Last year I got to be a part of a really cool thing. My Ironclad teammates helped me win a bike race that qualified me for a special Pro Chase team at the Nature Valley Grand Prix (NVGP) in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Staying in-step with the Oregonians before me, I managed to secure the top amatuer placing at this high-profile professional event and brought home the ‘green’ Cat 2 jersey.
My personal end result was a combination of hard work, suffering, having crazy fun times on the bike, and, most of all, it was made possible by teammates and a support crew extraordinaire. The Pro Chase event showcased top talent from across the country at the NVGP and it was a target for many up-and-coming racers each season. For us riders, it was a ticket to try your legs and grit against some of the top cyclists in the world. It was complete with a training camp, a director, mechanic, financial support for travel and race entry, all the fixin’s. It became a season goal of many and I was looking forward to cheering on the next Pacific Northwest woman who might earn the chance to try their hand at it this season.
I emailed a few folks involved with the Pro Chase from last season to see if the event was still alive. I knew there were a few Portland women who wanted to give it a go and there had been rumors that maybe the Pro Chase wasn’t happening this year since the race sponsor had changed. The rumor was confirmed after a few emails back and forth - no Pro Chase for 2014. Bummer. But the good news was that I met an enthusiastic gentleman named Chris Rivera. Chris is the Women’s Team Logistics Liaison for the Northstar Grand Prix (formerly NVGP). He let me know if there were women who were interested in riding on a composite team for the race, I could send them his way.
A quick list of talented Pacific NW riders popped into my head. I connected a few of them to Chris and we just kept chatting. An idea started to take shape in the progressively longer emails traveling back and forth between our inboxes. It soon became obvious that I should just try to make a whole team of Oregon/PNW racers and help them get to the race. This is where it turned into a design project. The need was defined - there are a handful of women who deserve to have a similar experience that I had last season. They deserve to go race at the National level with the support that makes it possible to race at the national level. I certainly am not overflowing with experience at this by any means, but I certainly know how to execute a design project, so game on.
Task 1 - learn the context and define constraints
The context is a landscape made mostly of humans, bikes, and a logistical puzzle. The constraint is money. Money is the thing that can prevent people from doing amazing things they love to do. Or, you can figure out ways to get just enough money by being creative and turning your largest constraint into the foundation of your design problem. If this seemingly large obstacle is approached with enthusiasm and a well-crafted group of collaborators, it becomes much smaller in your mind and entirely attainable.
Task 2 - assemble your collaborators
There is a grassroots non-profit named Let’s Race Bikes (LRB) in Portland and they are dedicated to getting more women racing road bikes. LRB is the most obvious partner for this project. To date, the focus of the group has been largely based around true beginners in the sport. LRB has been very successful in growing the women’s fields in and around Portland through outreach, free clinics and events, and raffling off free race entries. By partnering with LRB, we will be able to put some of the energy of the group toward another hurdle women face in racing - support getting to higher level races. The team name is Presented by Let's Race Bikes (PB:LRB).
We’ve also assembled a few other key contributors to this project. I’m always impressed and energized by the enthusiasm of folks in the Portland cycling community to support the growth of the sport, especially on the women's side. It strongly reinforces my belief that truly collaborative efforts and design is the best (only?) way to accomplish great things. To date, we’ve got some solid folks on board to fill these key roles: director, soigneur, mechanic, graphic designer.
So how can we raise enough money to send a team and support crew halfway across the country? Insert key idea man/general make-awesome-shit-happen dude, Jeremy Dunn. I was chatting with Jeremy about some unrelated stuff and I ended up telling him all about this team idea (naturally). I told him I was planning to approach some local businesses about sponsorship, but wasn’t really sure who. He suggested I design a sock, he would help me get it produced, and we could sell the socks to raise most, if not all, the money needed. This is the most perfect plan. Most people wear socks and like them to look cool. For those who don’t know, Jeremy and his wife, Julie, are the masterminds behind The Athletic (PDX Airport sock, anyone?). Jeremy provided the missing piece to the puzzle.
Task 3 - get to work
So, here we are. The sock design has been submitted to the manufacturer and all the pieces are moving into place. There will be a website coming soon on LRB that will have more details about the team, sponsors, SOCKS and how to buy them, and anything else you might want to know.
Stay tuned! In the meantime, get stoked on socks!