Are Collectives the New Privateer Programs in Gravel Racing?
February 5, 2024
Felt UN1TD is the newest gravel program to adopt a collective approach
/ENDURANCE SPORTSWIRE/ – Felt UN1TD launched this week, uniting the talents of gravel racers Dylan Johnson, Danni Shrosbee and Adam Roberge under one banner.
“Watching how the Life Time Grand Prix and other gravel events have gone in the last few years, it’s clear that privateers are struggling against riders with larger programs and teammates in the races,” says Inspire Athlete Management’s Simon Williams. “In the past, privateers have had to struggle to secure single sponsors, and take on the burden of financing an entire season alone. Meanwhile, teams are sharing expenses on housing and bringing mechanics for multiple athletes. Cycling is an economy of scale: With multiple riders pooling resources, they’re able to accomplish so much more.”
That’s where Felt UN1TD comes in. Bringing together the three riders to work together as much as they choose, while allowing each to plan their own season, race their own races, and even bring on solo sponsors in addition to those that come under the collective banner. This approach is one that’s becoming more common in the gravel space after several years of privateer programs dominating start lines. Sponsors are able to activate more around racers with more cohesion, and as a result, both the sponsors and the racers are more amplified on social media and across brand platforms.
“These collective help everyone feel less alone,” says Williams. “Gravel started as being more of the Wild West, but now, it’s clear that it’s evolving and riders need more robust programs in order to have successful seasons of racing. Programs like Jukebox, Silca and The Feed have really led the charge, showing that multiple riders can be sponsored by one program and be amplified while maintaining their individuality as racers. We’re past the point where teams are making the schedules for riders and creating these narrow pathways, but athletes benefit from some structure in order to focus on their main task of performing in races. I think Felt UN1TD is a really valuable tool for these athletes, who now don’t have to spend as much time trying to gain recognition or stand out from the crowd. It’s a multiplier.”
In fact, Johnson and Roberge both came from the Jukebox program, and it was through that sponsorship that the two became friends.
Roberge won Gravel Locos last year, as well as Gravel Worlds and BWR Kansas in 2022. The former road racer is used to racing as a team, but gravel has presented a different challenge. “I’m thrilled to be racing for Felt UN1TD, an innovative off-road program,” he says. “While direct teamwork on race day with Danni won’t be possible, my ‘strategic collaboration’ with Dylan is still to be confirmed. Joining this unified program, which blends individual support with team synergy, presents a fantastic opportunity for us to collectively uplift and enhance each other’s performance.”
Johnson agreed, adding, “I think Felt Un1td is putting together a very strong gravel program this year both with Danni on the women’s side and me and Adam on the men’s side. Adam and I have gotten to be pretty good friends so I’m happy that we will continue to be teammates. People have made predictions recently that team tactics will make their way into gravel racing, Adam and I haven’t talked about that but who knows what the future will hold.”
Johnson is arguably best known for his successful YouTube channel, but also has stellar results on both gravel and mountain bikes. He got his start racing mountain bikes as a teenager and in his early 20s focused on ultra endurance mountain bike racing becoming the youngest winner of the National Ultra Endurance Series in 2016 at 21 years old and then going on to win it two more times after that. Last year, he was second at BWR North Carolina.
Rounding out the team is Shrosbee, a professional cyclist with a road background who made headlines when she came to the US for the Life Time Grand Prix and placed fourth at Unbound (a race that she initially assumed was only 200 kilometers long because 200 miles seemed impossible). As the reigning British National Gravel Champion, she also raced at Gravel World Championships, where she placed 17th.
“I’m excited to join the team with Dylan and Adam and to be part of the Life Time Grand Prix again this year—but this time with a bit more insight into the races and more flexibility with my schedule,” she says. She still plans to spend time in Europe racing some of the bigger races there including the Gravel Earth Series and likely British Gravel Nationals, but plans to spend more time stateside, especially around Leadville, where altitude acclimation is critical.
All three riders will share a kit design, and of course, will all be riding the Felt Breed gravel frames. “Felt is doing a lot of things right,” says Johnson. “They’ve made a race focused gravel bike that fits 50mm tires which is rare to find on the market right now but has become a must for me. I test tires a lot and generally I find that wider is faster so I’m excited about the possibility of a bike with this much clearance. Between that and the suspension ready geometry this bike may kill off my infamous drop bar hardtail for those courses that are a bit gnarlier. Let’s not forget the amazing custom paint job too, having a bike that looks good never hurts.”
All three riders are available for interviews and features on gravel cycling. Contact Simon@inspireathlete.com to be connected.
ABOUT INSPIRE ATHLETE MANAGEMENT:
Inspire Athlete Management looks to bring together some of the cycling world’s best offroad riders. Our riders are individuals – all with unique stories and exciting paths. This dynamic platform allows each athlete to bring to life your brand positioning in a powerful and robust way: It is a collective that elevates the brand through the multiple amplifications by individuals. As a branch of Inspire Athlete Management (IAM), this partnership supports the riders’ needs to pursue their goals through strategic partnerships with like-minded brands.