The reason I ran Silber Pro Cycling for 5 years and now run Floyd’s Pro Cycling is simple: I want to help grow the sport.
One of the best aspects of cycling is being part of a community that is consistently up for challenging or easy rides, tough races, and really good coffee as you relax and recover with friends. I think growing this kind of cycling community is a good goal for neighbourhoods, youth programs, developers, city planners, tourism boards, and entire countries. I think this goal is good for all sorts of local businesses and national brands. It’s good for environmental and health programs. And I think growing the cycling community is a really good goal for a team of our size and stature. I get that there will always be naysayers or those that shrink from such outspoken idealism. Whatever. I want to grow the sport and I’m lucky: not one person involved in this team–riders, staff, sponsors–has expressed an ounce of cynicism about our goal. This is an entire team of well-meaning people.
Yes. Of course. In the face of such unabashed idealism is the slap of a complicated reality, but things could be worse. Last year was really tough. Teams were folding–including Silber. North American road race organizers were battling. The cycling media was rightfully wondering if the sky was falling. But then all the North American teams our size came back except UHC, who redirected sponsorship money to Rally and thereby stayed heavily invested in the sport. Gravel participation went through the roof. North American road fans started paying attention to the classics and races such as Strade Bianche because races through mud, across cobbles and in the rain were providing a sense of adventure that fans could relate to more than stage racing past castles in Europe. Others got into online racing; again, to be part of the action.
A distinctly North American brand of multi-surface bike racing is rapidly emerging. It is different than European road racing whose pinnacle is (was?) the Tour de France. For example, racing gravel is about the local. It’s not about heading to a destination climb like Alpe d’Huez. Gravel is about a challenging race followed by an after party with the local community, farm-to-table food, coffee and craft beer. It’s more about participating in an event than watching iconic athletes become part of sporting history. The Dirty Kanza or Paris To Ancaster are about being part of the atmosphere. They are not about whose won multiple times.
I don’t want to exaggerate: the shift away from fans supporting sporting heroes is only slight, but there is a notable rise of community pride through races such as the Cascade Cycling Classic or Canada’s Paris-to-Ancaster multi-surface race. Other shifts are also happening as the social life of cycling shifts gears. On Zwift you can race against pros but you can also ride with Team D.I.R.T. – Dads Inside Riding Trainers. They have over 1400 members on Facebook. Cycling communities are forming and morphing along different vectors online.
As this cultural phenomenon continues, let’s be clear: our team is a business and we want our riders to win. In that sense we’re ‘old school’ but we also want our racers to participate and be inspired by this new multi-surface, multi-dimensional breed of North American cycling. Road racing has an exciting role to play in this and perhaps a foundational role. We’ve just got to figure it out so that young Canadian and American cyclists will be part of an old school or new fangled community–and not lonely emulators of the greats who established their reputations in Europe.
I can’t say that we’ve accomplished a lot yet but Floyd’s support has provided an opportunity and check out the pics: we’re off to a good start. Our service course is in Tucson and in that city El Grupo Youth Cycling is where it is at. Teams riding with youth groups is nothing new but at different times throughout the year we’ll be riding the same bikes as the youths in this picture ride, and we’ve already started meeting them on their own terms and turf.