McLaren and Bahrain-Merida have announced an exciting joint venture from the start of the 2019 road season with the overall aim of becoming the most successful team in professional cycling.
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The news will be officially announced on Wednesday at the Bahrain-Merida training camp in Croatia, with the McLaren logo on the team kit. Merida will stay as the secondary sponsor of the team, but McLaren’s experience in Formula 1 will be relied upon to improve the team in some specific areas.
At an event at McLaren’s Woking base in early December, the company’s Chief Marketing Officer John Allert – a long time cycling fan who grew up just a stone’s throw away from Willunga Hill in Adelaide – announced the plans in front of a small gathering of journalists.
“This is great for cycling and maybe the most exciting thing that’s happened in cycling for the last decade,” Copeland said.
“McLaren can help us out in so many areas. More and more topics come out as we talk about it. It’s exciting for us, and it is for cycling in general. Their experience is unlimited.”
The news means an obvious jump in the team’s overall budget, but the primary focus in 2019 will be for McLaren to gain experience in working with a WorldTour team on a long-term strategy. The company already know their work with Specialized but have already had time with both Rohan Dennis and Vincenzo Nibali in their technology centre and wind tunnel in Woking. Neither Copeland nor Allert would discuss the team’s new budget or McLaren’s share of the investment, but the plan at this stage is for both parties to work with Merida in 2019 in the hope that the bike supplier remains with them once their current contract expires at the end of next season. It’s possible that McLaren could become a title sponsor in the future, alongside Bahrain.
“What Bahrain-Merida have been able to achieve off a standing start in two years is phenomenally inspiring,” said Allert.
“Although this is a new sport to us, it’s very complimentary in terms of the shaping of the narrative, of man and machine and the pursuit of achievement through the aggregation of numerous different factors. We still believe that there’s performance value to be had, and despite the fact that the team has been fantastic out of the blocks, both they and we feel that there’s room for improvement in development.”
McLaren boasts many state-of-the-art businesses, but this venture will utilize their applied technologies sector. In theory, this will give the World
Tour team access to any of the 600-strong staff and help them close the gap to the ruling elite in the World Tour rankings.
This year the squad finished seventh – not a bad achievement given that Vincenzo Nibali was wiped out at the Tour de France – but the aim is for McLaren’s injection of knowledge to push the team towards greatness at the Tour de France, where Team Sky have dominated in recent years.
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