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 with building a South African sports brand, focussed on enabling Athletes by recognising talent, building fan engagement and creating funding opportunities and, getting more [South] African athletes onto podiums around the world.
OUR INTENT: To change the way that Professional Cycling is run in South Africa and our Continent. To find a way to unlock value for Athletes, Brands, Fans and Investors.
WE ARE INVITING INVESTORS TO BE PART OF THIS EXCITING JOURNEY – to take our country and continent to the World – using CYCLING AS THE PLATFORM – and, enabling more African athletes onto the world stage.
HERE IS OUR JOURNEY SO FAR
2018 We launched the SUPPORT SA TALENT™ Project, focused on recognizing local talent and run a National Road Cycling Series, that tracks over 1 000 athletes for two years now. We started using crowdfunding and developed the Fund Your Passion Crowdfunding Platform, to enable Athletes and Teams to raise funds for various projects.
2019 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 Team in Africa.
While managing the travel and logistics requirements for our own Team, we also assisted to manage the SA National Team participating in the 2019 African Games as well as the 2020 African Continental Championships (unfortunately postponed in March due to Covid-19 lockdown). Through third party partnerships, we co-ordinate travel and healthcare cover also for professional athletes and, handle brand building and social media management for athletes.
We developed the ability to provide South African Investors the opportunity to invest in and, maximise their tax allowance under Section 12J of the Income Tax Act. By leveraging the South African National Treasury-approved Section 12J Investment Channel, Investors benefit from both the tax deduction and, a return on their full investment.
2020 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.
We officially launched The Phil Liggett Foundation, in partnership with the Global Voice of Cycling and set up its committee which includes: South African Women’s National Road and ITT Champion, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio and Men’s National Road Champion, Ryan Gibbons and former pro cyclist, MC and Commentator, Johnny Koen.
DURING THE COVID-19 LOCKDOWN…
We launched the first phase of our Marketplace and commenced negotiations with various brands that provide a % of value back on each purchase, these flow into the Phil Liggett Foundation to Support SA Talent.
We extended our Road Cycling Series Series to launch the Virtual Racing Series, providing South African cyclists and teams a platform to showcase their athletic ability and give their sponsors coverage. The Series has over 200 registered South African riders, who have participated in 17-weeks of competitions, using its own registered event on the Zwift Platform.
We developed an Events Solution – for teams, event organisers and fundraising initiatives, in partnership with First Digital and Beyond Sound. The Solution encompasses: an entry and results management system – enabling entries and publishing of results, seamlessly off the underlying virtual or timing chip platform; the collection of entry fees and/ or donations for charities and causes as well as facilitating the pay-aways to various parties, using an innovative QR code technology integrated into popular Mobile Payment Applications, and our Crowdfunding Platform. In addition, we also live stream these virtual events, onto multiple channels (social, website and traditional broadcasting) with expert commentary by ex professionals and current pro riders and, current team owners.
SO, WHAT IS NEXT?
We are now in the final development stages of the TOUR DE AFRICA – a Grand Tour Pursuit, challenging cycling enthusiasts to ride over twenty one iconic routes, covering more than 1 000km and 13 000m of vertical elevation.By registering for this PURSUIT, participants will be featured on our leader boards, earn Points for completing selected routes – published on STRAVA – and, improving their rank. Earn Bonus Points for participating in real-life activations and Races, as well as completing Sprint and Climb Pursuits. Points accumulate to unlock EVEN MORE REWARDS, as well as to crown the overall TOUR DE AFRICA CHAMPION in 2021.
We are also working with the Italian Chamber of Commerce in South Africa on bringing the GIRO D’ITALIA #RIDE LIKE A PRO EVENT to Africa. Giro d’Italia Ride Like a Pro is a unique and exciting cycling experience. It is a competitive & non-competitive race. Its goal is to enable all cycling fans to have a “riding like a pro and living the Italian-style” experience. The idea is closely connected to the Giro d’Italia and gives everyone the possibility to have a professional cycling experience, celebrating the values of Italian sports in general and of cycling in particular: sacrifice, physical effort, fair play, over 100 years of “pink” tradition along with an innovative race. The intent is that our Projects are the beneficiary of this event further enabling more African Athletes onto the World Stage.
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.