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Michigan Bikes.

Michigan writer, rider and ass-kicker. Name-taking available upon request, but at premium cost.

Want to Join a Bike Racing Team? Read This

Sponsorship in Really Amateur Bike Racing

It’s the time of year when cyclists start thinking about the 2018 race season. It’s seems like the perfect time to cash in on your incredible Iceman result to see if you can join a bike racing team, or move to the bigger team with fancier kits (hot pink, baby!). With an impressive 48th overall in the Men 52-53 year-old division at Iceman, you figure bike shops around the state are lining up to pay your entry fees and send you $5,000 worth of free kit.

If that’s what you’re hoping for, you’re going to be really disappointed. After talking with several bike shop owners and team Presidents, plus my personal experience, here’s a look and why you should join a bike team and what you should expect.

What to Expect from Your Sponsors

Despite what you might think, most bike shops aren’t raking in millions of dollars a year. Margins can be incredibly slim, winters exceptionally long, and “bike stuff” is usually the first to get cut from the family budget if the economy goes south. So for bike shops to offer team riders any on-going discounts to team riders, who often their biggest source of customers, it’s a direct hit to their bottom line. Sure, you’re out there flashing the colors at bike rides and races, but it’s not like you’re on ESPN Sportscenter or anything. The exposure is great, but exposure doesn’t directly pay the bills, y’all.

Even the top local riders pay for their kits. Most pay their entry fees, while only the most fortunate get reimbursed for their entry fees with podium results. If the fastest guys and gals in the state are ponying up to race, it’s ambitious for us mere mortals to expect much more than high-fives for 30th.

This is What Annoys Sponsors

Nothing, and I mean nothing, annoys sponsors more than when one of their team riders show up to a bike shop on a brand the shop doesn’t carry. Even if you’re completely broke (but somehow in the market for a new bike) it’s crucial that you talk to your bike shop sponsor before you buy a bike from eBay or another shop. You’d be surprised what incredible deal the shops are willing to offer people on the team – some sweet rides can roll out of a bike shop owner’s garage for the right team member.

And by “right team member” I don’t mean the fastest. Team members who support the shop by going to team rides, wearing their kit all the time, and referring customers back to the shop for helmets, bikes, shoes, and kit are a bike shop sponsor’s dream. Bike shop owners would rather have a guy or gal who routinely finishes dead last every race but refers customers to the shop, highlights the shop in social media, and is a positive shop ambassador way more than a guy who wins races but doesn’t go to the shop once all year.

Oh, and if you brag about getting a “sweet new helmet for 30% on Competitive Cyclist” then don’t do it within earshot of the bike shop guys. The bike shop folks fix your bike and bend over backward to accommodate their customers – Competitive Cyclist ain’t going to do that for you. Support your local shops.

Why You Should Join A Team

If your motivation to join is only to “get stuff” from joining a team, then no matter who you ride for, you’re going to be thoroughly discontented. Before you join a team or switch teams, think about how you can help that new team and its sponsors. Can you support the shop by shopping there? Will you show up to team and group rides? Do you think you’ll play an active role in marketing the shop within the cycling community? If you think you can add value to the team and its sponsors, join up! But if you go into the relationship (and it’s exactly that – a relationship) only worrying about what you’ll get out of it, you’re going to really bummed out. On the flipside, if you’re a loyal, active member of the bike team sponsors will do some incredibly generous things to show their appreciation. Keep this in mind during amateur cycling’s silly season. Also remember that’s just amateur bike racing. They’re just jerseys. Don’t get too worked up about wearing a specific one.
Wes Sovis is the chubbier Sovis twin, but his student loans are paid off, so he’s got that going for him. Follow him on Instagram or Strava, but don’t follow him to his car. Super creepy.

Wheelie Good Reads: Draft Animals by Phil Gaimon

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If you follow Velonews, CyclingNews, or any other major cycling website, you’re bound to have heard about Phil Gaimon’s comments claiming Fabian Cancellara allegedly using a motor in his bike during his heydey – specifically during his wins at Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. The comments came out in Gaimon’s new book; Draft Animals: Living the Pro Cycling Dream (Once in a While). The cycling media had a field day with the comments, writing numerous stories until Fabian Cancellara’s legal team threatened legal action against Gaimon unless the publisher took the book off shelves. The book is still on the shelves, I think. It’s definitely still available on Kindle. Pretty sure when something is on the Internet, you can’t take it off. Just science.

Before we do any sort of review of the book, we sort of have to address these comments to get them out of the way. First, if you follow Gaimon at all on social media or watch his interviews, you know he’s an opinionated individual. That is, of course, a very kind way of saying he’s a total smartass. That comment was just one of many in the book that tell the dirty secrets of the very corrupt, very dirty world of professional cyclists. Keep in mind – an entire generation of professional cyclists injected EPO, a drug initially manufactured to help cancer patients, in order to win bike races. The idea of a guy putting a motor in his bike shouldn’t be far-fetched at all, considering it’s happened at lower levels of the sport. More than once.

So, about the book. If you liked his first book, Pro Cycling on $10 a Day, you’ll absolutely love his follow-up effort. Draft Animals is another book that tells the nitty-gritty of being a pro at the highest levels of the sport and dealing with the, well, complete bullshit that is professional cycling. Stories of riders buying their way onto teams, learning to tolerate and ride with former dopers – some repentant and others showing no remorse – and having probably the most crooked boss ever in the form of Jonathan Vaughters. Just like his comments on Cancellara, Gaimon pulls no punches when it comes to people, organizations, or well, anything. The man is nothing if not consistent. And extremely sarcastic.

phill cookie
The dude loves cookies. Don’t we all?

 

It’s refreshing to read a cycling book that is real and honest. If you’ve read any of David Millar’s books, or Wiggins’, or even Froome’s, you’ll know that cyclists have a habit of being woefully softly-opinionated and out of touch with reality. Phil realizes that even though he works his ass off on the bike, eats right, and makes enormous sacrifices in the pursuit of success, at the end of the day he’s just a marketing piece to his sponsors and his team. In this book, readers see just how transactional the relationship can be between team and rider, team and sponsors, and sponsors and rider. For evidence, Phil refers us to the relationships between Lance and Trek and Nike. Trek made tens of millions of dollars as a direct result of Lance’s success – knowing full-well how he was winning those Tours de France. The same day their cash cow admits to his sins, he’s dumped by Trek and Nike.

Phil (and me, for what’s it’s worth) still thinks Lance is a horrible human being. But he was the most successful horrible human being in a sport riddled with liars and cheats. And when you read about Phil’s scraping to get by even at the peak of his career, praying and begging for contracts even after excellent performances as a team helper, it makes his resistance to doping even more admirable.

Gaimon is a terrific writer. Humorous, moving, with an unwavering dedication to keeping the bullshit to a minimum. I’d highly recommend this book. While annoying as hell on social media, Phil comes across extremely well-rounded and aware of his responsibility as a role model to his readers. He’s one of the few people who will say, “No, maybe you shouldn’t follow your dreams. It might kill you and you probably won’t make it anyway.” And for that, he’s one of the few honest people in a sport that has seen more than its fair share of charletons and snake oil salesmen.

You can buy Draft Ancharlatansyour Kindle, but you should probably support your independent bookstore instead. To that end, I’m not even going to link to the book on Kindle. Don’t Google it. Thanks.

Wes is best known for being Cody’s less cool twin brother. You can follow him on Instagram. He has a blog, too, and you can view it here.

Friday Night Lights at Brew 11/17

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This Friday, we’re going back to fat with the first big night ride of the year, and it’s all for a darn good cause, too.  Continue reading “Friday Night Lights at Brew 11/17”

ZWIFT Unveils Virtual Out’n’Back Course!

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That’s right, virtual training software developer Zwift has just opened up an incredibly realistic map of the Iceman Cometh Challenge Out’n’Back ride.  Continue reading “ZWIFT Unveils Virtual Out’n’Back Course!”

2017 Iceman Cometh Week Primer

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This Saturday, the fever breaks and a few thousand people in spandex make the trip from Kalkaska to Traverse City in search of glory, beer, and a ride home.  Continue reading “2017 Iceman Cometh Week Primer”

Thanks, Pre-Ride (And Bathrooms): Will Unger’s Peak2Peak Story

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Norte Youth Cycling’s Will Unger submitted this entry on the benefits of a pre-ride. Will and the Norte squad were out in force at Peak2Peak, and their strong performances were the result of months of training, careful preparation, and a well-timed team recon of the course.  Continue reading “Thanks, Pre-Ride (And Bathrooms): Will Unger’s Peak2Peak Story”

2017 Peak2Peak: A Real Boxing Match of A Bike Race

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In weather more suited for July than late October, one of the biggest editions of Peak2Peak saw sun, speed, and one of the fastest fields in the event’s 12 years.  Continue reading “2017 Peak2Peak: A Real Boxing Match of A Bike Race”

The Out’n’Back: RIP Drivetrains

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It was muddy, windy, wet, and somewhat cold, but after The Out’n’Back, we’re ready to shoot the J. Shoot it.  Continue reading “The Out’n’Back: RIP Drivetrains”

2017 Peak2Peak Preview: A Baker’s Dozen Worth Of Winners

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It’s a battle of the acronyms and legends, with OAM taking on 3T Q+M in Thompsonville.  Continue reading “2017 Peak2Peak Preview: A Baker’s Dozen Worth Of Winners”

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