Today, Rapha announced the formation of the Rapha Foundation, a charitable organization that will be donating money to cycling non-profits on a biannual basis.
Nominated organizations in North America and across the world will be given the opportunity to apply for grants to support their programs that help develop the next generation of bike racers. Recipients of the first round of grants include: the USA Cycling Foundation MudFund, the Amy D. Foundation, the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), Boulder Junior Cycling and Star Track.
The formation of the Rapha Foundation continues the investment in cycling by both the London-based company and members of the Walton family.
Rapha was originally formed with the mission of growing the sport of road racing across the world. To that end, the company was a sponsor of Team Sky for a number of years before ending its partnership with the team three years ago.
After leaving the WorldTour, Rapha focused on the entire sport. “We embarked on a project to look into the state of professional cycling,” Rapha Central Marketing Director James Fairbank said. “That then took the form of the Rapha Road Map, a series we have been publishing in serialized form at VeloNews.”
“The reason we did that was to try and understand what was standing in the way of the sport developing. Rapha’s mission is to try to make cycling the most popular sport in the world. It’s a big audacious goal.”
The Rapha Road Map was accompanied by a broader focus across cycling disciplines, not just road. The company has a history in the dirt as a sponsor of the Rapha-Focus cyclocross team and then Jeremy Powers’ Aspire Racing program. This past season, Rapha signed as a sponsor of and content manager for the EF Education First WorldTour team, thanks in part to the team’s alternative calendar approach.
“We have been able to help tell the story of those races and the characters all participate in them. It’s a way to bring the team’s message to a more diverse cycling audience,” Fairbank said.
While the Walton family of Arkansas is a bit newer to the sport of cycling, the heirs of the Wal-Mart fortune have made up for lost time.
RZC Investments, the equity firm run by Tom and Steuart Walton, made a splash in the cycling world when it bought Rapha in 2017, and we recently saw the Walton Foundation help bring the 2022 Cyclocross World Championships to Fayetteville and Wal-Mart launch the Viathon bike brand. All of that is in addition to the money spent on developing the Oz Trails system in Northwest Arkansas.
All funding for the Rapha Foundation will come from the company’s shareholders, which means a majority of the funding for Foundation will come from the Waltons. For the Foundation’s launch, that amount of funding will be $1.5 million per year.
The Rapha Foundation Grants
From its launch, Fairbank said the Rapha Foundation has a clear mission. “The Rapha Foundation is a charitable foundation designed the support up and coming racers from across all disciplines of cycling. We want to provide money to organizations that are doing an exceptional job of developing the next generation of talent.”
Funding from the Foundation will take the form of grants given out twice per year, once in May and once at the end of the year. As mentioned above, the total funding the Rapha shareholders have committed is $1.5 million per year split up between those two periods.
Organizations have to be registered non-profits, and they have to submit a detailed application of how the money will be used. The first round of grantees, which includes the USAC MudFund and the Amy D. Foundation, demonstrates the goals of the grant program.
“When I joined, the company’s goal was to make road cycling the most popular sport in the world,” Fairbank explained. “Since then, we’ve gotten more ambitious but also broader. We’ve expanded to make it all types of cycling to continue to push the ambition.”
The first round of grantees are notably located in the U.S., thanks in large part to the non-profit legal structure the country uses. Future grants will have a U.S. focus, but they will also be given out internationally.
“In terms of the balance going forward, we will probably always have a 50-percent bias toward North America because that’s where we feel we can have a bigger impact,” Fairbank said. “There are more organizations there, and they seem to be working in a way that meets the Foundation’s aim. But then we will do 25 percent in the UK and EU and then 25 percent the rest of the world.”
The next round of funding will be given out in either November or December of 2019, and the twice-a-year program is expected to continue in future years. More information about how to nominate an organization is available at rapha.cc.
While the funding will be offered by the Rapha Foundation charitable branch, the content production team from Rapha’s business side will be contributing to the program as well. Rapha has taken over content production for EF Education First this season, and the company said it plans on using a similar approach to tell the stories of the grantees.
A Cyclocross Impact?
The launch of the Rapha Foundation caught our attention thanks in part to the inclusion of the Amy D. Foundation and the USAC’s Foundation MudFund as initial grantees.
Amy Dombroski is still sorely missed in the cyclocross community, but her memory and legacy have helped launch the careers of Rebecca Fahringer, Emily Shields and KK Santos and support the international riding of athletes such as Cyclocross Magazine columnist Corey Coogan Cisek. Through the Amy D. Foundation, we have seen first-hand the impact organizations that provide funding for women’s cycling can have on the overall health of the sport.
The MudFund within in the USA Cycling Foundation is a newer kid on the block. After Bogense Worlds, we chatted with Tim Johnson about the new program that will provide cyclocross-specific funding from the USA Cycling Foundation. Among the first acts of the new organization was the hiring of Jesse Anthony as the USAC Cyclocross Manager.
Tim Johnson said the grant will be used to expand the work Anthony is already doing as the Cyclocross Manager. One program Anthony has already identified for growth is the Talent ID system.
“The Talent ID program has a set form now, but there will be more opportunities made available across the country,” Johnson said. “Young riders will have more opportunities to get into the development pool and ride up to their abilities.”
As our coverage has shown, we are also partial to mountain biking, so it is also exciting to see NICA as a grantee as well. With participation in mountain biking at the Junior and high school level growing and NICA products literally winning XCO World Championships, it is hard not to notice the success of the program and perhaps wonder how cyclocross can replicate the incredible energy behind mountain biking the program has built.
“It’s just extraordinary,” Fairbank said about NICA. “There is nothing internationally that is comparable in terms of promoting the sport. It’s opening the sport up to a new generation; we’ve seen Kate Courtney winning. They got into it at an early age and stuck with it instead of going out onto the road.”
“Speaking of ’cross, it’s not an Olympic sport so you have to try to find creative sources of funding. Otherwise, you always end up like the forgotten child who gets stuck in the corner. Cyclocross isn’t that. It’s just this incredibly vibrant part of cycling that can get passed over because it’s not an Olympic sport.”