The question “Who is your favourite Tour de France cycling team?” is tricky to answer because of cycling’s labyrinthine naming conventions.
If your top team happened to be team Trek-Segafredo in women’s racing, all good. Google can find that team for you, and you can see the lineup and buy their kit to show support if you want.
But if you are a fan of the men’s Trek-Segafredo team, you’re out of date as it no longer exists. As of May 2023, that team is now called Lidl-Trek – a change so on the down-low that even our very own Dave Walsh didn’t know about it. And Dave is a walking, talking cycling encyclopedia.
Oh, and, if this isn’t confusing enough, women’s Trek-Segafredo was called Lidl-Trek for the first three years of its existence, until 2018.
Welcome to the weird world of team evolution in cycling.
What's in a name? In a word: money.
At least in cycling, unlike, for example, football. Manchester United is called Manchester United and has been since 1892, though it did start life as Newton Heath LYR Football Club in 1878. Football teams have lots of ways to make money, namely in their share of TV broadcasting rights, but also ticket sales, merchandise and, yes, sponsorship.
But a top football team,with matches broadcast globally on multiple channels like Sky sports, puts those team shirt sponsor logos in front of an audience of hundreds of millions, (billions if you count fans wearing the kit).
In cycling, it’s very different:
The three biggest cycling events, Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta España have all rights controlled by ASO, a French media organisation. ASO takes a more conservative approach to TV rights and isn't interested in signing deals with the likes of Sky Sports. As a result, globally recognised mega brands like Coca Cola, Nike or Red Bull have no interest in paying for TV ads with the reach these cycling events have.
So, cycling teams rely entirely on sponsorship and prize money as they have no share of TV broadcasting rights. And, even if they did, those deals wouldn’t be worth much compared with football because they’re limited to local media in the host countries.
As a result, sponsors are either cycling apparel or equipment brands, or random companies with die-hard cycling fans on the board, like supermarkets, phone companies or schools.
Like EF for example who sponsor one of the World Tour teams, currently called EF Education-EasyPost (EasyPost being an American shipping company, founded by Jarrett Streebin who is, you guessed it, a massive cycling fan).
The first part of the team’s name refers to EF Education who bought a controlling share in Slipstream Sports, the USA-based company that managed the team and bought the team’s UCI World Tour licence. This is what makes EF an American team by the way: they have a headquarters (or service course) in Colorado.
The licence owner and the sponsors funding the team get their profile-raising perk from being part of the name, mentioned any time the team is written or spoken about, not just seen on TV.
So, in its time, EF has been called Team Slipstream by Chipotle, Garmin-Slipstream, Garmin-Transitions (after Transitions Optical), Garmin-Cervélo, Garmin-Barracuda, Garmin-Sharp, Cannondale-Garmin and another six names until its current incarnation.
Each new sponsor means a name change and a new team kit with their name and logo on, making the old kit obsolete overnight – which is why we get sold so much ex-pro kit and can sell it on to you at such low prices.
It’s confusing, to say the least, and makes keeping track of your favourite team – whose riders, staff and service course remain relatively consistent across time – challenging.
If you want your team to keep one name and be easier to follow, you pretty much need to sponsor them and stay invested for the long haul.
But, if you’re a fan, it would be pretty cool to collect all the kits from the name changes.
We've might have the kit, but the constantly-updated Wikipedia is probably your best bet for the most up-to-date list seeing as you can't rely on Dave to be up-to-the-minute and the new sponsors don’t tend to want the old sponsor’s names cluttering up the team website!