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Jim McFarlane, Endura MD – “It’s about Cycling, and only Cycling”

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Jim McFarlane

He started making shorts on the kitchen table, his suppliers used to manufacture his products inside out; but he’s just recruited double world champion, ‘Big Bob’ Hayles to ride for and manage his UCI Continental team – things have come a long way for Jim McFarlane!

It’s November, and even though they’ve had plenty of wins this season, Jim’s Scottish-based Endura Racing team is putting this year behind them, and making plans for next term. We thought it was about time that we found out a bit more about the team plans, and it’s title sponsor.

Jim McFarlane
We met the Endura Racing team at their launch earlier this year.

We met Jim at the Endura headquarters in Livingston, a 3000 square metre facility just 30 minutes west of Edinburgh, and began by asking him his thoughts on the ’09 season for Endura Racing;

“Well, I think it’s fair to say we expected a bit more than we got, but there are several reasons for that. We’ve been relatively unlucky this season, where the season before [when Endura was a secondary sponsor to the PedalPower team] we were relatively lucky.

“We’ve had three key riders suffer broken collarbones, but nonetheless we’ve had some pretty good results.”

It’s not been a bad year, then?

“It’s true – we’ve done well in the Scottish Super Six series, and other domestic races, and Evan and Ross have brought some needed strength and breadth to the team with several brilliant rides further afield, but we’ve had a few unpleasant surprises too.”

Ross adds the Scottish Road Champs to his palmares.
Ross adds the Scottish Road Champs to his palmares.

Like the Tour Series?

“Yes, in the first two races we came dead last – that was a bit of a shock, and it certainly motivated us to lift ourselves off the bottom. By the time the Tour series was here, we were lacking a bit of strength, with riders leaving the team to go to university or getting a job outside of cycling. That’s why we got Ross and Evan on board, to give us that extra dimension.

“But we’re not about just hiring riders through offers – I believe that if you live by the chequebook you die by the chequebook. The riders need to be compatible with each other, with the team ethos, and be capable of providing us with the feedback that we require, so we’ve been employing a gentler, broader approach.”

Why have the UCI Continental Licence, and all the hassle and expense it takes?

“Well, we’re certainly going to make the most of it next season – and right now it’s all about next year, we’re aiming to be one of the top four teams in the UK.

“Our goal is to secure an invitation to the Tour of Britain, following a good showing in the Tour Series. Officially, only Premier Calendar races count towards ToB entry though, so we’ll be racing beyond the Scottish border much more frequently.

“We’re proud of our Scottishness, but we don’t want to limit ourselves to being ‘just a Scottish team’ – we’re a Scottish company after all, but we’re selling our products globally, Endura is the largest brand of cycle clothing in the UK now, and we have established – or are nearly ready with – distributors all around Europe, Russia, Australia, Scandinavia, South Africa, the USA, Canada, and the Far East.

“So, in order to be able to do what we plan, our financial commitment to the team will be far greater next year, around eight times what it was this year and into six figures, and we’re going to have a women’s team as well.”

Evan joined part-way through the season.
Evan joined part-way through the season.

Have there been lessons learned this year?

“Absolutely. One of the key areas has been in management and direction. Endura came a little late to the team, and we were a bit green really – we should have started getting involved much earlier, for example the rider roster was already a ‘done-deal’.

“Another example; we were planning on riding the FBD Insurance RÁS in Ireland, but when it came down to it, we didn’t have the money left to even send a team, so we’ve maybe had some lessons in budgeting too.”

One of the race team’s purposes is to help with product development?

“Yes, the guys will prove our products in their racing – that’s really the reason for us getting involved in racing in the first place. We have some new products coming out soon, most noteably the Equipe clothing range, and the team will be central to developing and testing that range, as well as publicising it.

“This year they’ve provided great feedback on different ideas and technologies we’ve tried out, and they have really become involved in the detail. There’s a lot of crossover these days with road and mountainbike clothing technologies, and the differences in the two scenes are becoming more and more blurred.”

Are you constantly researching and developing new products?

“All the time. We’re building a new facility here to free up some print-production equipment and do even more on-site, we’re manufacturing more than ever here, in-house, and it’s going really well. In fact, we can’t keep up with the growth.

“We are keen to do as much here as possible, so that we can keep everything to the right quality. We invest heavily in Quality Control, and operate to military-standards of QC, ensuring that our products are to standard by lots and lots of testing we check and double check, all the time.

“We’re using the same Italian mills as the more ‘luxury’ brand names for our textiles, and now we are there at the right level with the quality of our products too.

“We’re starting to find our own niche areas too, for example with our BaaBaa Merino wool base layers and technical nylons, which wash down like cotton. We’ve got some really great, technical road products now to match our mountainbike range.

“Incidentally, it’s not just the racing team that field-tests our products – pretty much everyone who works at Endura rides a bike, from myself and the other Directors Kevin and Pamela, through to the designers and marketing guys.”