Like many teams in these tough economic times, the Mt Khakis team, registered as a UCI Continental team in the United States, was hit hard this year with a co-sponsor not fulfilling its monetary commitment. The team trimmed its expenses including an agreed-to delay in salary payments so they could keep on racing, which they did successfully meeting most if not all of their racing goals. They also fulfilled their mission as a development team with some riders moving up to other professional teams next season.
But now with the November 1 deadline looming for registration for next year’s pro teams with USA Cycling, the team has come to a crossroads. Unless a co-sponsor is found in the next two weeks, the team will come back as an Elite-level amateur next year.
“Mt Khakis has been great the whole time, they really are the backbone of the team and we wouldn’t have been able to continue on without their support. ” Adam Myerson explained last Friday.
“The thing I want to say about the team is that Mt Khakis has so many supporters, so many fans, so many people appreciate what the team’s mission is and the way we’ve gone about things and that we’re the giant killing team, we’re the underdog and when we win it’s a real victory. Part of me wanted to get the word out there that we need some help, we want to keep this program going and we know the program has fans and if people don’t know that we’re actually looking for additional sponsors to keep things going.”
But the decision also puts Myerson in front of his own personal fork in the road. At 39-years of age, he will be able to race cross Masters next year, an important decision to make with the UCI Cyclocross World Championships coming to Louisville KY in 2013. Should he? Will he?
Myerson, who became de facto team manager at the end of the season explains what happens this year. He will officially reprise that position next year.
What’s happening with the Mt Khakis team?
One of our sponsors, not Mt Khakis, didn’t pay at all this year. We figured it out pretty early, we made it through the first three or four months this year. But with the team trying to expand this year from being just a crit team to actually doing bigger stage races, we hired Scott Tietzel and Matt Cooke and we got Scott Moninger on with that in mind. To go to a race like Gila, we need guys and staff and spent $5,000 in a weekend. So that’s how the season started, we sent guys to California and we sent guys to Gila and even when Gila was going on, we started doing a split team where we had guys at SpeedWeek and we had guys at Gila and we were just kind of mediocre at both races because we didn’t actually have the depth to pull off that split schedule, we needed to pick one race and sent our best guys to that one race. So we ripped through a bunch of money early in the season, and then discovered pretty quickly that the money that was supposed to be coming wasn’t coming.
Mt Khakis has been great the whole time, they really are the backbone of the team and we wouldn’t have been able to continue on without their support. And people mostly knew what was going on at that point, we had to make the decision pretty early on to either continue to pay everyone their salaries or to continue to race, we didn’t have enough money for both. So all the guys agreed to postpone getting their salaries so that we could continue with at least the criterium schedule that we had planned and some of the stage races. And that’s what we did – that was back in May – and that’s when we started riding well. It really lit a fire under everybody’s ass and that’s when Scott got top 10 in Wilmington, Neil [Bezdek] got 4th at Somerville and then Isaac [Howe] started all of a sudden winning races, everybody was motivated and we started getting great results.
From the outside, we were still achieving all of our goals, we took over the lead in the USA Crits Series, we were putting guys top 10 in NRC races, every thing looked awesome. And we really did achieve all the goals for the team you know, we moved guys onto professional teams, we won the team competition in USA Crits. The problem was we weren’t getting paid yet. We knew that Jamie Bennett would get us all squared by the end of the year and that’s what is happening now that the season is over and no one is racing and we don’t have the racing expenses. In the past if a sponsor hasn’t come through, Jamie has been able to plug the hole with his own personal money, he’s the Doug Ellis of our team. But with the economy the way it is, he hasn’t been able to be in that same position, he can’t just pay one hundred grand or whatever.
Now we’re at the point where we have to use our bank guarantee to pay the salaries, the $40,000 in the bank with USA Cycling and the UCI, and that money is there to cover situations exactly like this. So we haven’t found a new co-sponsor and we’re not a big enough team to just absorb that kind of hit, especially since we’ve already spent some of it by sticking to our program early in the season we put ourselves in a hole by spending money that hadn’t come. We trimmed that tree pretty quickly and that’s why guys are still going to get paid, if we had continued on rolling through money we might be at the point right now where the whole thing would implode, we pulled off soon enough to keep the ship from totally sinking and with the hope that we’d be able to get the success that we had, and find a new sponsor to actually patch that hole.
So here we are, going into the next season, we have to use the bank guarantee which means two things now, we don’t have a new co-sponsor and we have to put that money back if we want to remain professional. What we’re looking at right now, we can’t roll that money over. In past years, once you build that up and you have the infrastructure, you just roll that 40 grand over every year and if you use it, you need to put it back and we’re not in a position to be able to put it back.
Right now where we’re at is I’m taking over as manager of the team where we’re planning on going down to an 8-rider team and we’re planning on going down to being an elite team, being an amateur team. We’re still counting on Mt Khakis being our title sponsor, and we’re working out the details with them right now. And again, they’ve been great, we have a great relationship with them, we feel that we can race almost exactly the same schedule that we’ve always raced and achieve the same goals as an amateur team. Our goal is still to try and put guys onto professional teams, and now we’re just going to take amateurs, same guys basically, a lot of the guys are going to come back to the team that were on the team last year, so we’re still going to focus on the east coast NRC races, lots of one-day races which make the most financial sense, get the most bang for your buck, $10,000 criterium and it’s a good way for the guys to make money and live off their prize money too. Being an east coast team, a lot less travel.
What does this mean for you personally?
Um, well it means a couple of things. One is I’m still waiting for the green light to kick this whole thing in motion. I’m not ready to retire, I didn’t want to stop being a pro, I’m accepting of this situation and I’ve been prepared for awhile. For the past couple of years, every year has potentially been my last year with the job market and the opportunities that were there for me. So I’d hope that once I was done being a pro that’s when I would be really done and I’d focus on my business and just race in New England. So this is a little bit different because it’s going to be something in the middle, my salary will stay the same, my race schedule will stay the same, essentially it would really be that I’d be an amateur instead of a pro and instead of going to Philly or US Pro Crit Championships, we’d go to Amateur Nationals and Amateur Crit Championships, other than that nothing else would change.
But I don’t know, that’s a little hard for me, I’m going to be 39 next year, can I find the motivation for that? Will that be as interesting for me? Not being a professional does feel different and I have to decide if I can just a committed to being [an amateur]. I think we’ll be the best amateur team in the country if we have Mt Khakis support again, we’ll be one of the best funded amateur teams, I think we’ll have a lot of success. I guess it means putting aside some ambitions and focusing on the success of the team as a whole and not worrying about my own results. It might mean not going away for the winter, it might mean I’m fitter a bit later in the year, a little more focused on the business or the administrative side.
Or maybe focus more on cross.
Well, that’s true too. I feel if I don’t have to be so fit for the road so soon and I can get a little bit more rest then yeah, perhaps I can focus a little bit more on cross. But even there, my racing age for cross next year is going to be 40. I won’t be a pro which means I’ll be eligible to race as a master for the first time other than when I was 29. I did one masters race, I did masters nationals when I was 29 and my racing age was 30 and then I turned pro that year. For the entire time I’ve been eligible for masters, I’ve actually been a pro. So with Cross Worlds being in the United States, it might be interesting to focus on 40+ Cross Worlds which would mean I couldn’t race any Elite races or I couldn’t score any UCI points. So that, man, I’d be a masters, racing masters next fall. I don’t know, I can’t decide if that’s motivating. If I’m still getting top 10 in the Elite races why would I want to race in the Masters?
You might be wearing the rainbow if you do.
Well exactly. That’s the tradeoff. (laughs)
(laughs) That might happen, you might win it.
I know, I know. You’re right, that’s how fast you have to be, even as a Masters sometimes to win the World Championships but it’s still Masters, it’s still Masters Worlds. I still don’t know that I can be as professional about it or if it’s worth being as professional in my approach for that as it is to be a genuine professional. And if I could race as a pro next year still, I would trade another season as a professional for the ability to race Masters Worlds, I’d rather keep doing my job, I’d rather keep on being a professional than being the best 40 year old in the world, big deal.
It’s a tough decision isn’t it?
The process drag has gotten how old am I on my mind for the first time. I keep getting dropped from the second group and then winning the third group, I’m on the edge of really good form, I just have okay form right now so I make the second group and eventually I can’t sustain the pace. I found myself in Providence thinking ‘oh man I’m 39, pretty good for a 39-year old’, I’ve never done that before and I don’t like it. I don’t want to operate that way, being 39 has nothing to do with how I’m riding right now, the only thing that has impacted it is how busy I am, how tired I am or how much training I get to do. Being 39 has absolutely nothing to do with it so it’s a shitty excuse and I don’t want to use that as my soft landing.
If you’re not racing as a pro on the road, in theory you have more time to rest and recover and focus on your business. Of course, knowing you you won’t. (laughs)
Right. The thing is if we’re talking about doing the same schedule it might not actually be any different and I think the only thing that will be different is … The only difference I can see right now is not going to Tucson in the winter, not being away from home all winter to do the 35-hour weeks that I’ve been doing for the past few years to get ready for the road season. The main difference I see is staying home and preparing for the season at home with fewer hours and more time in front on my computer and with my fiancee. I see that as a difference between being pro and amateur. That’s it. And if I was single maybe I’d still go away for the winter, who knows, I think it’s a fun thing to do and I can take my business with me.
Sometimes, it sucks to get older.
It does, especially when you start to notice it. They were just birthdays but when you start to actually noticing things are changing, that’s a little bit hard to take.
The thing I want to say about the team is that Mt Khakis has so many supporters, so many fans, so many people appreciate what the team’s mission is and the way we’ve gone about things and that we’re the giant killing team, we’re the underdog and when we win it’s a real victory. Part of me wanted to get the word out there that we need some help, we want to keep this program going and we know the program has fans and if people don’t know that we’re actually looking for additional sponsors to keep things going. There is no full time person in the management of this team, Jamie Bennett and Pat Raines who are the team owners both have real full-time jobs and they run this team out of a love for the sport and a love for the team, we wouldn’t be here without them. But a bigger organization with a bigger budget would have a full-time employees and having full-time employees means you have people that are always out looking for new sponsors and working on the infrastructure of the team. More or less that’s probably going to be me next year, but I’m also not the sponsorship guy. So just letting people know ‘hey this is where we’re at, if you like this team, if you’re interested in this team, if you want to get involved in this team and you’ve seen what we’ve done, how far we’ve gone with so little, that’s the kind of help that we’re looking for right now.
November 1st is the deadline. If I got a phone call with a 50 grand co-sponsor, someone that wanted to sponsor the team, if I could raise another 50 grand in the next two weeks, we’d get back on the UCI Continental team, we’re still in good standings with USA Cycling because we did everything the right way in terms of getting squared with the riders, everyone is going to finish the year with all the money that they were owed in the contracts, it just took us a little while.