On Friday, the British cycling scene welcomed an exciting new addition: Spectra Wiggle p/b Vitus. Far from being your standard road team, the new outfit declares it is here to do things differently, creating a squad that is multidisciplinary and mixed-gender, with equality and sustainability at its core.
The gender-balanced team – six men and six women – will race road, mountain bike and cyclocross events, with the aim of holding UCI licences in the three major disciplines by 2024. As well as conventional racing, Spectra also want to take on challenges and records that are somewhat outside the box: think everything from Coast to Coast to the TransPyrenees endurance event. With a line-up that includes the likes of multi-time national cyclocross champion Ian Field, top-ranked Zwift racer Chris McGlinchey, and experienced all-rounder Beth Crumpton, as well as a crop of up-and-coming talents, they seem ready to face whatever terrain they please.
It’s for cyclists who love cycling, not grinding away and making it miserableMikey Mottram
Backed by Vitus bikes, the team came in part as a result of the closure of Vitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UK. Team principal and rider Bruce Dalton, who had initially had ideas of starting a gravel squad, was approached with the offer of running a road team – to which he said no. Instead, he came back with his own pitch: three disciplines, all genders, and an equal support offer for every rider.
With Vitus’ parent company Wiggle looking to return to cycling as a title sponsor and fully on board with Dalton’s vision, Team Spectra Wiggle p/b Vitus was born.
It’s not all about winning
Though a cyclist too, Bruce Dalton is a professional marketer by trade who wants to bring a new perspective and purposeful approach to building a team, on everything from the overall team structure to the small details of how they design their branding. But of all the things Spectra plan to do differently, perhaps the most surprising is their approach to winning – in short, it’s not their priority.
“We’ve never told any partner that we’re going to win anything,” Dalton says. “Now, that’s really unusual. It’s exceptionally unusual. But when I go to our sponsors and they’re not bothered that we aren’t there to necessarily win things, that’s amazing.”
Far from being a weakness in the team, this approach to results underlines how Team Spectra want to put sustainability and a progressive team culture ahead of immediate successes. For the riders, lifting the pressure to win is a refreshing stance that will hopefully put the emphasis on enjoying being on the bike above all else.
Everyone’s there to have a good time and then the results will come with thatBeth Crumpton
“We want to go win bike races, but we want to send the right messages and have a good time while doing it,” says Mikey Mottram, one of the team’s road recruits. “It’s for cyclists who love cycling, not grinding away and making it miserable.”
“Everyone’s there to have a good time and then the results will come with that,” Beth Crumpton adds. “Happy bike riders are fast bike riders.”
Putting together a team
When a team launches in April, it poses the question: where did they get the riders? Despite starting recruitment rather late in the day in December, finding interested riders wasn’t a problem.
One of the first riders to sign up to the team was Beth Crumpton, who came over from CX Syndicate, Dalton’s previous team and the precursor to Spectra. Like many riders, the last year has been tough for Crumpton, trying to balance making a living and being a racing cyclist. She admits at points she had doubts about what to do next, but Spectra has changed that.
“When the opportunity came to ride for this team where the values are just so much more relaxed and about putting the fun back into riding and racing, it gave me a bit more motivation,” Crumpton explains. “It was like ‘yeah, I can still race, and I want to race still’. And with the support that the team is offering and the riders that we’ve got, it’s definitely put the fun back into riding for me.”
As one of the first recruits to the new team, Crumpton also helped to put together the women’s side of the team.
“Because we were building the team relatively late, there were riders that were obviously already set up for this year,” she says. “But I think the values in the team were very attractive to the riders we’ve now got. Everyone that we approached was really interested in the opportunity.”
Under-23 rider Xan Crees was one of those riders, who left her team of six years, Team Empella, to join Spectra. Wanting to pursue both road racing and cyclocross, the multidisciplinary element of Spectra was particularly attractive to Crees. It’s not unusual for young riders to compete in several disciplines before settling on a specialism, but it can be hard to find a team that will support both.
“I had an offer from another team and from my old team, and I was very torn between those teams at that point,” Crees explains. “And then Spectra came along and I was like ‘okay, well, this is better than the other two offers I’ve got.’”
They may put together a squad later than usual in cycling, but it’s clear speaking to the riders that Team Spectra wasn’t a last resort for any of its new signings.
“I don’t think I would have signed myself up to something if it didn’t feel right,” explains Mikey Mottram, who found himself out of contract when Vitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UK ended last autumn. “There was a worry, but at the same time, it’s not the be-all and end-all to be on the team. I wasn’t majorly panicking or rushing around trying to find the team or anything because I feel it’s more important to be riding on the right sort of team, not something for the sake of it.”
Support over status
Despite securing some impressive sponsorship deals – the longest set to last until 2024 – the team are keen to be clear about the fact that they’re not a professional team, and won’t label themselves as such until they’re able to pay their riders a living wage.
“I think it’s something really key to point out and why I’ve called us a supergroup, because we’re not professional,” Dalton explains. “No one is professional, everybody has jobs. They’re either working or they’re at uni, or they’re doing various things as well as racing.”
But what Spectra does offer is support and equipment that is not only more than some UCI Continental teams, Dalton suspects, but also equal for every rider, regardless of gender or status. Outsiders may view it as a grand progressive step, but to the riders and staff behind Team Spectra, gender-equality just seemed obvious – and not something they’ll compromise on.
If we can’t step up both of them at the same time, we won’t do it
“We won’t become a men’s WorldTour or women’s WorldTour team,” Dalton says. “This is the way we’re going to go forwards. If we can’t step up both of them at the same time, we won’t do it.”
“The fact that they’re willing to support both [genders] and support both equally is really impressive, but also it seems to be the way ahead,” Crees adds. “If you look at Europe and ‘cross, the viewing figures are the same, the women’s races are being watched. It seems like the way it’s going, and it’s just nice to know that there are teams willing to support and help cycling achieve that gender equality.”
Like many teams, Spectra’s immediate plans are dependent on how and when domestic racing returns to the UK. On the road, they’re looking towards the Tour Series and National Road Series races over the summer, before turning their attention to cyclocross World Cups in September as they become a UCI registered team in the discipline. But what sets Team Spectra apart right now is that they don’t need to wait for traditional road racing to return to get going. The team already has several off-the-beaten-track events lined up, starting with the three-hour endurance race Monster Cross in May, and plans to tackle the TransEngland route.
It may be unusual to launch a team in April, but it’s clear Team Spectra are doing something right and that they are ready to hit the ground running – whether it’s tarmac, gravel or mud.
Xan Crees (U23)
Ben Chilton (U23)
Dan Barnes (U23)