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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.

2017 Clarabella GROAD: Justin Trudeau’s American Cousin Wins

That’s right, and this is a real face that’s true, Rick Trudo, the Busch Light to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Molson, wins the 2017 Clarabella GROAD.  Continue reading “2017 Clarabella GROAD: Justin Trudeau’s American Cousin Wins”

The October Campaign

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October is stacked with races. Here is where we’ll be, plus one shameless plug for The Out’n’Back.

It can’t be the promise of great weather, but the races in October are maybe the most fixed and fascinating of the whole season. In the spring, the run of Lowell 50/Barry-Roubaix/Mud, Sweat and Beers is essentially set in stone for many riders Up North, but the pattern in October is perhaps more certain, and perhaps more important in the build-up to Iceman.

This year, it starts from the gun with the Clarabella GROAD race. The 50-mile course is relatively flat, and the field is small, but it’s a laid-back, low-key race that’s much harder than the profile would indicate. Last year, days of rain left the gravel thick with mud, but it didn’t do anything to dampen the enthusiastic riders looking to raise some cash for Heart of the Lakes. It brings plenty of people into downtown Clare, and if you can make it past that donut shop, there are great coffee joints, Ray’s Bike Shop is way cool, and the town itself is a real charmer.

The race, which is on October 1, moved away before the other big pinnacle of the month, Michigan Mountain Mayhem’s Gravel Grinder on October 7. Somewhat fittingly, the Gravel Grinder falls on the same day as Il Lombardia, “The Race of the Falling Leaves” that traditionally caps the professional season in Europe. With Boyne City at peak color and the promise of an incredibly tough race, in another state, it would happily serve as a similar sort of bookend to racing in Michigan, staring opposite the calendar from Barry-Roubaix.

The 60-mile race is brutally tough, with over 3,000 feet of climbing and, according to Paul, more seasonal road in this edition than in year’s past. The addition of that sand (because ‘seasonal road’ means exactly that) could open up the race to folks who only have a mountain bike, and since the race is in Northern Michigan, 1) everyone has a mountain bike 2) everyone is getting ready for Iceman it might be a good thing in drawing more riders to the event.

While it’s not a race, we’ve not-so-subtlely plugged The Out’n’Back on Sunday, October 15. We’re taking a look at the Iceman course with a few hundred people, and it makes for a pretty incredible bike ride. Seeing 150 or so people ride out from Timber Ridge, all laughing and chatting and catching up, really gets riders of all abilities excited for The Big Day. Like Iceman itself, you’ll see riders of all interests and all speeds, so if you show up, you’ll almost certainly find someone to ride along with.

It’s only another week until Peak2Peak. This race started as an Iceman tune-up event, but that just isn’t the case anymore. While certainly smaller, the race’s men’s and women’s elite fields are as stacked as any race in the state, on par with everything from Barry-Roubaix to Ore2Shore and, except for a Howard Grotts or Spencer Paxson, Iceman.

The course has been dismissed in the past as too easy or straightforward, but I couldn’t disagree more. The lap is essentially a drag race punctuated with a hill climb. Riders with loads of power work themselves into a lather for 11 miles, only to find the impish climbers bouncing past. Descending like stoners, the bigger riders have to pull the climbers back, only for the dance to begin again at the base of the climb. It’s race filled with riders gambling, pitting their strength against the strengths of the riders around them.

On October 28, the Lowell 50‘s fall edition gives riders from all over Michigan 57 miles to test their legs ahead of Iceman. The gravel event is an absolute heartbreaker. At any Lowell race, there are 30 riders capable of winning, and like a lottery, they try their luck in countless breakaways until one finally sticks. You can be in a dozen moves, but there is always one that makes it, and you simply have to be at the right place at the right time with the perfect legs.

It’s a busy time of year, and there are a dozen other great events to take on, too. What races are you looking forward to?

 

2017 Bear Claw Epic Recap: Hot, Hot Heat Brings Wins for KICKBUSH and Brockmiller

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91 degrees and dusty, the Bear Claw Epic brought the heat in 2017, and two worthy winners nabbed titles and cookies.  Continue reading “2017 Bear Claw Epic Recap: Hot, Hot Heat Brings Wins for KICKBUSH and Brockmiller”

Uncle John’s Dirty Ride: Donuts and Dust

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It’s one of the best races of the year, and not just because they have donuts. That doesn’t hurt, though.  Continue reading “Uncle John’s Dirty Ride: Donuts and Dust”

Why The Vuelta Isn’t Over Yet

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Vicenzo Nibali nabbed 41 seconds on Chris Froome on Wednesday’s brutal Stage 17 to Los Machucos.  Continue reading “Why The Vuelta Isn’t Over Yet”

What We’re On: Cody’s All City Mr. Pink

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The steel road bike that proves the #partybrand can make a damn fine race bike.  Continue reading “What We’re On: Cody’s All City Mr. Pink”

What We’re Riding: Brian’s SPEEDVAGEN

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After Wes’ Cannondale FSi, meet the steel-er, road-er, America-er, Vanilla Workshop Speedvagan. This is Brian’s main rig for rolling around Old Mission Peninsula and is truly one of the sharpest bikes you’ll see.  Continue reading “What We’re Riding: Brian’s SPEEDVAGEN”

2017 Giro d’Italia: Fantasy League, Favorites, And BOLD PREDICTIONS

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The 100th edition of the Giro starts this Friday, and we take a quick look at the route, the riders, and the fantasy cycling league.  Continue reading “2017 Giro d’Italia: Fantasy League, Favorites, And BOLD PREDICTIONS”

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