Philippe Wagner: “The team will have to justify the mark” – News
In its first year in the pelotons, Philippe Wagner Cycling had its ups and downs during the season. Initially, a Continental project or even a ProTeam project was mentioned in 2023, but its president Philipp Wagner and his sports team preferred to press the brake pedal. The Franche-Comté team will therefore always be in the national peloton next season. But this time, the date of 2024 has been set to cross the Rubicon. He spoke to Philippe Wagner on the occasion of the launch of the 2023 vintage DirectVelo the turn the project took in this first season and the entrepreneur’s place in the cycling world.
DirectVelo: How do you rate this first year?
Philippe Wagner: Within four months we have created a team and we are performing immediately. Of course, it was not victory after victory. But above all, we created a real identity, and that was the most important thing.
What powerful moments do you remember?
There was already a first victory (at the Tour du Center Var with Alexis Caresmel, editor’s note). Another great moment was in the Ardennes, it was very cold, very difficult and it tested our riders. The Tour was Alsace, Tour de Normandie. They faced the pros for our first races in Normandy.
There were more complicated moments…
We had to make adjustments in management. But we start from zero, which is normal. We tried to strengthen ourselves with Dylan Guinet, who came in during the season, because the other athletes were not performing as we hoped. But it’s normal, it’s a part of life, but we re-composed and corrected it during the year.
“WE WILL CREATE THIS PROJECT TOGETHER”
Everything went very quickly until the creation of the team!
What was important to me was having a story to tell the runners. Not being a club for the sake of being a club. Today is the most difficult to navigate. We don’t know where to stop. We take the road together, move forward and see where it takes us. We will create this project together.
Why did you interfere at this time?
We threw ourselves into communication to promote the Philippe Wagner brand. We did it through the team, but also through partnerships, in the Championships, in Namur (At the European Cyclo-Cross Championship, editor’s note) etc. We are a partner of UEC so that we can be seen, these are two different media. The best way to promote ourselves is in the world of sports. It’s a mirror, the team grows, the brand grows and vice versa. We market from Lille to Marseille, I will attack the western sector and the brand will continue to grow. So the more we are seen, the more we will be known.
“THE FIRST SUBJECT IS THE BICYCLE”
What is your connection to cycling?
I have always ridden a bicycle since I was a child. I remember my first bike that my sponsors offered to my association. I circled around the house for 20-30 kilometers. I’ve never been very good (smiles), but you can love cycling without being very good. I still have that passion. As a business leader, I find this to be a very good communication vector. I always say that in football or rugby you must go to the stadium. We go in front of people, we are seen on the road, in training. You don’t pay to go to a race, it’s universal and that’s what I like about it. It’s a tough sport, commitment and teamwork.
Have you ever regretted your investment?
Never ! In addition to all this, it is also a business project. We talk about work in all companies. We are also talking about bicycles. Workers start coming to the races. At the Tour de Rhuys, I had a whole coaching staff. I organize a bicycle race in the company, there were 150 of us with all the employees. The bicycle is at the heart of the company. When there are commercial talks, the first topic is the bike. We’re not talking about price or anything. All this is important.
The team has got people talking, how do you think you will be received in the peloton?
I don’t listen to what is being said. Words are spoken at all levels. There are cyclists there (at the presentation night, editor’s note), there may even be people talking about me, but I don’t care. The most important thing is to spend time together. We will perform this year, we have strengthened ourselves for this. We have one of the best teams in N1, which prepares us well for the professional transition.
“YOU SHOULD KNOW HOW TO FIX THINGS”
You first announced going pro in 2023 before it was postponed. Did it fail for you?
No, I think we were a bit arrogant, but you always need a bit of optimism. I realized that we need to go in a little more, we made adjustments. Also for this year. We still needed to break it down a bit, I’m always wary of that winning logic. We believe that we will achieve everything the first time, we took this into account. Then I said to myself that this is impossible.
Is it hard to be patient when you are the head of a well-run company?
I prefer to do things well. The decision to postpone the Pro project was mine. I gathered collaborators and everyone told me to do it. But I said no, I preferred that we prepare well and be efficient. We were fast. But you need to know how to place things. By the way, I felt better. He pressured me and that’s not good. So while I prefer to talk about construction, I prefer to play patiently.
“PROTEAM ANNOUNCED THE MISTAKE WE DID”
Can you advocate?
I already have a team around me in the company. Representing doesn’t stop you from plotting a course, coping, and wishing for everything. It is exactly the same in the team. I had Christophe Moreau, I told him that the goal of the year is top 5. If things go wrong during the year, I make resolutions because the framework is there.
Do you want to start alone or find a sponsor?
We are looking for a joint sponsor. But this will not prevent us from going to Continental in the first year, we have opportunities. The communication error we made was announcing ProTeam. The idea is really to move to Continental, we have a close budget and a team structure at this level. But co-sponsors are welcome. We have connections.
Worried about what’s happening with B&B Hotels, for example?
I have a difference with Jerome Pineau. I am the president of both André Bazin and Philippe Wagner Cycling. So I’m a major sponsor, so I know what’s in the accounts and where it’s coming from. Jérôme Pineau may not have seen everything on his side.
So you are guided by this Continental 2024 plan?
Exactly. We came out of nowhere, had a great season, despite everything we are 15th in Challenge DirectVelo. But it was not enough, we had to arm ourselves and part of this team will be professional with us, which is a deal. It would be necessary to change a lot with the old team.
The downhill system is based on two years and will therefore give its verdict at the end of the 2023 season. Could Philippe Wagner Cycling not have the right car, the consequences of the project?
There are two ways of looking at things. In the goal we have set before us, if there is no. If there is a malfunction, we will hire, refit during the year. But the clear and precise goal is to fix Conti. The brand is growing and it will need more fame. So, the team will have to reach the goal. So in spirit we are Conti.