UD) carbon fiber and boast all the standard features such as tapered head tubes and press-fit BB30 bottom brackets. For the 2011 season, Team CS bikes are trimmed in SRAM Red, Reynolds Attack 32mm all-carbon clincher wheels, PZ Racing stems, bars and seatposts.
The long-term plan is to offer the bikes to the public in customizable colors and stickers. The caveat is that any profits will be poured back into the team.
“We opted against any of the title sponsorship offers we received and instead decided to form a new company to produce Champion System frames,” said Scott Kaylin, co-founder of Champion System. “All the profits will go towards maintaining and growing our own pro team and hopefully additional Champion System teams. This puts us in a position of not worrying about finding sponsors every few years to keep the team going.”
The first big test for Team CS will be the Tour of Langkawi in Malaysia next week. The team will contest, among other races, the Tour of China, the Tour of Qinghai Lake and Tour of Hainan. With its ownership ties in the United States, the team is working on a multi-week race schedule along the East Coast, but as of yet hasn’t confirmed particular events.
Champion System was started five years ago by four men who, along with experience in the apparel and cycling industries, share a passion for cycling. The company specializes in custom cycling clothing ranging from shorts, bibs and jerseys to triathlon kits and other technical clothing for sports as varied as rugby, rowing and auto racing.
Hong Kong-based Louis Shih and T.S. Tang are the most involved with the new team while New York City-based Scott Kaylin and Morry Edelstein handle business and the more than 150 pro athletes and teams worldwide.
Along with exposing young Asian racers to the world of elite road racing, particularly in Europe, the company is looking to make its brand more recognizable beyond the 23 countries in which it has offices. The ultimate goal, though, is the Tour de France.
“For me and my partners, our dream was to have our company with our own cycling team,” Shih said at the camp in Thailand. “We are cycling enthusiasts and we can speed this up and make it happen.”
Shih said Champion System’s founding-four want to field the first Asian pro continental team, and do it on their own line of bike frames (see side bar).
“We have a common dream,” Kaylin said. “It’s to see our team and jersey on the podium of the Tour de France.”
Jamie Bate is the editor of VeloNews.com’s sister site, Singletrack.com.