Trek announced on Wednesday afternoon that we will be supporting the Astana pro cycling team for the next few years. Some superfans had speculated we were up to something since both Johan and Levi spent time at Trek in recent months but for most it was new information.
We had a solid relationship with Johan during the USPS and Disco days but that relationship has grown even stronger since embarking on the Astana journey. John Burke invited Johan to Trek just after the Tour of Missouri race in September with then intention of saying thanks for all the race success and bike development help. That visit unexpectedly turned into a 3-hour negotiation and an eventual handshake deal in support of Johan’s re-born Astana program.
Since then it’s been all hands on deck re-building and re-thinking the support network necessary for programs of this size and caliber. The behind the scenes effort here at Trek is enormous. We were starting from zero since Discovery bikes and clothing are now obsolete. Same goes for press kits, photo libraries, point of purchase dealer programs, our website, print ads...
There have been a few versions of the team bike tossed about within the design department but the one we chose was the clear winner. The bike in the photos you are seeing out on the internet is the “pilot” paint job and is all paint – no decals or pin striping. It took 15 hours to craft. It’s Levi’s size so we sent it to him for photo shoots. Lucky man.
The jersey art has not been released yet but there are stories about its creation, too. The very first version was almost a home run. Our own staff, John Burke, Johan, nearly everyone gave it their blessing. We were blown away by this seeming triumph since past jersey selection processes have been plagued with the trials of revision after revision. But it was not meant to be this time around either and a cultural taboo westerners could not have foreseen stopped the presses. Seems the Kazakhs don’t like the color black. The majority of that first jersey design was black. Back to the design table.
Additional jersey design difficulties arose while relaying changes back and forth between the designer and the Kazakhs. Their Kazakh-Russian feedback would go to Eki who would pass it to Johan who would pass it to Ben (Trek’s team liaison) who would pass it to the designer. Reverse that for feedback going the other way. It was easy to lose the message along the way. In the end it has taken 62 revisions to get the jersey where we all can agree. That has to be some kind of record. The team's kit will be relaeased in a month or so.
Someone from Trek will be at the team presentation in Astana,Kazakhstan in early January. We’ll make every effort to publish a photo album from that trip.
The team’s complete roster has yet to be made public but Trek is excited about working with so many new-to-us nationalities. We are certain to learn a few things along the way.
A majority of the team is in Javea, Spain this week for an orientation camp. Ben Coates is there, too, ensuring that the mechanics have what they need to get the riders up and running. Since nearly all the mechanics came from Discovery, Ben walked into a somewhat familiar situation. I have yet to see photos on the web from random journalists or superfans that have captured what’s going on in Spain but it won’t be long before photos surface. Ben arranged delivery of Madone 5.2 Pro fit fuselages for the Javea camp and SRAM has been on hand to make sure the bikes tune up nicely. Watch for Ben’s travel tales elsewhere on this blog site.
Keeping a lid on our connection to Astana has been fun. I would have thought more fans and journalists would have figured it out sooner but no one in particular made the connection. Perhaps I have more interest in Trek supporting a pro team than most since Trek has benefited so much from this kind of partnership in the past but I’m a little surprised that more people didn’t show interest.
What happens next? From where I am sitting, Trek will likely have to inform all our dealers about the Astana team. Then we might get a few queries from journalists or perhaps some interviews will be requested. And we have to deliver a ton of bike parts to the team over the next few weeks. Team camp in Albuquerque will be in late January so there will be some planning involvement there. Then the Tour of California comes to town. Stay tuned – there’s more to come.