When I was riding for my collegiate cycling team, we were invited to a road riding camp limited to Wheelwomen. Three pro cyclists, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, Amber Neben, and Jessica Phillips Van Garderen, gave up their time to help us newbies learn the ropes. They led rides, offered clinics on nutrition and form, and encouraged us to push our own limits. The camp garnered lots of support from local cycling companies as well as some big name sponsors. It was, frankly, totally awesome. And it was all for us girls.
The mentoring I received from former Specialized-Lululemon rider, Teutenberg propelled me toward a future filled with road bikes. Because she gave so willingly of her time–a serious superstar within the sport of women’s cycling–I wanted to give back in a small way. Long story short, her support of up and coming riders led me to discover a very cool opportunity: Project X. I got in touch with Kristy Scrymgeour, owner of the Velocio Sport’s team (currently Specialized-Lululemon). She offered me some insight into the state of women’s cycling today, and passed along some advice as to how we as fans and cyclists can show our support to help build a future for ladies of the peloton.
Project X? Heck Yah.
So why should we be excited about Project X? Well, Team Specialized-Lululemon is set to lose its sponsors this year. I know, pretty lame. But actually pretty cool because it offers us as fans the opportunity to become “club members” of the team. You read that right. You can buy into a pro cycling team. How cool is that? Oh, and in return for your support, you’ll also receive perks–meaning that you could get an official team kit with your name printed on it, or maybe even a ride with Big George Hincapie himself. Pretty sweet, right?
If you’re still not sure why this is such a rare and incredible opportunity, you may not quite have caught the bug for pro women’s cycling. Perhaps that’s because you haven’t watched one of their races. Kristy Scrymgeour laid out a few of the challenges facing the ladies of the peloton these days–mostly it deals with media exposure: “Most of the races aren’t televised, (although we see that slowly changing), therefore it’s difficult to provide any real data on ROI for potential sponsors,” says Scrymgeour.
I immediately understood what she was saying here. Even La Course by Le Tour de France, which was fantastic for getting some footing under the sport, still wasn’t televised on the same station as The Tour. Although it was offered on the Universal Sports Network in the US, that happens to be a premium sports channel in most TV lineups–outside of the normal Tour viewing audiences on NBCSN. Those of us who were excited for La Course were forced to either search the internet for streaming coverage, or to watch a short recap during the final Tour de France stage broadcast.
But we fans can change that problem.
We can start by following our favorite women’s teams on social media (look for the links I’ve posted below). Pretty simple, right? Scrymgeour says, “Social media . . . is responsible for creating growth of late . . . if we can build the exposure, we increase the ROI and we grow our fan base. An increased fan base will grow the demand of visibility and also grow the future of the sport by giving young girls role models.”
Why Support Project X?
Because women’s cycling is gaining impetus. And how often do you have the opportunity to get into something when it’s just starting to grow? Even if you decide that crowd funding isn’t for you, you can still help build the sport. First off, become a fan. If you’re reading this blog, you’re likely already into cycling in some shape or form. Get on your bike and, as Scrymgeour rightly suggests, “just ride and continue to invite more and more women to try out the sport. Create women’s group rides, go and watch the women’s racing if it comes to your town and be active on social media.”
Let the brand name companies who might help to get behind the sport as sponsors know that women ride bikes too. Tell them you’re there to support their business and the women’s peloton. We need to show everyone that men and women have equal passion for one of the greatest sports out there–that, in turn, will help grow our options for gear, clothes, and events. It’s kind of a major win-win.
OK, Let’s Do This
Either way, definitely follow your favorite teams on social media to show your support for their efforts. Here are a few links to get your started: Team TIBCO, UHC Pro Cycling Team, Optum Pro Cycling, Specialized-Lululemon (Velocio Sports), and Lotto-Belisol. This is certainly not an exhaustive list. Do a search for your local team or club, and get involved!
As for me, I just need to dip into my savings account for an extra $500 to get a full team kit with SLO Cyclist printed on the sleeve. Plus, if someone heckles me for wearing a Pro Tour kit, I can just respond by pointing to my name and bragging about being a team sponsor. I love bragging. And just think, that could be you too.
Want more info? Check out the videos that the ladies of Velocio Sports have put together: