Home / News & Reviews / Sponsor Interview | Stephen Shawmarsh-Smith, Wahoo UK
Sponsor Interview | Stephen Shawmarsh-Smith, Wahoo UK

Sponsor Interview | Stephen Shawmarsh-Smith, Wahoo UK

"I manage Wahoo UK’s customer service team from a really cool office in London, overlooking the River Thames. It might be possible to support a professional team remotely, but it’s been so valuable to interact with Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK at their training camp, both for Wahoo UK and for the riders.   

Being a cyclist makes my job much easier, especially for events like team training camps. I could have written a presentation, and sent it over to the guys by email, but riding with them while they’re using the ELEMNT BOLT is so much more direct, and means I can resolve any queries instantly.

For example, one of my favourite features is being able to zoom in on the map as far as possible, before a descent, so that when you’re descending, you can identify the corners coming up. If it’s a hairpin bend, you’ll need to think about braking and your line through the corner, whereas if it’s a smoother curve, you can blast straight through.

Racing bike, handlebars, small computer mounted in front of handlebar stem, overhead shot

I was riding with Red [Walters] and mentioned this to him, and he wasn’t aware that you could zoom in on the map. So communicating features like that, when you’re with the riders, is instantaneous. Straight away they’re like: ‘Oh, yeah - cool.’ If I’d sent an email, they’d probably just delete it, thinking: 'I don’t need to see another presentation.'

I don’t think you can really quantify just how valuable it is to come to a training camp and ride with the team. Every single one of the riders made the effort to come and talk to us, which was great. It really lifted us and showed us that they appreciate what we do. At the same time, it’s valuable from the riders’ perspective. They now know me and Rowley [Clifford, UK Marketing Manager], and I don’t think any of them would have any qualms about picking up the phone and saying: “Steve, this happened today, how do I sort it out?”

Mikey Mottram had a small issue with his GPS signal dropping out, and he just rolled up next to me, told me what had been happening and I was able to advise him. Without the training camp, riders might not have felt they could just get in touch, if I had’t ridden with them and established that relationship. I think the camp has been invaluable in both directions.

Professional riders have a lot more understanding about the nature of cycling products than consumers. They’ll have used hundreds of products during their careers, and not just computers. They understand that in the first stages of using something new, there’ll be teething problems while they get to know the product and learn about its features.

Last year, Cherie [Pridham, team manager] had quite a young team. We held a couple of meetings with them last summer and I’m not sure if they really understood the value. For many of them, I think, it was just another partner day, and they thought: ‘Why am I doing this? It’s a rest day. I could be sat at home playing with my PlayStation.’

Cyclist, blue jersey, purple gilet, white helmet, riding up ramp, photographed from above

But with this group especially, you can tell that they appreciate the products. Many of them are very experienced – the likes of Ed [Clancy] and Graham [Briggs] – and they understand that the company is putting in quite a lot of money and don’t take it for granted. Graham first called me about three months ago. He just had a couple of little issues he needed ironing out. The guys can speak to Chez and she can email Rowley and he can pass it onto me, but if they want to call me directly, they can.

Wahoo has three teams in the UCI WorldTour, but their contracts are managed through our office in the States, and additionally we have a guy in Germany who works directly with Bora-Hansgrohe and Team Katusha Alpecin, because German is the first language of their support staff. He goes to all their team camps and will meet them at several races a year, which is good. If Wahoo said to me, ‘Steve, we need you to continue managing UK customer services, and support Team Sky, Bora-Hansgrohe and Team Katusha Alpecin,’ I’d never ride my bike!

Occasionally, we get involved with the big teams, but it’s not like working with Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK. We don’t have the opportunity to ride with the team or interact with the riders. Everything goes through the team management. It’s pleasure to work with the guys on Cherie’s team and to get to know them, as well as being mutually beneficial, in terms of getting the maximum from the product.

I’m really hoping to support the guys at some of the races this season. We’ll definitely be at the Tour de Yorkshire, and I’m going to try and get to as many rounds of the Tour Series as I can. Then at weekends, when I’m not racing, I’ll try and get out to others. The Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic will be a good one to go to, for example; not only will Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK be racing, but we also work with the Rutland Cycling shop.

Two cyclists, riding side-by-side, photographed from behind, black and white image

Beyond that, I’m hoping to support the team at crit races where they have an amateur race before the pro event. Rowley and I ride for a small, London-based team called Romance, with eight riders. Another nice thing about supporting a UCI Continental team is that sometimes you find yourself in the same race, much to our dismay, when they turn up on the start-line. Last year, I did a couple of road races and Mikey was there, racing for his previous team. You get your head kicked in, but it’s just another chance to meet the guys, say hello and see how they’re getting on.

I started with Wahoo a year ago now. I was the only one dealing with UK customer service at the time. We took on two guys at Christmas and I manage them, as well as dealing directly with Wahoo dealers and with some of our European distributors. Working with Rowley, I’ll resolve any issues that sponsored teams or riders might experience. To ride with Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK in Spain has been an amazing experience. Essentially, it’s work, but I can’t complain!"

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