The newly created Rapha Foundation announced today that their first round of funding has been awarded to five U.S. organisations that the brand says exemplify the Rapha Foundation’s mission to better the sport of cycling and improve access and support for the next generation of racers. The five grantees are NICA, Boulder Junior Cycling, The Mud Fund, Amy D. Foundation, and Stark Track.
The funding has been made possible by Tom Walton and Steuart Walton, Rapha shareholders, with Simon Mottram, the founder and CEO of Rapha. Tom and Steuart have provided seed funding for the Rapha Foundation, with a plan to distribute $1.5 million in 2019.
Earlier this year Rapha launched the Roadmap, which was an extensive report into the state of professional cycling. This followed their two-year research project into the sport of cycling. The recommendations in the Roadmap are what are now guiding much of Rapha's work, starting with a new approach to team sponsorship and now with the launch of the Rapha Foundation, a charitable initiative focused on the grassroots of the sport.
Rapha will provide direct funding to not-for-profit organisations that introduce underserved audiences to cycling. The Rapha Foundation will invite potential grantees to apply for funding on a biannual basis in the spring and autumn. Applicants must be registered charities, including 501c3 organisations for US-based institutions, and equivalent institutions outside the US. The second round will be announced in November and it will focus on applicants from the United Kingdom, Europe, Asia and Australia.
We asked Rapha what the contribution to NICA means for their product line and what their ties to mountain biking are, what their goals are with the donations and how they plan to invest their marketing dollars going forward.
Rapha’s charitable donations are going to NICA and all cycling disciplines, not just road. Is this part of a more concerted effort from Rapha to get into mountain bike product?
The Foundation's support of a wide range of cycling disciplines is an acknowledgement that racing talent comes into sport through all its facets: road, Cross, Track and MTB in all its guises. Rapha has a mission to help make cycling the most popular sport in the world and taking that into account mountain biking is incredibly important but we’re a long way from product.
What is the Rapha Roadmap and how do these contributions tie into the work that Rapha has done on the Roadmap?
The Roadmap is the title of a project we embarked on about three years ago. After choosing not to renew our sponsorship of Team Sky we felt that we needed to better understand the challenges that were constraining professional road cycling. The first draft was authored by a trio of external consultants: Joe Harris and Steve Maxwell from the Outer Line and Daam van Reeth from the University of Leuven. Our Head of Content then interviewed more than 50 individuals from across the sport, from current professionals to team principals. These interviews were written into the first draft and the resulting piece of work documents the issues the sport is facing as it attempts to modernise and find a new audience. A lot of the sport's constraints are beyond our control, but we felt we could act on two key things identified in the work: more engaging content around the characters and personalities in cycling and support of grass roots racing
Why did Rapha decide not to renew sponsorship of pro road cycling's Team Sky and where does Rapha plan to invest marketing dollars in the future? What kind of athletes do you think really move the needle and align with your mission?
Team Sky/Ineos are a hugely impressive winning machine and we learnt a massive amount working with such a polished and professional outfit. However, we felt that trying to push the sport beyond its existing constraints required a different approach. Initially, we weren't really sure how to do this. After looking at a number of other sports as part of the Roadmap project we realised that some have flourished by producing content around the character and personalities of the protagonists. The road cycling calendar is also horrifically complicated and there are a number of alternative races that should get much more focus.
Combining these two ideas led to our media partnership and kit sponsorship of EF Education First Procycling. Team EF are running an alternative calendar this year that doesn’t just focus on the races they have to do and they will compete at events like the Leadville 100 and the 3 Peaks. Future investment will continue to be focused on teasing out interesting stories from across the sport: from our sponsored teams like EF Education First Pro Cycling and Canyon // SRAM to broader projects like the Outskirts series. Athlete-wise, we're fortunate to work with Pauline Ferrand Prévot and I'm a huge fan of Mathieu van der Poel and Jolanda Neff. On the road side of things, athletes like Lachlan Morton and Tao Geoghegan-Hart are people I hope help to inform the future development of the sport. From Mountain Biking, Kate Courtney is an extraordinarily articulate talent and Ratboy is a huge inspiration from both a riding perspective and a will to do it his own way.
Was there interest in branching out into the mountain bike industry before being bought by RZC Investments/the Waltons?
Mountain biking has always been a source of inspiration for us: from the technical innovation that road bikes have co-opted to Mountain Biking's open-minded approach to developing new formats. Steuart and Tom Walton’s manifest passion and support for mountain-biking has certainly brought MTB into sharper focus for us.
Will Rapha be adding more funds in the future? Supporting other mountain bike focused organizations?
The fund will make $1.5m available annually. We hope that with this funding we will be able to continue to support a wide range of organizations
Will Rapha be supporting any trail development foundations going forward?
If any trail development schemes are eligible and focused on developing the next generation of racers, they'll certainly be considered.
What does success look like a few years down the road?
We hope that this funding will make a material difference to a large number of aspiring racers across a wide spectrum of cycling disciplines. Rapha's mission is to make cycling the most popular sport in the world and if the Foundation can support more people to ride more regularly then that'll constitute success in the purest sense.