Amateur cyclists in New England are no doubt familiar with the pink and purple kits of Team CCB International, the Boston-based cycling club with about 200 members. Founded in 1976, the club’s amateur team provided a valuable stepping stone for a number of top professionals, including Tyler Hamilton, Tim Johnson, Gavin Mannion, Curtis White, and Chad Young.
For 2017, Team CCB is jumping into the professional ranks as a UCI Continental team. And the squad is making the move with an innovative and unorthodox business model.
Team CCB has registered as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit charity organization, and its stated mission is to develop cyclists who are also pursuing college, grad school, or some other form of post-secondary education. It will solicit donations from sponsors, gear companies, and private individuals to pay for the team’s expenses.
“This is a necessary step for the health of New England cycling,” said Tim Mitchell, the team’s director. “We will give [cyclists] the opportunity to race at the UCI level here in the U.S. and in Europe and Asia, and prepare them to hopefully one day make the jump up to a Pro Conti or WorldTour team.”
The team will also receive a grant from USA Cycling’s as part of the governing body’s Centers of Excellence development program.
The donation-based model is, to our knowledge, new for pro cycling in the United States. Continental pro teams often function on a budget of between $300,000 to well over half a million, with the lion’s share of the funding being provided by cash sponsors. Teams such as Jelly Belly – Maxxis, Holowesko – Citadel, and even Axeon Hagens Berman function along this model.
By contrast, Mitchell said Team CCB will operate on a budget of less than $100,000 in 2017. He said the nonprofit model will help cut down on the costs. “It’s the only way we could feasibly do this,” Mitchell said.
The nonprofit model has serious financial limitations. Although it will be registered as a Continental team, CCB will still function similar to an amateur program. It will not pay its riders salaries — instead, it will cover the cost of travel, housing, and race entries for its riders. Its massage therapists, mechanics, and staff, Mitchell included, are all unpaid volunteers.
The team will also skip many of the country’s largest stage races, such as Oregon’s Cascade Cycling Classic and California’s Redlands Classic. “We could get on a plane to Europe and do multiple races for that cost,” Mitchell said.
Instead, Team CCB will target professional races in Europe and Asia that cover a sizable portion of a team’s travel and racing costs. For 2017, Team CCB plans to participate in Ireland’s AN Post Ras, the Tour of Azerbaijan, China’s Tour of Poyang Lake. In the U.S., Team CCB will participate in races on the East Coast to cut down on its travel, such as the Winston-Salem Classic, Reading 120, and Philadelphia International Classic.
“Having a [Continental] license gives us entry to the races where our guys can really test themselves,” Mitchell said. “You can use the pro license as a valuable tool.”
Team CCB was originally launched in England, and became a Boston-based club in 1979 when two of its members emigrated to the U.S. For decades, it was managed by veteran New England bike shop retailer Steve “Pooch” Pucci.
The club’s model was to identify and support local New England talent, and to serve as a valuable stepping stone between the junior and professional ranks.
“It’s a special model. It’s something you see a lot of in Europe,” said Johnson, who joined the team as a teenager. “Pooch was the most influential person in my cycling career.”
Mitchell sees the Continental team as an extension of that mission. The departure of elite amateur squads in the U.S. has created a much-needed stepping stone to the next level, Mitchell said.
Team CCB has not revealed its roster for 2017, but Mitchell said the squad is targeting U23 riders as well as talented riders who are pursuing advanced degrees.
“We think education through sports is a powerful tool,” Mitchell said.