Sunday, December 7, 2008
We all get over enthusiastic sometimes. We get inspired and are filled with energy and wind up taking on more than we should. When I first became president of the Atomic Race Team two years ago that wasn't really the case. I wasn't particularly inspired to work and raise money so a bunch of middle class, middle age, white men could dress in spandex and go around in circles on their bikes. Even if I was one of them. But someone had to be president and I was the sucker who raised his hand.
Don't misunderstand me, I love bike racing. On road, off road, commuting... it doesn't really matter. I think the sport is totally worthy of support and more people should be encouraged to try it. But I joined Atomic to support the sport, not to be supported. Maybe this seems like a minor point to some, but to me it is a big one. I didn't want to be given anything, I wanted to give to those who needed it.
I had, and have, a strong desire to throw my heart and soul into something that can become bigger than me, that has the ability to help people I haven't met yet, and might never meet. Maybe that's true of everyone, but it doesn't seem that way to me. What I mostly see is people working hard to benefit themselves, and maybe a few of their friends. I needed to be a part of something that had some sense of social responsibility as its prime mover.
So after a year as president, and doing very little, I got inspired. I began to see the junior program, which had begun to grow again thanks to Tom G, as a great capacity building tool that really could change lives. I realized that kids and parents really needed support and direction. I began to understand that promoting a race could be as much about building community as it could be about winning. I got inspired, I was filled with energy, and I got overenthusiastic. Some feelings were hurt, some undue stress was caused, and of course I regret that. But I think Atomic took a step in the right direction this year. We took a step away from pretending to be an "elite" group of racers and a step towards what has always been the best thing about Atomic: it's sense of community, it's ability to promote races and it's junior program.
The junior program, under the leadership of Tom G, is stronger than ever. Last year the team raised more money than it ever has and consequently sent more kids to road camp than ever and sent kids to mtb camp for the first time, ever. And it was not just one or two people raising funds, the whole team contributed by spreading the word and soliciting sponsors. Sunshine Cycles and Joe's Bike Shop provided the team with a very generous and unprecedented level of sponsorship. We bought, bartered and traded to get bikes and gear for kids who needed them. We put on safety demos at schools. We even hosted our own fall training camp in Dahlonega and spring camp in PCB. The team reimbursed more race fees to juniors than ever before and the junior racers themselves are developing fast, racing well and having fun doing it. Our juniors are good, talented kids that are a credit to the sport.
We promoted not one, but two race weekends, one road and one cyclocross. Jim and Kristen led the charge to promote the first ever criterium in the middle of downtown Tallahassee, a huge undertaking that burned up a lot of their vacation days and weekends. The downtown crit really had a sense of community about it. I think we came really close to hosting an ideal event and developed a great relationship with city officials and the Mayors office in the process. It promoted cycling in the city and surrounding counties by combining forces with CCC and becoming the Big Bend Cycling Festival and really created a buzz. Kristen even got on NPR with Mark Koch and spent an hour talking about cycling related issues in Tallahassee. Jim just promoted his second 'cross race in Tallahasse and I think everyone would agree that it was awesome.
We also hosted a weekly practice crit that allowed juniors and new comers to mix with more experienced riders, get some racing experience and and maybe even win some money. The practice crit and training camps, which could never have happened without the dedication of Tom G, really added to the teams sense of unity. With everyone so busy with their 9-5 lives it's hard to build team unity and these events really helped everyone get to know each other and support one another.
Looking back its seems hard to believe we accomplished so much. Although many of these things were done without the benefit of my help, I am very proud to have been a part of the team this past year. I hope the team continues, as it has for 8 years now, to promote races, support the sport of bike racing and help develop new junior riders. I hope they continue down the path of social responsibility and continue to distance themselves from any idea of being "elite" or exclusive. And I hope they kick ass, win every race they can and have fun doing it.