Alvio would be nothing if it wasn’t for our network of hardworking, innovative partners. So in this series of Brand Spotlight pieces, we’re taking a moment to get to know some of our partners better.

Previously we spoke to George Bailey, the founder of Coral Eyewear… and today we’re sharing our conversation with Richard Pascoe, founder and team director at Saint Piran.

Saint Piran Pro Cycling Team is an incredible success story – both in sporting, and business terms. We chatted to Richard about how this Cornish cycling team grew from a local club, to a top competitive team. Right now, their riders are competing in the Tour of Britain: the fourth most watched cycling race in the world.

We also chat about what a Saint Piran partnership looks like on Alvio. Saint Piran joined in May, and since then they’ve already formed two Alvio partnerships – with Coral Eyewear and Built for Athletes. 

Saint Piran have achieved a lot already, and they’ve got even bigger things ahead of them still. Here’s the Saint Piran story, in their own words.

Richard Pascoe of Saint Piran, in conversation with Alvio.

A Conversation with Saint Piran

So Richard, tell us how it all started.

I have done two really good things in my life: I've mentored world champions… and I've got my three-year-old son.

I've been in this industry for quite a while. I have seen a lot of mistakes in my life, in the world of cycling. And from various angles too: people make mistakes when it comes to business partners, riders, sponsors, and so on. Saint Piran really started – eight years ago now – out of my wish to correct those mistakes. I thought to myself, if I could set up something that was pure and had provenance... something that could challenge the normal model within the world of cycling... Could I do that? And what would it look like? 

Saint Piran started off as a club team… and if you imagine your local football club, for example, it’s like we've gone from club team to the premiership in seven years. That's been our journey. And we've done it all without any logos or advertising on the jersey. 

In the world of business, people often start something without necessarily planning forwards… but this is something cycling has to its benefit, we were able to look up to Olympic cycling medalists before us, and ask ourselves, what does that journey look like? Where do we need to be in the next four years? Could we do something similar with Saint Piran? Well, I'd like to think we did. 

What was the inspiration for the brand?

Saint Piran is the patron saint of Cornwall, and the patron saint of tin mining.

We wanted a plain black jersey, with the iconic Cornish tartan on the right-hand sleeve. And that’s a tartan which we own, which leads to another point that's very important in life or business: if you can capture your own intellectual property rights, your own branding and your own imagery, then you're on the right path to start with. Just look at Nike, who have spent billions promoting a tick… and that tick probably didn’t even mean anything initially.

If you talk to people about Saint Piran, they will likely have at least a vague notion of what we’re about. There’s the Cornish saint, and maybe you picture the rugged coastline and the sea… you get a flavour of our personality. So that branding has always been to our advantage in the journey. 

And famously, we have no logo or advertisement on our jerseys. Now that’s unusual… I think we’re almost unique in the world of pro sport. But to make a difference in this industry you need to be disruptive, you need to be unique. And this is our way of showing that we have a different message.

Saint Piran have a different message for the cycling industry.

And what is that message exactly? Can you talk a bit more about the Saint Piran philosophy?

So – professional cycling is basically broken. Money goes in, and it all disappears into the business side of things. So we wanted to move away from that, and break the mould. We wanted to have a very rider-centric focus… which means we always aim to give the riders their best moment, but also, we started asking ourselves: What does real success look like?

Real success is about how we feel about something – Are we happy with it? For cyclists, are you happy with your last performance? And also, can you maybe recognise where your performance can improve?

At Saint Piran, we try to help with every stage in the development of cyclists – of people. We facilitate them, we get our cyclists entered into events, and we promote them all the way. Then right at the very top of the pyramid, our peak performance cyclists, we have our UCI continental team… Our women’s elite team… We have a women’s mountain bike team, competing at the highest levels…

And this is an important part of our DNA: we have a very strong value system, that’s all about parity between men and women in sports. That’s the culture we want to promote, one of parity, equality… And excellence too, of course! But we really want to make sure that everybody's happy. We’ve got a very relaxed culture within the team, which is quite hard to maintain in a competitive field, but we always felt that things needed to be fun.

Alongside that is our commitment to the environment, and to sustainability. This is something I feel very strongly about, and especially since my three-year-old was born. This planet is important, and I’m proud to say we are now well on our road to Net Zero.

So we’ve got a lot of different DNA in there, and it’s very unusual compared to the standard model for this industry. But that’s because we think differently.

I always say, You own Saint Piran for a pound. This is your own professional team – that’s the way to look at it. And that's the way I encourage young people to look at it. Because this is not just about us, it's about you. Stop and think about that… you have a professional team, you bought it for a pound. What can you do to take that next part of the journey? We are a totally open book.

What has the Saint Piran journey been like, in business terms?

Throughout our history, we have always wanted to make it rider-centric, we wanted to make it so that we gave the riders all the best opportunities. And I’m happy to say that this has made us attractive to cyclists! But at the same time, we had to ask: What is our commercial model? How do we actually get money into our organisation? And especially with no branding on the jersey…

So what we’ve become, really, is an eyes-on organisation. We've been lucky – we've been seen by 180 million people in two years. That's our currency, and it makes us excellent value! 

But we also like to give back to our partners, so what we always say to them is: What do you want from this? Because what we're actually doing here is teaming up, we’re platforming one another. We're showcasing up-and-coming brands… but those brands have got to work. The brands and the people we work with must have provenance.

So I – as team director – have been turning down plenty of offers over the last seven years, because they just didn’t fit. And I can tell you, there’s many a morning when I wake up, and think: Actually, I wish I’d taken that offer! For example, imagine the cash we’d have got if we’d put a logo on the jersey…

But we're in this for the long haul. We are looking to compete at the very highest levels. We're currently riding the Tour of Britain, the fourth-most watched cycling race in the world. Above that, there’s only the “grand tours”… the Tour de France, Tour of Spain, Tour of Italy…

You'd have to be a world tour team to be in those. But we always say: Never say never. Just imagine if there was a plain jersey in the Tour de France. I mean, what an innovative, ground-breaking thing that would be… for the whole cycling ecosystem. 

We are in a hard world here – either we win a gold medal, or we don’t. We've got riders that are going to Paris, and we're got riders that are going to Los Angeles, and we’ll all get judged by what those riders achieve there. They either win a gold medal or they don’t – this is a results-driven world. But I think that's a good thing. Our successes are a badge of excellence, to be worn with pride.

Saint Piran are looking to compete at the very highest levels.

What do partnerships mean for Saint Piran?

Our outlook is: How can we really work with our partners? So for example, we're starting to do an awful lot through our Service Course website, which is all about showcasing brands that have provenance. And we test out all the brands that we work with. We started off by working with brands close to us, in the cycling industry… but cycling is a big ecosystem! We have a range of connections from there to driving vehicles, to chefs, to nutritionists… When you start looking at the whole ecosystem, cycling actually connects everywhere.

And I think we have a very strong offering here… that unbranded jersey makes us ubiquitous, we can work with anybody, and everybody. For example, we just started up with a new nationwide partner: Bikeability. They have just had a £500,000 funding boost, to get kids learning how to ride bikes. So now we’re thinking about how we communicate to those students, in order to make their journeys better.

For me as a director, I like to learn about our partners’ journeys as well. What are their challenges, what’s their big direction? It's that kind of world-class mentoring that I've got in my locker, so I want to hear from people! Because we can only do this together. It has to be that kind of commercial model where everybody gains, in order to drive it forwards.

So finally – let’s talk about Alvio. Who are you looking to partner with on Alvio, and what role do you see this playing for Saint Piran in future?

We’re looking for partners across the whole supply chain, whether it be manufacturers, retailers, distributors… Because what we found is, we have a truly unique product here, but Alvio can help us to then take that to the marketplace. 

It's all about the digital age now, and I don’t think most professional sports teams really engage with this enough. It certainly wasn’t our background – honestly, we didn’t know what we were doing in the digital space at all. So we're not going to be able to do any part of that journey without collaboration. 

How we’re working with Alvio now is starting to change our conversations across all aspects. And that has meant changing our working practices, bringing us up to speed… which is hard! Because we’ve been really pattern-driven, like most people in business are: it's far easier to just stay where you are. But we have already seen how this model is going to transform our business.

I think there’s a natural balance here too – because in return, you have got hold of something with us which is very rare. Very rare. One of the strengths of Saint Piran is that we’re a massive, eyes-on platform. We got all this way without sponsors! So this is a really good working relationship, a mutually valuable partnership. And we see this relationship as crucial now to our development, survival, our sustainability…

The more we work together, the stronger we are. If you add up all those years of experience between us, all that drive and enthusiasm, innovation… that sums up our relationship with Alvio at the moment.

Alvio is a digital concern… but it’s one that knows how to work with humans too. We see Alvio as a people-based business. That’s unique in this industry, and it really resonates with us… because Saint Piran is all about the people. When you get past all the technology, ultimately, people want to work with people.

What you tend to find in professional sport is that we’re always looking in the mirror… looking at what happened last month, or six months ago. But by changing our focus to the future, to new possibilities, it is helping us to transform our business. 

I couldn't do it again, I couldn't do the last seven years again. It simply could not be done. It’s been exponential. But what we do in the next five years… Now that is a very interesting question.

As we like to say at Saint Piran: Never say never.

Saint Piran, an Alvio partner, are competing now in the Tour of Britain.

Find Out More About Saint Piran on Alvio

Massive thanks to Richard Pascoe for taking the time to talk with us – especially at such a busy point in the team's history, while their riders are out competing in the Tour of Britain! We certainly know who we’re cheering for in that race.

You can become part of the Saint Piran journey yourself, through an Alvio partnership – check out Saint Piran on Alvio for more information.

Alternatively, for any other questions, or to get your own brand featured on our network, simply sign up for your own Alvio profile – or send us an email. We’d love to hear from you!


Recent Articles

View all
How to Fix the Broken Cycling Industry

How to Fix the Broken Cycling Industry

Earth Day 2024

Earth Day 2024