VeloNews has confirmed that Colorado-based 303 Project has applied to become a UCI Continental team for 2018. The team was registered as a USA Cycling Domestic Elite Team in 2017.
“I felt like going Continental so we could have a shot at some bigger races and that was what we needed to do to give [the riders] more opportunities,” said team owner Nicholas Greeff.
The 303 Project, a registered LLC owned by Greeff, is making the jump to the professional ranks rather quickly, as the team has only raced for one season.
The move to Continental status is not a cheap one due to USA Cycling and UCI fees. Furthermore, the UCI requires a bank guarantee of 20,000 euros or 15 percent of the combined salaries of riders and staff (whichever is higher) for teams with Continental licenses.
“At this point, I am putting in some money and I’ve got some people helping me out with that, just in a personal capacity,” Greeff said of the bank guarantee. “I have personally enough funding to cover what we’ve done this past year and some more races. There is a guarantee that we are going to be able to race, but we are in the process of trying to get funding so we can have a high-level race calendar and actually do the UCI North America series. I feel like we are going to have the riders that are going to be competitive in that and we’ll have enough riders to do that. We also have enough staff to do that.”
With three prominent Continental programs applying for second-tier Pro Continental status in 2018 — Axeon Hagens Berman, Rally, and Holowesko-Citadel — 303’s potential move up could be a welcome addition to America’s thinning herd of pro development teams.
Greeff, 32, was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa. He moved to the U.S. full-time in 2014. After one year of racing for Colorado-based Team Rio Grande, the team folded at the end of the 2014 season.
In the fall of 2015, Greeff started the 303 Project to give riders based in Colorado’s Front Range a chance to race at a high level. “I had guys that were really good domestic elite riders, all Colorado-based, that were into it,” Greeff said. “We had some guys who were pros before, but that weren’t old, like in their high 20s, but weren’t racing much anymore and were more into life. We had them guiding the younger guys, and it worked great.”
Being a first-year domestic elite team, Greeff’s chances of getting into the top U.S. races, especially the UCI-registered ones, was slim. “I took a different approach and called the race organizers and sent them an actual proposal and not just an email,” Greeff said.
“We got into every race we wanted to. We went and we raced, and we did really well. We built the team on culture and race for each other and fight for each other. We’d pack our stuff into guys’ cars with our bikes on the roof and drove the country like that the whole year. It was not even close to any other team’s set-up, but on the bike, we outperformed all the other people that had all the resources.”
As well as being the team owner, Greeff will also serve as the general manager at all team races. He brought on Drew Christopher to direct the team. Christopher raced for the Champion Systems-Stan’s No Tubes for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
Greeff told VeloNews that while the team isn’t strictly Coloradoans, riders would all live in Colorado during the season. Austin Stephens will be one of the team’s more notable riders. He recently won Vermont’s Green Mountain Stage Race (GMSR) at the end of August. Stephens entered the final criterium stage at GMSR more than 30 seconds out of the yellow jersey. He finished the race in yellow thanks to time bonuses and a breakaway move.
It was a comeback win of sorts for Stephens. He broke his collarbone at the North Star Grand Prix in June. Isaiah Newkirk, Taylor Warren, Cristhian Ravelo, and Mac Cassin are also returning to the 303 Project for 2018.
Boulder resident Greeff wants 303 Project to be both a professional cycling team and also a part of the Colorado community, specifically the Front Range. So, he also registered a 303 Project non-profit.
“We really want to be involved with the community, and I feel like we have really done a good job of that this year and we want to expand on that and we don’t want our identity to change just because we are changing our license. We still want to be the same team, but achieving bigger things and actually getting more involved in the community and doing more things and being a long-lasting entity within the sport and for Colorado.”
303 Project’s clothing will be Cuore of Switzerland and the team will ride Scott bikes.