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From Pro to Privateer – Thomas Lapeyrie Crowdfunds His Racing 1

You can't keep a good rider down - especially not when a whole community rallies to provide support!

From Pro to Privateer – Thomas Lapeyrie Crowdfunds His Racing

Thomas Lapeyrie had a bit of an up and down season in 2019, but he was part of a big team and on track to reach his goals in 2020 - or so he thought. After receiving surprising news from his team at the very end of the year and after recovering from the initial shock, Thomas set out to build his own race program with incredible support from the racing community as well as the MTB community at large. Check out the RIDER.404 - Team Not Found launch video below and then dig into our exclusive Q&A with Thomas to learn more about how this unique project was born and what it might mean for the classic team and sponsorship model going forward.

 

1. Thomas, tell us a little bit about 2019, what was the season like from your perspective?

2019 was another great season of racing with both ups and downs. First of all, I started the year with a hand broken in the first stage of the Andespacifico, I had to stop riding for approx 4/5 weeks and then jump directly into the EWS, I rode the two first rounds with quite a lot of wrist pain. Then I recovered and came back in a good mood, reaching the top 10 in Madeira. 

After that, for the French round in Les Orres round I nearly broke my knee in practice, and I had to stop riding again for 3 weeks. More recovery, and then I came back again in a good form for Whistler, finished 7th.

Then, in the week before the last EWS round in Zermatt, I took part in a 3-day race after which I suffered from food poisoning. Such bad luck…

Ultimately, I finished the year 20th overall with theses 3 disruptive elements! That was really not the perfect season, but I am super proud that I did not give up and I put myself in the red zone for each round, no regrets on this one! It's important never to lose your motivation.

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2. And then…a surprise. Orbea tells you they are letting you go?

We worked together on the 2020 team and season until the end. So to be honest I thought that everything was okay, with, maybe, a different place for me in the team because I knew that Damien Oton had been hired for 2020. I was actually very happy with this fresh new perspective with my friend! And finally at the last moment, I hear that I was not part of the team anymore. That is the consequence of a significant rider turnover, I’m not the first rider to receive this sentence. But it's very hard to hear sooooo very -  too -  late in the season you know. With Becky Cook, we were the heart of the Orbea Enduro Team creation, until the end we were supposed to stay in the team. We did not have enough time to change our plans.

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3. What were your first thoughts? What did you do? Hit the phones, start looking for a new sponsor that late in the game?

Yes I broke everything at home, I ate 3 cows, burned 2 cars, attacked a bank, built an army!!!!! Lol, seriously, that was a real blow, I didn’t sleep at all, didn't eat at all, worked 30 hours per day to find something else. First, I called and wrote to many teams and sponsors, as a rider or even to build a team from scratch but it was too late to hope to land any kind of budget for the next season. The only thing I was sure of: it’s impossible to stop my career like this!!

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4. How did the idea of “crowdfunding” come about?

At the end of January I posted a message on the social medias, It was hard to be true and admit that I was naked for the season...I received so many reactions, some people were shocked about the situation. I also received so many calls from people who wanted to help take care of the situation. I realized that it was not possible for me to stop racing, I never decided that, with so many people wanting to help it was not possible to stop because of a non-sponsoring program. I decided to start my own racing program, I talked about it with different people and the president of my club, the ACC club from Annecy, proposed to start a crowdfund. That's how the idea of the crowdfunding came to be. At that point I had the chance to interact with right people and the Rider.404 (and his community!!) was born :o).

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5. What was the reaction of the community? How did the crowdfunding go for you?

Here I propose to give help to the people who help me; I wanted to put sharing and mutual aid at the center. What I needed: racing material and money to travel to the races - what people can receive: gifts from my partners, jerseys from legendary racers, riding with guests riders. So I created the RIDER.404, Team Not Found, but this rider "Loves to ride for the Love" which means whatever happens, I will ride ;)

And I got a lot of calls from different sponsors who wanted to take advantage of the situation and provide help at their level. That was the beginning of the light at the end of the tunnel.

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6. Tell us more about your new structure. Who are the partners that are still involved? How will it all function?

I got lucky, I had a quick call with Fred Glo, and a few days later I meet him straight in the TribeSportGroup Factory. Fred has always helped the good riders, he created one of the first big teams with the Rocky Mountain Urge BP Rally Team at the beginning of the Enduro World Series. Fred heard about the Rider.404 crowdfunding and he wanted to help. That’s why I decided to really trust in Fred and jump on board with the crew and the support he could offer me.

Today I feel super lucky to have the support of the TribeSportGroup. I've been riding my new Yeti SB 150 for a few weeks now. After a few days of riding with this beast I realized that the TribeSportGroup company had offered me the best bike I ever rode. The mix is perfect between power and efficiency, the bike is smooth enough, strong enough, and the more you push it with your skills, the more it will take it. The faster you ride the better it handles, helping you really take advantage of the track. I’M JUST STOKED how things have turned out and I’m so damn excited to start the season :D

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My Bike 

Yeti SB 150
Fox Factory suspension
Mavic wheels
Michelin tires
Magura brakes
Tag Metals Racing cockpit
Race Face crankset
Crankbrothers pedals
Selle Italia
Slicy mudguard
Swat tools

My Equipment 

Leatt clothes
Leatt protection
Leatt goggles
Five gloves
Urge BP helmet
Northwave shoes
Vaude backpack
Rider.404 LOGO sponsored by the community

7. What kind of “returns” are the people who are helping you expecting from the project?

First, I have infinite gratitude to the people who contributed to the crowdfunding because without that it would be impossible for me to take on the 2020 season. For this reason, the Rider.404 project has become a full-time job because I do everything that I can to offer compensation worthy of the donations.

People support me because they want to see me racing. Nobody wanted to see me stop racing, and that’s why I kept on training, even if I’m still not sure to be able to take part in the whole series.

Additionally, it will be a really good deal for many of my partners to have me on board, I will work with each of them on different aspect of the brands. I already did some testing with the French Fox Factory crew on the shock setup and adaptation, I will take part in the development side of the Michelin tires program, and I will continue to work with Mavic to test some prototype wheels. At the same time, Magura is really happy to have a top EWS riders on board and showcase the media aspect of the series, and although I’m new with the TagMetalsRacing brand the idea is to give lot of racing tips and feedback and help the brand to grow up in the market. I’m involved in lot of projects and the people who help me receive my skills as a co-worker and my happiness as a life lover! 

To summarize, for private donors I do everything I can to offer products and organize beautiful events!  And for the brand partners I offer my skills to develop / improve their products and provide big media visibility because I love it!

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8. What are your objectives for 2020?

2020 is a big year for Rider.404, I know that I have my place on the EWS circuit so I work hard to try to book the season, manage my training and take part in all races, but at this time I still don’t have the budget to race the full EWS series, we will see race after race how things turn out. Today I’m a pro rider, manager, media rider, event organizer, it’s a full-time job!

I organized a few events in which I offer the possibility to supporters to ride with some great names like Jerome Clementz, Remy Absalon, Nicolas Vouilloz, Fabien Barel, and with awesome different companies active in our sport like JuraSick Guide, MontPoupet BikePark , Up&Down. At the same time I collaborated to create different goodies. For example with the Specialized France we created cool bottles to drink from and we will offer it. With Slicy, we created a mudguard with the Rider.404 logo and we will offer those to the people who put some love in the crowdfund. After all of this, I received the championship jerseys of Loic Bruni, Myriam Nicole, Isabeau Courdurier ect, this is a big gift for the big donations. I'm gonna try to survive with those kinds of projects and try to put a smile on the face of the younger generation if possible, share good times and love the ride!

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9. At this time, we are seeing a lot of movement in the market, and we are also seeing riders having to market their own “brand” more and more. Do you think the model of your new project is something that can work in the long term?

I’m actually doing the team manager work, spending my days calling everyone, sponsors, partners, people in the crowdfund, trying to train and manage the equipment. I’m ready to work on it, and for everything I do I give it 100% power. I’m sure that managing a team is a big task and it's hard to find all the players who respect the market and who follow your definition of creativity and dreams. So now what I'm sure is that for one person it's too much work, especially to be 100% efficient in racing. On the other hand with more people by my side there is no reason that this model shouldn't work!

10. We wish you the very best for 2020 – and beyond! Anything else you would like to add?

I was so close to stopping everything. But please don't stop. If you have a project and you believe in this project, don't stop, just work hard! I spent some hard days, weeks and even months during this game but today I feel really lucky to have the right people behind me and I would like to thank my family, my club, my bike shop l’Atelier du Cycle and the TribeSportGroup!!!

Crowfunding still online until April: https://www.helloasso.com/associations/annecy-cyclisme-competition/collectes/objectif-ews-2020

And please protect your family and friends: stay at home.

See you on track soon!

Cheers for ya all, fuck yeah, love ya! See you on track!

A bientôt,

Thomas

Photos by Romain Laurent

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