Premier Tech in Rivière-du-Loup will not simply be a sponsor of the Astana cycling team of Quebecer Hugo Houle.
After a first announcement in November, the multinational said yesterday that it would now be co-owner of the UCI World Tour circuit, in equal parts with Kazakhstan.
Quebecer Jean Bélanger, President and CEO of Premier Tech, will assume a much more important role in the management and direction of the team for the years to come.
“It was intimately linked even though it was not a mandatory condition. In addition to the visibility of our name, we want to make sure we have more to say. We share together the management of the team and the major decisions. It’s not a small experiment for a year or two, ”explains Mr. Bélanger.
Passionate about cycling, the latter speaks of one more step in his sports sponsorship program and of a long-term commitment. In 2020, the total budget of the Astana team was estimated at more than 17 million euros, or more than 26 million Canadian dollars. In 2018, the team claimed to have financial problems.
“We want to plan for the longer term and bring stability,” confirms the new leader.
Unlike many other sports, a cycling team like Astana has no real value. Rather, the World Tour license is rare and in great demand. Premier Tech is therefore getting its hands on this precious license, at least in part. The World Tour 2021 group field includes a total of 19 men’s teams.
This change could bring other Canadian cyclists to Astana, as well as more local support staff. The critical situation of cycling in North America since the pandemic is hurting the next generation who no longer have a team or an event to develop. Even in Europe, the cancellations of events have been linked for a few weeks, which creates a lot of uncertainty for the runners.
Support the next generation
“We want a lot more Canadian and Quebec presence. We are also thinking about the creation of a continental team, ”concludes Mr. Bélanger.
Premier Tech’s turnover, present in 27 countries, was $ 882.7 million in 2019.
Besides Hugo Houle, Astana will field the Canadian Ben Perry. Steve Bauer will also be sporting director. “I am very happy to see Premier Tech as a shareholder in the team. This is great news for Canadian cycling, ”commented Hugo Houle yesterday.
Elsewhere, the Israel Start-Up Nation team, also in the World Tour, is co-owned by Montreal businessman Sylvan Adams.