WHERE IT ALL BEGAN?
It was back in 2016 that several first year U23 South African riders found themselves effectively without teams. Financial backing was becoming increasingly hard to find, the knock-on effect being little growth and opportunity in the club teams.
Enter PROTOUCH™, a new and self-funded team set up to cater for U23 South African road cycling talent. With the vastly experienced Tony Harding at the helm, our self-funded team set out with a singular focus: to enable South African riders to perform. And how this goal has manifested itself.
In its first three years, PROTOUCH™ went from strength to strength, culminating in overall victory at the 2018 SA Road Cycling Series and countless other domestic racing victories. Seven PROTOUCH™ riders were selected for National Team duty that year, and the Team achieved four podium finishes in the toughest of African stage races – the Tour du Rwanda.
Despite this home ground success, it was clear that focussing solely on South African racing was not preparing our athletes for international racing. Local events cater primarily for mass-participation and, shorter racing distances.
Coupled with the limited spectator value and media coverage, attracting sponsorship and investment was still proving to be difficult. The unsustainable Federation model, was also impacting on National Team participation, as these too remain self-funded by selected athletes and/or teams.
SO, WE EMBARKED ON SOMETHING MUCH BIGGER
We commenced on building a South African sports brand, focussed on enabling Athletes by assembling an ecosystem with a range of commercial projects focused on recognising talent, building fan engagement and creating funding opportunities.
OUR INTENT: To seek a way to unlock value for Athletes, Brands, Fans and Investors.
In 2018, we launched the SUPPORT SA TALENT™ Project, focused on recognizing local talent as well as our crowdfunding platform, to enable Athletes and Teams to raise funds for various projects.
We registered a Continental Elite Men’s Road Cycling Team – around a core of South African riders – with the aim to become the #1 Team in Africa and, to ride for something bigger than just a team. In our maiden year – racing alongside top African, Asian, American and European Continental and Pro Continental Teams – we competed in twenty UCI events, in thirteen countries on four continents and more than 11 500km of racing.
We finished off our 2019 season with: four Stage Wins; four Sprinters Classification Jerseys; nine Top 10 General Classification finishes; sixty-eight Top 10 Stage Finishes; thirty-two Top 20 Stage Finishes; and, a Gold/ Silver Medal at the African Games.
WE ARE THE #1 UCI-RANKED CONTINENTAL TEAM IN AFRICA.
OUR 2020 SEASON…UNTIL COVID-19
We were lucky enough to participate in three international UCI Tours before COVID-19 halted our 2020 season, these included: a return to Gabon – Tropicale Amissa Bongo, [UCI 2.1] which we completed with four Top 10 stage and seven Top 20 stage and, two Top 15 General Classification finishes.
With the goal of a podium, at the South African National Championships, we brought home two podiums – both 3rd places alongside World Tour riders – in both the Road Race and Individual Time Trials and, four of our riders finishing in the Top 10 [Road Race and Individual Time Trial events].
We then headed back to Africa’s Toughest Tour, Tour du Rwanda [UCI 2.1] concluding this with a 4th Place in the General Classification and, six Top 10 stage and three Top 20 stage finishes. Our final Tour before lockdown, was Tour de Taiwan, where the Team finished off with five Top 20 places.
With the UCI announcing that all events are cancelled until the end of July 2020, it is likely that our first events will only be from August onwards. We will be looking forward to returning to Tour of China in August this year.
IMPACT ENGINEERS – the Team, behind our Team
Serial entrepreneur who has enjoyed a 30-year ‘idea engineering’ career in Impact and Affinity Projects. Having been part of the start-up team for MySchool Programme, Rebecca’s experience spans the retail, financial services, hospitality and, healthcare industries – with a specific focus on unlocking value and rewards programmes and, developing enhanced value propositions.
She is the mastermind behind the Support SA Talent and Invest In a Dream Projects and, her experience in the rewards industry, provides the expertise required to launch the Athlete Affinity Programme and Athlete Rewards Programme, both planned to be released this year.
Rebecca is responsible for business development, partner and investor relations, as well as the marketing and building of the the PROTOUCH™ brand.
Having obtained his B Compt Honours at the University of South Africa, Brad went on to complete his HDip Accounting and acquire his CA (SA). He completed his articles at Deloitte and Touche, before joining Alexander Forbes in 1998 as a Corporate Finance executive. Working in various roles over his 18 year tenure, mainly as Group Information Officer. He was appointed as a non-executive director at Astute Financial Services Exchange in 2018 and joined the Multichoice group in 2019 as Group Chief Information Officer.
As an athlete himself – having been awarded provincial and Springbok colours for Yacht Racing – he co-founded the ProTouch Team in 2016, with Tony Harding. Brad is also a UCI Level 1 Coach and is a keen road and mountain biker.
Tony has a 30-year career in the South African road cycling industry, which commenced in 1987 when he first started working with a young Robert Hunter who, went on to win a stage at Le Tour de France.
He served as the National Team Manager from 2002 to 2008, attending both the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games as well as 2006 Commonwealth Games, where South Africa won a silver medal.
Tony has worked with the majority of road cyclists in South Africa and managed his own teams, prior to founding the ProTouch Team with Brad Eliot in 2016.
Tony concentrates his efforts as ProTouch’s Team Principal on identification of talent for our Team, input into UCI event calendar and race strategy with Maxime Martin, our Teams Sports Director.
Maxime was a professional cyclist from 2008 to 2016, riding for teams in France, Singapore and Japan.
He managed two Canadian Continental Teams – H&R Block ProCycling and DC Bank Pro Cycling – before joining ProTouch in July 2019 as the Team’s Sports Director.
The Team has delivered some great results under his direction, including:
2 stage wins in China and Malaysia; a Sprinters Jersey in Malaysia; 20 Top 10 GC finishes in Rwanda, Gabon, South African, Iran and China and, over 20 Top 10 Stage finishes in Malaysia, China and Iran.
Maxime concentrates his efforts on managing our Athletes, to achieve their potential and promote the PROTOUCH™ brand on the World Stage.