(highlight) If you’re at a baseball game, sitting up in the last row of the bleachers, drinking a beer, you’re having a lovely time, right? You are enjoying the sunshine, you are enjoying a tasty beer, you are out with friends. It is a nice time. If you go to the velodrome, or the bike race, they pass by your face. If you’re in turn four …
Yeah. If you’re the wrong place …
They pass by your face within inches, and you feel the wind go by, and you feel the sport. I think that, that’s the difference. Whenever I’ve sold sponsorship for bike racing, the ticket is to get people out to see it and feel it, because of it is, it’s sound, it’s color, it’s movement. It’s all tied together in a way that I don’t think other sports are. That’s then the magic in it, right? It’s something that you’ve done. You’ve ridden a bike. I’ve never played major league baseball, but I’ve ridden a bike and I can appreciate the effort that goes into it. (/highlight)
(chapter) Hello, I’m Craig Constantine. Welcome to the Movers Mindset podcast, where I talk with movement enthusiasts to learn who they are, what they do, and why they do it. This episode is with Joan Hanscom, racing, outreach and intense passion. Bike racing is Joan Hanscom’s life, from racing for fun to professionally organizing races, to running an entire bike racing organization. She’s done it all. Joan talks about all things bike racing, from how she got started, to organizing, to the challenges facing women in the sport.
She discusses her work at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center, and the importance of outreach and the larger picture. Joan shares her insights on passion, training, podcasting, and what a career in the sport means to her. Joan Hanscom is a cyclist, a podcast host, and the executive director at Valley Preferred Cycling Center. Her love of the sport helped her build a unique career in race promotion and production, working with organizations such as the US Grand Prix of Cyclocross, Cyclocross World Championships, and USA Cycling.
Currently, Joan is the executive director of the Valley Preferred Cycling Center in Trexlertown, PA, and hosts the Talk of the T-Town Podcast. For more information, go to moversmindset.com/podcast. Thanks for listening.
Intro to Cycling [2:29]
(chapter) Hi, Joan. Welcome. And it’s my distinct pleasure to get a chance to talk to someone from the local, well, the velodrome with a lower V, or the Valley Preferred Cycling Center. I want to just start there by saying thanks for taking the time to come over. I know it wasn’t super far, but I do appreciate you taking the time out of your schedule, and I think race season, we have one more, I was just getting reamed out, because I haven’t been there in a while, and she’s like, “You have to go on Friday?” Let’s start with a little bit of, I think, obvious, but I want to go in a weird direction with it.
Some of the things I read, you were talking about your introduction to bicycling as, I’m going to say being special, if I can put some words in your mouth. I think that, that is a challenge for anybody, whether or not they want to do … Well at times we’re talking about parkour [inaudible 00:03:19] plus mountain, going outside and running, jumping a plane, but whatever they’re doing, getting started is really the hard part. I’m wondering if you can point to anything in particular about, either about the Artemis group or about particular people or like, was it literally the first three seconds? What about your introduction to bicycling was so magical?
Well, I’ve ridden a bike forever. We all learn when we’re little kids, or we used to all learn when we were little kids. That’s not so much the case anymore, but I learned to ride a bike when I was a little kid. My mother was a very nervous person. She was a lovely person, but she was a very nervous person, and so she would let me literally ride around the one block in front of our house, which really did prepare me for criterium racing, let’s be honest.
She let me do this one block around the house forever. I would go out for hours and hours and hours and hours, and it would just be this one block over and over and over again because that’s all I was allowed to do.
The world’s worst crit.
One block crit, but I was four, so it was okay [inaudible 00:04:21] going. I always loved riding my bike, but then I went down a pathway of pretty seriously pursuing ballet for a long time. Then when the ballet thing was over and a bunch of other athletic pursuits were over, I sort of rediscovered the bike and I was riding a lot. Then I started doing Do Athlons because I had been running marathons, and so I was like, oh, I like running. I like bikes. Let’s do the both things together.
Just do them at the same time back to back. That would never occur to me.
But then it turned out that I wasn’t terribly good at running. I liked it, but I wasn’t terribly good at it. I thought, well, I am good at the bike part, so I want to try racing bikes. In the fledgling days of the internet, found Artemis racing online, and I thought, well, I’ll just show up at this open house they were having and see what it’s all about because I’m curious about it. What they did was really unique in my experience, in that they did it in the fall. Rather than saying, hey, here’s a half hour clinic before your first race, they did it in the fall and they did it over two days, and they sort of gave you the entire overview of this is what road racing is, this what criteriums are, this is what time trials are.
And they gave you this whole big packet of information while you’re sitting in a lecture room. So, it was in a nature center. I remember it being in a nature center. It was really cool. Then they said, okay, in the afternoon session, we’re going to go out and we’re going to practice some skills, and we’re going to bump into each other and ride on the grass and do all these wacky things that I’d never done before.
Bicycle jealous thing, right?
But they broke it down in such a nice and digestible way for a person who was completely on the outside. What that did was take away all the scary. So, they said the day, if you had fun today, please come back tomorrow. We’re going to do a group ride. And if you like the group ride, then come back and do more group rides. What I have experienced in my 20 plus years of racing bikes now is that you don’t normally get that thorough of an introduction anymore. So, they broke out into tiny digestible bits. First, we’re going to learn some skills, then we’re going to do some group rides, then we’re going to invite you on the big local group rides, and then we’re going to step …
But then, by then, it’s spring, right? Because you’ve been doing all these things all along and, oh, look, there’s a training crit series that’s coming up. So, we’re going to race the training crit with you. We’re going to be with you at your first bike race. So, we’re going to teach you how to pin on a number. We’re going to teach you how to sneaky, go behind a building and pee. We’re going to teach you how all the things that you need to know for bike racing. By doing it that way, when you finally rocked up to your first real race, A, you had teammates. B, you felt completely prepared, and it was this entry into the sport that you felt ready for, as opposed to being like, yeah, okay. I rode on Zwift all winter. I have no idea how to steer my bike.
But I’m strong as shit, and now I’m gonna rock up to this local race and have no idea what I’m doing. It was this whole progression of having you prepared. For me, because I’m a person with OCD, real life clinical OCD, that preparation and that repetitive nature of it, and that being in this sort of process of becoming a bike racer made a huge difference. I don’t think I would still be racing bikes today if I hadn’t been brought into it in this very, A, welcoming, but B, very methodical step by step, here’s the process of being a bike racer. For me, that was the sort of the magic of it, was that it laid a beautiful foundation for something that I now enjoy, even though I’m significantly older and slower than I was back then.
But it was that foundational piece. What was also sort of amazing about that is that I’m still friends with the women who were the mentors to me back then, which is amazing, that Cheryl Osborne and Evelyn Egizi, I still consider them friends, even though I’ve moved all over the country. We always seem to reconnect and come back. Cheryl’s at the track all the time. And now I lured her into being on our board of directors.
I was going to say to that. [crosstalk 00:08:53] that, right?
It was this, just this amazing connection that was forged through bike racing, but it was just this methodical way of bringing you into the sport, preparing you to succeed in the sport that I think sometimes is missing now. The clubs don’t exist in the same way, so you don’t get that methodical preparation to be brought into the sport the same way, which to me was really valuable.
Movement through life [9:17]
(chapter) You obviously mentioned riding around the block literally, and I have nothing but bad horror stories from the couple of criteriums that I raced. Didn’t go well, but that was my fault, not the crit’s fault. I’m wondering, what else did you do? You got into ballet, but that was more like in adulthood, as you came out of high school.
No, I started when I was four years old.
Oh, because I was going to say, what else did you do for movement? What role did movement play as you were growing up?
My parents made me do all the things. There was a little tiny ski hill in our neighborhood, like right behind my grammar school, so I learned to ski when I was little. It was a two chair lift, tiny little ski hill, figure skating, gymnastics, swimming lessons. I did all the things, and I was terrible at all of them. Not a good ball sport person. I was actually an okay skier, but I was definitely not good at the ball sports, but the ballet stuff I really loved. Eventually all the other things just fell away and they didn’t make me do all the things anymore. They let me focus on the one thing that I really likes.
Did they do that on purpose? Did they …
Oh yeah, for sure. They wanted me to be well-rounded. There was ballet school, art classes, flute lessons, the whole thing. They wanted me to be well rounded, but then they wanted me to pick the one that spoke to me, and so they gave me that freedom to pick the thing that I loved the most, and that was the ballet school. I did that all the way through college with hopes of being a real ballet person, which did not work out for myriad reasons, including having stubby legs.
I wouldn’t say you have stubby legs, but okay.
Well, back then, that was a long time ago. At that point, there was a very distinct ballet gene aesthetic, where you had to have very long legs in a very short torso, and ideally a very long neck and a small head. That was a very specific aesthetic. When you would go to auditions, they would give you a card. Because this is analog days. You would go for an audition and they would literally measure the length of your like tibia to the length of your femur. Then they would do the …
And they’d write that on your …
Yeah. You were like …
It was, honest to God, like you were a pony at a auction. That are usually like, she has strong haunches. That was what it felt like when you would go to these auditions because you’re just like, oh yeah, my length of femur to length of torso ratio is not good. But I think that’s changed a lot in the intervening years, ut back then, that was really the long leg, short torso, tiny head, like aesthetic.
That’s brutal. I mean, I know-
I had a tiny head. I was good for that.
I least thought it was brutal, but that’s more brutal than I had imagined.
Oh yeah. Yeah, that was the intervening years.
If you’re that far into ballet, I’m guessing you really weren’t bicycling even casually, do you remember the first time that you got back on a bike?
Well, my brother helped me get a bike when I was in high school. Even though I was pursuing the ballet stuff pretty rigorously, my brother got me a bike. It was black and I think it was Concordia. Concordia? It was black and gold, and it was beautiful, and I loved it. I took it to college. When I was in college, I definitely rode it a lot. I went to school in Boston and so I would go up and down the Charles River as fast as I possibly could. I definitely was back on the bike by college, like pursuing, going as fast as I could, even though it was just for fun by myself. Yeah.
But you didn’t find a group there, you didn’t find a clique, didn’t fall in with anyone.
Not really, in my school, at the time, didn’t have a club that had women on it. They had a cycling club, but it was all boys. Again, kind of old. Yeah, there wasn’t an opportunity when I was there, but that’s definitely changed now.
Well, that’s changed for the better, and from a lot of the things I was listening when you were talking to Evelyn, and I forget the other woman’s name.
That interview where you were talking to them on the board of directors, it was clear that there has been a lot of progress, but there’s still a long way to go in terms of equal representation within the sport of bicycling. One of the things, I don’t know, I do so much reading and then it’s like, when did I read that?
Women in cycling [13:47]
(chapter) But you mentioned, one of the things I read, is you mentioned that there are whole tiers missing, so you could be a beginner bicyclist, and just because you’re a woman, yeah, choose. Do you want to be in the novice? Which could be people who are literally doing their first race ever, or do you want to ride with the people who are doing this for real Zs.
That’s like jumping in the shark tank. I hadn’t really thought about that there might be whole layers to the cake that are missing. I mean, all right, it seems to me, it’d be really sucky if you’re in a group. All right, you’re going to do a race, and there’s like two other competitors. You’re like, well, this really doesn’t feel like riding in a group. You’re missing certain aspects of it, but it hasn’t occurred to me that it’s like, you actually might have a fewer or smaller array to choose from.
Yeah. That’s one of the unfortunate parts of our sport. That’s ebbed and flowed too. There have been periods of time when I think women’s racing is more robust than others. And it also depends on, I think, the personal leadership. There’s always got to be one person who’s hyper motivated to make change. When I was racing with Artemis way back 20 years ago, Evelyn Egizi was very like driving, Evelyn and Cheryl, both, were both driving to have a Cat 4 women series of their own. And that gave you something as a Cat 4, because back then there wasn’t a Cat 5. There is now a Cat 5 for women as well.
But they were driving to have this regional series, just for the Cat 4 women, essentially to give them the same incentives and the pathways as the men had to get into the sport. For me, that was a big difference maker, I think, in that there was a distinct field for us to race in as beginners. That doesn’t always happen anymore. So, you could be, just like you said, so the categories for bike racing are essentially one through five, five being novice, the most entry level. They only got Cat 5 for women in like 2016, so recently.
That Cat 5 status for men was like, oh, you do 10 races, you get an upgrade, you’re a Cat 4. For women, that didn’t exist. So, you had a whole different standard of progressing through the categories. From day one, you were on different footing and you had different levels that you had to meet to achieve to move through the status. Then they gave a Cat 5 for women, which is great, because now you can do the same thing. You can race your 10 events and Cat up. You have a sense of progression, but this summer here, we’ve seen where there are Cat 4, 5 fields, right?
That’s combined 4, 5 women. And if there aren’t enough, if the promoters don’t deem that there are enough women, then they’ll combine them with the category 1, 2, 3 women. Then it’s just what you say, it’s like you’re racing with a person who’s a professional, and you’re a cat five, potentially in your first race. This is good for nobody. It’s not good for-
They’ll run right over you. Yeah.
Well, it’s not good for the Cat 5 because they’re not gonna have a racing experience. They’re brand new. Even if they’re incredibly strong and they’ve spent their winter on Zwift getting strong, they don’t have the skills then to race on the race with a professional, and it’s bad for the professionals because then they have, potentially people who are …
Yeah, that can be dangerous.
inexperienced, dangerous, slower traffic, lap traffic. So, it’s good for nobody, but what it also does, by combining all of the categories of women, is how you progress through the sport is essentially scoring points. So, if you have to get upgrade points to go from a four to a three, from a three to a two …
It is really hard then to get your upgrade points from a three to a two if you’re always racing against Cat 1s and you’re not scored separately, you’re scored all as one field. Then how do you ever get the points unless you’re like exceptional phenom? Whereas in the men’s field, largely speaking, and there will be people who will say, no, no, that’s not true because I had to race in a combined field once upon a time, but generally speaking …
It’s the exception, not the norm.
The men’s field have Cat 5, Cat 4, Cat 3, Cat 2, or a Cat 1, 2, and then they have all the masters fields, right? So, there’s a 35 plus, a 45 plus, a 55 plus. They have every category on earth to race where they can race against their peers, and women don’t have that. That’s where it’s harder for women to stay in the sport. For me, at my age, I’m still having to race against 20 something year old pros, or aspiring pros, because that’s all there is for us.
But the men at my age have their own category, their own age group and promoters will say, well, that’s because they show up in the numbers to justify it. I’m like, well, somebody at some point …
Has to invest in the time slots to grow the women’s participation. And if you’re not willing to invest in a potentially money losing time slot for the short-term, you’re never long-term going to have growth in that segment. That’s where it’s a trade off, right? Yes, this field will not fill up. This field will not sell out. If you’re doing a good business plan for your event, you shouldn’t be making your event budget on individual fields anyway.
Yeah, you’re looking-
(quote) You should be looking, here is all the revenue as a sum total and I am investing in an underserved segment of the market because ultimately, if I invest in this underserved segment of the market, I can grow it. If I’ve already maxed out on the number of 55-year-olds, you’re not gonna get more 55-year-olds, but you could potentially grow up the women’s field because they’re underserved. From a business model, I think it’s worth investing in a couple of years of a losing field in order to ultimately grow a segment that is underserved, but that’s me, and I’m biased, which I admit. (/quote)
You’re also in charge of the velodrome, so hey. It’s people like you who talk to people who say, I don’t know if I want to sponsor that. I don’t know if I want to have that field. I think either, probably by design, you’ve perfectly positioned yourself to really wave the banner and try to create the spaces.
Velodrome goals and growth [19:54]
(chapter) Did you, some of Lehigh Valley local resident, and the village room, as we’ve always called it, it has gone under different names, but the Valley Preferred Cycling Center is like this emerald gem.
I mean, there are so few places like it in the world just without any hyperbolic exaggeration. I know that you had wanted to try and spread the word, I’m going to say again, because in the '80s, everybody knew about it. And now just, there’s so many more people here now that maybe don’t know about it. What are your goals for what you want to see happening at the facility and how you want it to grow and integrate with the rest of the community?
That’s a great question. When I came here, and I’m not from the Lehigh Valley, so I came here …
I wasn’t judging, just [crosstalk 00:20:42].
No, but to your point, I was very familiar with T-Town and the velodrome because it is-
It is a Mecca, I mean, from what I understand, of bicyclists. They come here from far away.
Yes, correct. (quote) As a person who’s had a career in bike racing since 2002, I was well versed in knowing what the velodrome was, and it was sort of an honor to be tasked with this role. If there’s one thing that I want the velodrome to be is, it’s fun, because that matters. But I also want it to be a place where little kids Pee Wee Pedalers, Squirts and Weebles Wobbles, all the way up to master’s racers, and everybody in between, elite or not, can come and have fun. To me, it’s a place where we can cultivate this lifelong enjoyment of the bike. (/quote)
That means integrating with the rest of the cycling community. So, we want to partner with PICL, the local high school mountain bike league. We have those discussions going on. We have discussions going on with members of the Gravel community members of the Mountain Biking community. We have a great relationship with the promoter of the road events across the street in the Rodale Fitness Park. To me, if there was one thing that I would like to see the velodrome become is live up to its name as the Valley Preferred Cycling Center, where it becomes this sort of hub for something amazing in the Lehigh Valley.
Where instead of being everybody in their silos of I’m a mountain biker, I’m a gravel racer, I’m a road racer, start your gravel ride from the velodrome. We have a great parking lot. We have showers. We have bathrooms. We have all the things you need to be a great ride start. So many people already do that, but the goal then is to have the parents who are mountain bikers have their kid learn bike skills in the little Air Products programs, or as a Squirt or a Pee Wee, and then develop that next generation of racer.
The goal really is to be fully integrated as this just hub for cycling in the Lehigh Valley. Then it gets even deeper than that, right? It goes even further. We partner with the Rodale Institute. We share a founder. The Rodale Institute is heavily obviously focused on organic farming. If we want the Lehigh Valley to stay this gem for bike riding, that it is, we need to keep strengthening our relationship, like the cycling community needs-
Yes, you need the secondary road network.
Yes, we need to not have a thousand more warehouses go up in giant truck traffic. So, we need to have these partnerships within the community where all of a sudden, we can create an appreciation for, hey, these beautiful roads that surround the velodrome that we ride on, that people come from all over the world to train on when they’re here for the summer, racing at the track, if we support our local farmers and we support our local organic farmers, as cyclists, as consumers, then we preserve our roads.
We want the velodrome to be a part of all of that type of bigger thinking. And then you get even bigger, you blow it out a step further and you say, okay, well, we are partnering with Discover Lehigh Valley, which is the tourism organization for the Lehigh Valley who tries to bring people here. We want to bring people in for cycling events. Discover Lehigh Valley wants to bring people in for cycling events. They also view cycle tourism as an incredibly big asset for this region as a tourism draw. So then, okay, cycling could become an economic driver.
This is the potential like cycling utopia, right? This is my big picture dream of what I would love to see this become is a place where people travel to ride bikes. We already get that with the elite athletes who come here for the summer, but why not try to blow it out for everyone, and you do all sorts of good things. You create an economic driver for the region, you have great role roads to selfishly ride on yourself, you have a really strong cycling community. To me, this is a conversation we should be having, and we’re in a great position as this sort of hub to do it. That’s ultimately the very, very, very long answer to your question.
No, I don’t think it’s over the very, very long. I think that’s really good, and there are things, and I’m like, I hadn’t thought of that. I mean, to me, the secondary roads have always … I never would’ve considered myself a cyclist, but I’ve done a whole bunch of the MS 150s when they used to, I don’t know if they still do that, when they used to ride from the velodrome, they’d ride to Lancaster, ride back, or ride out there. One year they did a covered bridge tour. That was a mistake.
Those of us who were like local and running a bicycle over a covered bridge, you got to know how to do that. You need to follow aboard. You have to look ahead because there are boards that are missing, and they went, they rode 75 miles out to Lancaster. Then the second day was a 75 mile covered bridge tour. In the first hour, they lost like 12 people, and they were getting plywood and like screwing it down on the bridge decks and cover the cracks. Whoops.
Moral of the story is, choose your bridges wisely.
Choose your bridges wisely. Or I guess, I don’t know, I think people learn a very important lesson the first time you hit a crack, a covered bridge. I did it once and then I never did it again, but I’m off a tangent. I never realized, I had no clue how magical it was. One of my long dear term friends, his mom had a horse farm. So, every single day in the summer, I would get up, as soon as it was light, jump on my bike, ride 45 minutes through the Game Lands, through the secondary roads and the cool morning air, and then get to this guy’s house.
And then, if the two of us could do all the chores of the day in half a day, and then we would either ride away from his house, or throw our bikes in the back of his mom’s GMC Jimmy, and go to like Redding and race the crit at the pagoda, or whatever. And we would just ride everywhere, and it never occurred to me that was special. Yeah, this is what I see from my house. Then I’ve been to other places in the world, and I’m like, oh, you don’t have hills.
No, it’s actually really unique here.
I think people don’t fully appreciate. I went on vacation in April to California, and I was in Redlands essentially, which is a very nice part of the world. I went with a friend of mine and we did a little “training camp.” We were trying to get some fitness back. I didn’t love the riding because it was a lot of big shoulders, right? So, you’re on a shoulder, which is great, but there’s also like giant trucks flying by you and you’re riding on a highway.
Everything on the shoulder it … Like, oh, people are, shoulders are not meant to be ridden on. That’s where all that rap is, like all the junks on the shoulder. Sorry.
I think, you just like … Everybody’s, oh, they’re riding in California, it’s so great. I’m like, well, is it really? I lived in Colorado, and same thing, like the mountain biking in Colorado Springs is great. The road riding in Colorado Springs is pretty limited. I’ve lived a lot of places where, if you’re a road cyclist, it’s not that great. The best road cycling I’ve had my entire life is here. If I have to fight with some horse and buggy traffic on a Sunday, okay, so be it. That’s not the worst thing on earth, right?
But yes, you may have to dodge some poop, but really isn’t that better than … Seriously, the riding here is exceptional. I would include New Jersey in that as well. They’re right over the river and the riding in New Jersey is exceptional, and there is just beautiful farm roads here that I don’t think people fully understand how magical the road riding is around here. And then you start to add in things like the gravel roads and all that stuff.
Yeah, I never got into that, but there’s miles and miles.
Just here, it’s stunning. You have the opportunity to do some really incredible bike riding in this region that I think Colorado and California get all the credit, but it’s pretty special here, which is awesome.
(chapter) I’m never at a loss for things to ask. I’m always at a loss for which thread should I actually pull on? Was there anything that you were thinking on your way over here that you were like, I hope we get to talk about … Because sometimes people have this thing they’re afraid to speak up-
No, I was actually more curious to see what you wanted to talk about.
Yeah, no, it’s an excuse for me rumble on about bicycle.
Because I’m such a nerd. Like I said, I can talk about this stuff forever because it’s just I’m a nerd.
I’m wondering about, you’ve kind of mentioned it, and I’ve said this before, there’s a lot of people who live in the Lehigh Valley, and everything is growing, and that’s fine. I’m not like, get off my lawn, get out of there. Like no welcome. Please welcome to Pennsylvania. Although I joke, Pennsylvania’s actually Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and the rest of it’s Kentucky. So, I often call it Pennsytucky.
Yeah. I lived in Kentucky for four years. So you don’t know.
I’ve never been to Kentucky. I have no clue. I was going to say, if there are, I don’t know, we have to be approaching a quarter million people in Lehigh Valley Area now. I’m going to bet most of them, and I don’t mean like 51%, I mean like way more.
Most of them have no clue about that bicycling is a thing. If you just get on 22 or Margaretha Road, or 222 or … You would never notice that there are 9,000 awesome roads, and you’d probably never see the cyclist because the cyclists are not on the big roads. I’m just wondering, how do you do the outreach? How do we spread the passion for bicycling?
I think that, that’s … To go back to our partnership with Discover Lehigh Valley, when we have racing on Friday nights, it’s a ticketed event, so people have to come to the Box Office, and we typically ask, oh, you’ve never been here before. How did you find out about us? It’s been through this partnership with Discover Lehigh Valley and using them as an asset outside our traditional audience and cycling, broadly speaking, has a terribly bad habit of speaking to itself. So, we always talk to ourselves, but we haven’t figured out. I say this as a person who worked at USA Cycling, and we always talk to our own audience, right? We never went outside the core.
I think that part partnerships with organizations like Discover Lehigh Valley, or working with other organizations is the way, working with the Rodale Institute is the way, working with the hospital, working with LVHN, and saying, hey, LVHN, here’s a great ticket offer for your employees. Hey, LVHN, here is a women’s Wednesday program. If you have people in your healthcare provider network who are looking for healthy activities, direct them to us. Let’s activate our sponsors. We have brilliant sponsors. I mean, Air Products has been a supporter of the community programs here.
It’s like 70 as long as I can remember, 78, 79.
Right. For almost 40 years, and the place has been open for 46. Having partners like Air Products who support the community program, Air Products doesn’t support us for the elite level bike racing. Air Products-
No, they show up, it’s regular employee and their regular family, and they show up in cool t-shirts, and they have that crap ton of fun.
Well, and they care about the community wellness piece. That’s why they support us because we’re reaching into the community. So, we have to use those partnerships that we have with the organizations that support us to reach new people. You have to talk outside your ecosystem and this summer, talking outside of our ecosystem has really been driven by Discover Lehigh Valley, but it’s also a very weird year, where we’re still in the COVID times and a lot of corporations aren’t doing corporate events, they’re not doing in-person gatherings. So, how do you reach people?
I think, back when the velodrome was started, there wasn’t a lot of other stuff to do. Everybody knew about the velodrome because it was what you did on a Friday night.
Yeah. Well, there was no internet.
Right. There was no internet. There was no cell phones. There were no IronPigs. There were no Redding, whatever they are. There wasn’t competition in the same way there is now. Now we’re competing with Netflix and we’re competing with cell phones, and iPads, and IronPigs.
Well, and concerts in [crosstalk 00:33:09].
Yeah. You don’t quite have the same level of focus. You have a local newspaper, which is essentially sold to a big corporation now, so it’s less local than it used to be. So, all of those things add up to making it much harder, but then you have all of these new people coming in to the region who haven’t been here since 1975. When I moved here, I just, by dumb luck, found a great doctor at LVHN, who was like, “Oh, you work at the velodrome.” She’s like, “I’ve known about that place since I was a little kid.” But she’s local. She’s from here.
If you get new people coming in, they don’t even know it exists, and so how do we use these networks to reach new people? That’s the big challenge because it is a weird little niche sport.
Well, it is and it isn’t. I’m just sitting here thinking like, damn it, I have to go to the velodrome.
Yeah. See, told you.
Yeah. Well, I’ve done that, every year I go. I went the last time, I’ve been to the velodrome. I don’t wanna talk down about other sports, but I have been to hockey games, I have been to professional baseball games, little league baseball games, and there’s just nothing like going to, and I’m going to say the velodrome with the capital T, there’s only one, right? When you go, it’s a show. The whole thing is a show. I mean, I’m talking to the choir, but the lights are on and you’re looking at there’s gray and there’s people warming up and there’s athletes sitting around, and you can see people who are nervous, and people who’ve done this a million times, and famous people, and people from other countries.
But there’s nothing else going on. The bicycling is the reason that everything that is here is here, and I go to baseball games and it’s like, and I really don’t want t-shirts and juggling.
(highlight) Well, the other thing, I think that sets the velodrome apart is what we talked about when we were first starting the conversation, which is everybody’s ridden a bike, or most people have ridden a bike.
It is relatable. You look at it and you say, oh, that can’t be that hard. It’s just pedaling a bike. But it’s relatable. But then you do, as a person who’s ridden a bike, sort of have this appreciation going, oh, shit, that guy’s going 50 miles an hour.
Yeah, they go by at the top of the [inaudible 00:35:36], whoa.
I think that that’s sort of the magic of bike racing, more broadly speaking. My very first job in professional bike racing, I worked for the bike racing that used to be in Philadelphia. It was the First Union, it was Core States. It was Wachovia Cycling Series. It had a whole bunch of names.
They ride at the Manayunk hill, is that the-
Yeah, correct. The Manayunk. My very first, so I was hired to work there, and then the first event of the year rolls along, and my job is to “staff” the announcers. So, I was at the finish line with the professional announcers and my job was to feed them information throughout the day. I had never worked on that side of the fence in bike racing before. A ton of event experience, but never worked at a bike race at that low level. I remember standing up on the stage, and back then, again, it was all paper. We weren’t digital then. There were no iPads, but I had all this paper on the desk about rider bios and sponsor announcements and all these details that the announcers might need throughout the day.
Then the music started, and so it’s loud music, and then there’s the national anthem. Then there’s the color, right? All the jerseys are different colors. Then there’s the Philadelphia police on the front in their flying V, right? They rode in this V shape formation, and then there’s all the cars and the caravan, and so you’re hearing vroom, vroom, and you’re hearing the cars, and you’re hearing the music, and you’re seeing the color. Then the race starts, and 200 dudes on bikes go by the stage and it moves the air.
Yes, there’s a blast of air.
You hear the click, click, click, click, click of all the cleats clicking into the pedals. You hear the gears [inaudible 00:37:29], you hear all this sound. And what it was, was this completely visceral experience for me of the music, the vroom, vroom, the cars, the click, click, the gears shifting, all of it, and the sensation of the wind over my face, and all the paper on the desk lifted up because of the speed of the riders going by. I was like, oh, shit, I’m hooked. This is the only thing I want to do with my life, because it is such a visceral experience. It’s tangible.
If you’re at a baseball game sitting up in the last row of the bleachers, drinking a beer, you’re having a lovely time. You are enjoying the sunshine, you are enjoying a tasty beer, you are out with friends. It is a nice time. If you go to the velodrome or the bike race, they pass by your face. If you’re in turn four …
Yeah, if you’re the wrong place …
They pass by your face within inches and you feel the wind go by, and you feel the sport, and I think that, that’s the difference. Whenever I’ve sold sponsorship for bike racing, the ticket is to get people out to see it and feel it, because it is, it’s sound, it’s color, it’s movement. It’s all tied together in a way that I don’t think other sports are. That’s then the magic in it. It’s something that you’ve done. You’ve ridden a bike. I’ve never played major league baseball, but I’ve ridden a bike and I can appreciate the effort that goes into it.
But then you’re just overwhelmed, all your senses, because it’s all your senses are engaged with that. Then you also, just like baseball, get to have good you’re in good food, and so then you’re winning, because there’s all of the things.
All the things. There’s also a tangible, the scale [inaudible 00:39:13] in a velodrome commercial. The scale of the velodrome is such that you can basically see and hear everything happening anywhere. I mean, if somebody … When the rider go by and things get a little heated and they’re swapping cookie recipes, if they’re doing that two turns away, you can still tell what’s going on. You can actually be engaged in the whole pageantry everywhere in the velodrome.
That’s the funny part, the audience absolutely is engaged to you all. If you’re there on a Friday night, people are into it, and that’s amazing. I think the audience at the track doesn’t care if it’s the two best New Zealanders in the world racing against the best American in the world, or if it’s juniors, they don’t care. As long as the racing is good, because it’s such a sophisticated audience at the track, right? The people that go are very much aficionados of the sport, they appreciate good racing.
Whether it’s the little kids or the best pros, it doesn’t matter as long as the racing is good, and they always have that reaction to, ooh, there was close contact. Ooh, there was … You feel that when you’re there. It is very connected. The audience has an actual, again, it’s a very visceral experience, they are part of the action. (/highlight)
I know that, from what I understand, it works the other way too. The athletes can hear the crowd, and because they’re all like around you. It’s like a gladiator arena. But I’ve seen the little Pee Wee kids race on the apron, and I’m just like, that’s the best thing I’ve ever seen. That’s as good as Madison’s. It’s beautiful-
Yeah. We had that last weekend actually. It was really beautiful. We had all the kids come out and race, and it was awesome. Yeah, the little kids, man, they’re just as hardcore as the grownups.
Yes. They pin their heart on their sleeve and go at it. Yeah.
Passion and motivation [41:01]
(chapter) Back of my brain is going, I think a lot of people who listen to Movers Mindset, they’re not … Well, it’s not that my brain flashed to somebody named Nick, who I happen to know is doing a giant, like cross state bicycling thing. Most of the people that I think of, when I think of parkour and [inaudible 00:41:21] are not super into bicycles. (highlight) Clearly, you have a passion for bikes, and I guess I have to call myself out too. I’m wondering, is there something that we can take out of? How did that passion get created?
I think we’ve touched on it. A lot of it is, it’s just a human being and a very simple machine. I mean, they’re pretty high tech, but it’s basically a simple machine, and that’s all there is. And it’s that person’s mind and their body against the other minds. I think that’s part of the allure, but I’m just wondering if there are maybe some lessons we can draw from what is the magic of bicycling that we can say, all right, if you’re teaching a high school PE class, or, and that was part of what I was fishing for in the very beginning, when I said, what was it about your entrance to bicycling that was so magical?
so that people could try and, people who are listening, well, I teach a parkour class in a park for people over 65. They can be thinking, I heard her say in the beginning about that beautiful on ramp. I’m just wondering if there any, some bigger thoughts you have about on ramping people.
Well, I think, I mean, I think the thing, and this is very personal, right? I don’t know that this would actually translate to somebody in a park doing this, but for me, thinking about my trajectory as an athlete throughout life, because I do think of myself as an athlete, and I thought of myself as an athlete when I was dancing ballet too.
You clearly are an athlete. I’m just going to …
(quote) It’s the process. It’s the process, no matter what your pursuit is. If you are pursuing excellence in the ballet, it is repetition. It is absolutely repetition. The process of the ballet is every day, there’s a bar, there’s plies, there’s grand plies. There’s jete. It’s a repetition and it’s a process of perfection. Maybe ballet is skewed a little bit more towards perfection than other sports, but it is definitely a repetition and a process and a refinement that you do daily. (/quote)
For me, bike racing and bike riding is the same thing. You only get good at it if you have repetition and think about what cycling is, it’s repetitive, cadence of your legs. It’s repetition, it’s time, it’s consistency, it’s practice. It is something that, if you wanted to race a crit and you … I think is partially where the sport almost goes sideways is that, to race a crit, for example, you can’t just rock up and not have been riding your bike because you’ll get dropped from the group, right? The way you succeed in the sport, and not the pursuit, not the activity, but really truly in the sporting side of it, is repetition and practice.
Maybe a ballet you’re doing variations and you’re rehearsing a role, but in bike racing, you are doing intervals and you are practicing the thing that you’re going to apply in a race scenario. For me, as a person, going back to OCD as a person who likes structure, who thrives on repetitiveness, who thrives on focus, I think that there, as weird as that is to say, that they’re very similar, I think any athletic pursuit is the same. If you’re practicing yoga, your practice, your daily movement of repetition of the postures and the poses helps refine you as a Yogi.
If you’re a mountain climber, if you’re a rock climber, which I did a fair bit of gym climbing when I lived in Colorado, it’s the same thing. It’s rehearsed movement, right? You refine how you move from hold to hold. You practice how your toe goes onto the holds on the wall. So, it’s always about that refining of movement of finding that sort of pursuit of perfection. How do I solve this bouldering problem in fewer moves? How do I find the right way to start and finish this problem on the wall? It’s always in refining the movement.
I think that cycling is no different from that. I think any sport or activity that you want to be good at, it’s the same, it’s that repetitive focus on doing things better every time you do it. So, that’s what you take away from bike racing is the same thing. Okay, well, you want to be a great runner. Well, you have to run a lot of miles, right? I mean, that’s just the way it is. You have to run a lot of miles. You have to run different speeds. You have to run hill repeats, you have to run …
Find your gang. Find the people to run with.
Right. And you have to be willing to just have that focus. I think that that’s, to me, bike racing or bike riding became the thing that I was able to focus on because it sort of brought me joy, right? You can be 100% committed and 100% focused on doing the thing, even when it’s shitty weather outside and you don’t really want to ride your bike, but you sort of have this compulsion to follow this desire to always be refining and always be focusing. It’s no different than doing a billion plies to me. don’t know if that answers your question, but I think that that’s where people who want to be good at the things that they’re good at, it’s always in that magic of doing it over and over again, and refining, and refining, and refining. (/highlight)
How do you stay, clearly passionate, how do you stay passionate about your personal bicycling practice?
Because I have OCD. No, I don’t know. I don’t do anything deliberately. It just happens. It’s just in my nature. I think my coach would tell you it’s because I’m super, super stubborn. I think that-
Like, you can’t do this. That’s the way to get you to do it, right?
No, it’s worse than that. It is like a compulsion for me. I love structure, and so for me to go out and train, and all right, here’s every … We use a platform called training peaks. He uploads all the workouts into training peaks. As soon as they’re uploaded, I know what my week looks like. That gives my structure, which is very comforting to me. I feel good when I know what structure is. I have order imposed on my week by having the anchor of the training. For me, that that structure is very comforting. If I miss a workout, it disrupts my structure. For me, it’s a very comfortable place to stay focused.
It’s the bedrock.
Yeah. But not everybody’s that way. Some people crave variety, some people crave … I just don’t. It’s not how I’m wired.I’m wired for repetitive stuff like that. I just …
Do you ride? Are you riding mostly on the roads or you’re riding particular … How do you decide where to go? Like, out the front door and …
Well, not out the front door, because where I live, it’s not really great riding. I don’t know. I go where I like it and where I feel like I can do the things that my coaches told me I’m going to do today. You’re going to do this. Okay, well, then this is [crosstalk 00:48:58].
I need a hill. I need a long flat.
Yesterday, I was, an easy hour ride, that was all I was told on my training peaks. One hour easy. I took my mountain bike out and just played bikes, because you do get to … If it’s easy hour in the schedule, then an easy hour means I get to play bikes, and it’s not training per se. So, I just went out on my mountain bike and jumped over things and had fun splashing through some puddles, and that was that. But today I went out on the road and did very focused efforts. So, it’s just different, but it’s all part of just follow what I’m told to do. That’s also a very ballet mindset. Follow the structure, I feel so.
I struggle, I guess I’m an athlete by definition, but I don’t have a particular … I’m not in a, I was going to say, I’m not in a sport that has competitions, but that’s not even true anymore. Generally, the sport that I do doesn’t have particular competition. So, I walk around my house and there’s like a piece of steel pipe bolted to the roof of my patio and like, oh, I should hang from that. I do lots of little, some people in our space will call it movement snacks. I do a lot of that. I also do like outsize things like, oh, I’m going to take my van and I’m going to go rock climbing for four days.
It’s like, at the end of that, you’re like licking wounds. But for me, the struggle is always to find a way to do the things in between because I don’t have … Because it’s not a sport, I’m not aiming for a race on the 30th of whatever and I’m not trying to better my mile split time. So, it gets tricky to figure out how to do something that’s more than just, don’t be sedentary, but isn’t driven by a really coherent plan and agenda.
You got to work on your OCD. That’s all.
[inaudible 00:50:51]. I guess that’s a valid answer. What I was going to say, have you seen, like you have, obviously exposure to a lot of athletes at the velodrome, and do you see people who have like a spread of like, I don’t know that kid does it, they never seem to have anything planned, but they’re really good and this person is also like …
oh sure, yeah, 100%.
How do the people who are not OCD …
Because they’re more gifted than I am.
Oh, that’s cheating.
Let’s just go with more gifted. Yeah. No, I think everybody has their process too. I mean, everybody’s …
You can pull that even closer.
Everybody’s process is different, right? So, there are people who are really good at going in three days a week and they get everything out of it that they need in three days a week, and that’s awesome, because then that frees them up to do other stuff. I am not one of those people that is good if I only do something three days a week. I mean, because I’m not terribly talented at it. I just work real hard. Yeah, there are lots of people for whom a different approach or different tactic works better, and it depends on your goals and it depends on your natural abilities, which I have very little of in this particular space, but I really like it so I chase it anyway.
I think that, that’s the answer, right? You find the way that works for you. I admire the people who are able to jump on the bike after taking two days off and still their legs still work. My legs turn to cement if I take a day off the bike. I understand that for me, this way works better, but there are lots of people for whom it works very, very differently. I certainly wouldn’t hold myself up as the example to follow. I just think you have to find what works for your body and refine that for yourself.
But for me, again, and I think that’s because from age four on, I was doing something that was incredibly repetitive and incredibly consistent. So, it’s different, everybody’s different. If you grew up doing football on Thursday, baseball on Wednesday, and soccer on Monday, you’re probably able to do things in a way that I’m not, because your body is used to diversity, and mine is not.
We make circles.
(chapter) This is going to sound like complete left turn, because it is. What about podcasting made you … So, the Talk of the T-Town podcast, I went, I’m not really … Oh, I’m not a track racer, never have been. I’m like, it’s still freaking interesting because it’s bicycling. I like the show, but what made you decide to go into audio medium?
The track is a pretty special community and COVID sort of forced us apart. To me, it became a way to keep the community. In 2020, we weren’t able to bring everybody from all around the world to the track for the summer. So, it started out as a way to keep connected with our community, and that really mattered. I think for a lot of reasons, from a business perspective, it mattered, right? It mattered in terms of staying relevant when you couldn’t be together.
But it also just mattered sort of in the spirit of the place to keep everybody connected, to keep, I don’t know, giving people hope maybe that bike racing was going to come back, that the track was going to come back. That we’re still here making plans to do the thing that they love because people do these things because they love it. So, if we could find a way to bring people together during a time when we couldn’t be, that was the big driver, was really to, just to find a digital way to keep the community together.
It’s really evolved over the course of the year. To me, it’s like the most fun thing I do now because I get to talk to just an incredibly wide range of people. I mean, one of the women we had on early days in the podcast just won a gold medal in Tokyo, how cool is that? Another woman that we had on is from here, and she had announced that this was gonna be her last season racing at the track, and talked about how all in she was going on this season and with the goal of winning a national championship, and then with her goal of chasing Rider of the Year at T-Town.
She is a person that had come up through the program since she was a little kid. She talked about what it meant to her. I didn’t care about the sporting side of that conversation. I talked about how chasing her passion for this thing has been since she was a little kid and how special that was for her, and it was just nice to get to know her that way and to hear what motivated her and why she was working so hard. I don’t think you have to be a track racer to appreciate somebody’s just commitment to chasing a dream.
It’s been super cool to just hear or people talk about what drives them. I love that, and I find it super inspiring myself. Then we’ve had the nerdy ones where we talk about gear ratios and we talk about all sorts of stuff and …
I slow those down to try and keep up.
Yeah. But those are really good conversations too, because we’re all kind of nerds together. Yeah, it’s become a super good mix. Tomorrow we’re recording one with a guy who’s a pilot for a para tandem. How timely is that? We have the para games coming up and he’s going to talk about his experience doing that. So, it’s relevant to our sport right now, but it’s also just a super interesting story. It’s cool. You get to talk to people who also love the thing that you love, which is pretty rad, I get paid to do that.
Yes please. Was there anything? So, whose idea was it? Your idea?
Okay. Was there anything about it that you were like, this is going to be a problem, that just turned out to not be a thing at all?
Shout out to my web person, Janet Atkison, who’s like … Who would’ve thought we would have this just brilliant collaboration with our web designer. The woman who designed our website. She and I did a big website revamp my first year working here, and it became this sort of brilliant collaborative process of working with her on the website. Then, I had the idea for the podcast, sort of the same time she did, and she is just this amazing person who, hey, I think we should think about doing this.
I’ve never had a collaborative process like that with a person who maintains our website before, and it’s super collaborative with her, and she comes up with all these great ideas and, oh, let’s design an app. Okay, let’s do it. The podcast has been this just adventure in a process with our web person, Janet, for whom I’m exceedingly thankful because she edits it, and she provides feedback, and then she’s like, “Oh, I really liked this part.” So, it’s such a good process with her that it’s massively fun.
But if there was one thing I would’ve been worried about, had I not had a Janet involved, would’ve been the technical aspects of it, but I have a Janet, so I just didn’t worry about it. I was like, we have Janet, she’s going to make it all good. Yeah, so, I have a Janet and she does great stuff for us. I mean, what do we have to lose? We’re just talking about bikes with people. To me, there was no downside, and she’s just smoothed out all the technical stuff and …
Got it off the ground.
Yeah. Got it off the ground.
Do you find that, I think you managed to keep, I’m going to say keep it pretty much on track, and I’m just wondering, do you have moments where you have to choose between, there’s something here that I’m super personally curious about versus something that I think is really, really on topic, and how do you have … Does that come up for you and how do you navigate that?
No. It doesn’t honestly, because I love the stream of consciousness. I’ve said it on the pod before where I love, it’s like a James Joyce novel, where just like, I’m a piece of paper floating down the lithy. I don’t care where it goes. I don’t care. I just let it go, and that’s been the most fun, is that I haven’t had to face that yet. Maybe I will, but right now, it’s just like, just go and it’s stream of consciousness, and it’s super fun that way. I don’t script it. The first few ones we did, we scripted it because there were people I didn’t actually know very well, but now the guests that we’ve had …
Yeah. The more you do, the access gets easier?
Yeah. So, that’s been super easy and just like sit down, I do my research on their backgrounds of course first, but then we just sit down and we just let it go, and that’s super fun. I just like, letting it roll and I don’t care where it goes. I have not had a end point that I wanted to reach with a single guest when I sat down with them. I just wanted to see where they took it, which was cool. I have no agenda for it other than just, it’s a cool thing to do.
Yeah, and to keep in touch with the cyclists.
Yeah. So, that’s a disappointing answer, I’m sure.
No, that’s not disappointing. I it’s better when I think, like, I wonder if, then oh, he went that way. To me, that’s the power of the medium, like people listening. It engages a very old part of your brain. I mean, unless you’re like listening in a car, then it gets hard. But anyway, listening is a very into medium. So, it’s fun to hear that like, as it gets created in real time. It’s one thing to your listener to listen to a podcast after it’s been all put together, and then it’s another to actually sit in front of the mic and have the conversation with the person on the opposite side. That’s what I like, is the conversation part.
Yeah, me too. That’s why I like seeing where … I just let people take it where they want to go. I’m like, yeah. Cool. You talk about whatever you want to talk about and I’ll follow along.
Anything else you want to talk about? Any other place you want to go?
Some guests, I have discovered, tend to … You don’t have to suggest very far. I can just say, what about, and halfway through a sentence, and then off they go, which is fine.
No, I’m enjoying being on the other side of it today.
I think I said something about that. It’s very nice to not have to worry about levels or not take notes, or even better, know that when you press stop, you don’t have to do anything else.
And Janet doesn’t have to work on this one. Sorry. It’s all on you this time.
Bicycling story [1:01:35]
(chapter) It’s always fun to, I think, to be on both sides. I think maybe the same thing applies to your experience in bicycling. When you got to be on the other side, on the, I guess I’d call that front of house versus being on the track, when you get to be the person creating the experience for the people doing the thing, that’s a whole nother like, whoa. I’ve had a little bit of experience doing some event stuff in sporting, and it was just, aside from the whole like, wow, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes aside from that.
It was just neat to see like, if I, figuratively speaking, if I put this over here versus over there, it changes this experience for 5,000 visitors, and just to have the responsibility and the opportunity to experiment with those kinds of things. I can tell you’re super crazy passionate about what you’re doing at the velodrome. I think that’s great for all of us. It’s great for the velodrome, oh good.
(highlight) I will tell you a nerdy story about that thing that you just talked about, being on the inside of the fence. When I was running my Cyclocross series, I would go over to Belgium for the big races, every year world championships, or whatever. I was always sort of struck by I was on the outside of the fence, because those weren’t my events, and I was very used to being on the inside of the fence at my events. When I would go to Belgium, I would be on the outside and it always felt kind of unsatisfying to be on the outside of the fence over there at the big races in Belgium, and sort of became this thing where I … We were awarded the bid to do the world championships in Louisville, Kentucky, which had not happened ever before.
The Cyclocross worlds had never left Europe before, and so ours was the first time it was going to happen. I sort of became obsessed with this notion of the fact that I was finally going to get to be on the inside of the fence after all of these years of going over to Belgium and being, sort of adjacent to the action, which … This is the nerdy part, right? Most people would be stoked to be watching the bike racing. Because I’m a nerd who liked what I do for a living, I wanted to be on the inside and being the one making the thing happen because that’s the joy in my life, is I like making the thing happen.
I like to do all the work and then see it come to life, which is why I like to do events because the event actually turning on and starting, or the race actually turning on and starting is very satisfying to me. So, when I finally got to have the world championships in Louisville, like it was cursed event. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and including the core of engineers calling us on Thursday and saying, “Hey, by the way, the river’s going to flood and your venue’s going to be underwater on Sunday.” And we were like, ah …
Thanks for the heads up.
Yeah, I mean, they’re like, oh sure, the sewer department in Louisville can build a temporary dam to hold the water back long enough for us to have the race. It was a very dramatic and traumatic event to produce. Normally, the Cyclocross World Championships run over two days. There’s two races on Saturday and there’s two races on Sunday, and we had to smoosh them all onto Saturday because …
Sunday, the river was gonna take the venue underwater. I remember very distinctly, walking down, before the start of the elite men’s race, and the pits were down in the infield, and the temporary dam, I wasn’t about that, there was, in fact, a temporary dam built by the sewer department of Louisville to hold the Ohio River back long enough for us to pull off this bike race. I remember walking down into the field and seeing that the water was starting to breach the dam. I remember, I had bought, I’m such a nerd, I’d bought Burberry boots, the fashion boot, Burberry. So, I had these very, very fancy black, rubber rain boots for the day because it’s the world championships, and you want to look spiffy.
I remember watching the water lap over the toes of my boots and being on the race radio, going, start the bike race. Because it was terrifying to me, the water is coming. Start the bike race. I walked up to the top and they had started calling, Cyclocross runs in a grid. So, based on your ranking in the sport, you’re on the front row, second row, third row, and front row start matters, because you get the “whole shot” and that usually sets you up. You don’t have to pass through traffic.
If you’re at the front of the race, you have an advantage because you’re not chasing through a hundred dudes to get to the front. In Cyclocross, the person who comes across the line first wins, which is not always the case in all bike races. But I remember walking up from down in the field, having seen the water starting to come through the dam, and walking up to the grid where they’re calling, you Sven Nys, and all the Niels Albert and all the big stars are being called to the grid and lined up to start the race. I looked up at the sky and I was like, oh God, is the meteor going to come? It was like, are we gonna get hit by Skylab? What’s gonna happen next?
Because it’d been such a disaster filled race, and then Skylab didn’t hit us, then the gun blew and the race started. I got to do that thing that I had wanted to do all those years going to Belgium, which was, I got to walk down the inside of the fence at the World Championship in my official jacket as event director and have that moment of, I am inside the fence, this is my bike race, and the world championships just happened. And it was the most satisfying and yet traumatic moment of my entire career, which was, yeah, it was astonishing, to just have that moment of inside the fence. I was like, I got the thing. That was the thing I wanted more than anything, was to be the race director inside the fence. What a nerdy admission that is. But I mean, yeah, isn’t that amazingly nerdy?
I don’t know that I would say it’s nerdy, but I mean …
It’s very specific.
It’s very specific. Thank you for sharing, and I don’t mean that in a trite way. It’s not quite a parable, but it’s close, but it’s right on, what is it that makes Joan so passionate about being the director, and what do you bring? I mean, I think I knew, but if you have no clue who I’m talking to today, now you have some idea of what passion means to her when she brings that to the velodrome. (/highlight) I’ve never actually seen you at the velodrome, and if I have, I wouldn’t have known who you were. Did you get a little taste of that on Friday Night Lights at the velodrome, or has it become familiar now?
No, for sure. It’s not quite the same.
Well, right, but …
But it is always enormously satisfying to see …
You work really hard over the winter. You come up with event identities, you come up with collateral, you come up with marketing plans, you come up with all of the stuff that makes it happen, and it’s still enormously satisfying to see it happen every week. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t do it. Yeah, some weeks are more exciting than others. But generally speaking, after the first race starts, I always have the national anthem sings and the first race starts, and generally speaking, when the gun goes off, I have that moment of, there we go. We did it again. It feels good. It feels good when the thing happens to a lesser extent, but still, yeah, it still feels good to see the thing actually happen every time it happens.
National championships this summer was very much that way. That was a slog. We pulled it off with six weeks leave time, but it was very important that, I think, that the track community have a national championships. And when the original venue couldn’t host it, it was very important that, when they asked us to do it, it felt very important that we pull it off. But it was terrifying because we had six weeks leave time, and I was like, oh crap, are we gonna actually be able to pull this off with six weeks? And we did, but yeah, it was enormously satisfying when that event started because we were like, okay, we got here. Yeah, it still happens. It’s not as cool as doing the world championships Cyclocross though. Definitely not as cool. Don’t tell my boss.
We’ll cut that part out. No, we won’t. Wow. Okay. Yes, thank you.
Preserving history [1:10:19]
(chapter) I want to ask like a boring question. Does the velodrome have like a historian, or is somebody doing the history of everything? Are we going to have a museum … I mean, not that you have to build it, but please tell me somebody is collecting all the-
I think that there is a huge amount of stuff in the Rodale archives, a lot of which has been donated to, I think, Kutztown University, but I could be wrong. It could be Muhlenberg. The Rodale family has done a lot of keeping of all of that archival stuff. So yes, it does exist.
Okay. Because I just suddenly went like, there is a lot of magic, and I mean, you know that and I know that, but I’m just like …
Oh no, there’s a lot.
I hope somebody’s …
There’s a lot of magic, and yes, the answer is yes, that the Rodale’s have a lot of that information, a lot of that, the photos and history. Yeah.
Because I would guess now there must be staff photographers and all the events are archived. Now, in the digital age, it’s much easier to just, I don’t know, store this stuff all over here, but yeah, there’s so much history there.
No, and it does all exist.
Any plans to build an actual museum or?
Not at the moment. It’s a nice thing to contemplate though. If you had time and budget, it would be a nice thing to do. Right now, we’re …
I was recently in Corning, New York at the Museum of Glass, and I was expecting a lot of Corning, but there was very little Corning, the company. Instead, what it was is one of the best museums I’ve ever been to. Half of me was walking through to it. See, because like already loaded in my head, it’s like, Joan on, what is it? Tuesday? Like Joan Tuesday, it’s like rattling in the back of my head, and I’m looking at this museum, and I’m just like, ooh, what if this was like the velodrome museum and there’d be like … Oh my God.
Part of me was just falling over my tongue because it’s, I mean, just glass everywhere. Oh my God, it was amazing. Then part of me was going like, why doesn’t the velodrome have this? Like this? There is, I mean, Mecca, but anyway … Sorry, I’m off on …
If you ever go to Belgium, go to the Tour of Flanders Museum. That’ll make you happy. It’s what you’re talking about.
But I want one for my local bicycle. But okay, I will definitely check that out. Beauty of episode notes, everything gets linked. All right.
3 words [1:12:49]
(chapter) (highlight) Well, as much as I hate to say it, I don’t want to suck up your entire day.
We have racing tonight.
Yeah. What am I doing? What am I doing at Freckle past hair? All right, so I guess I will just say, and of course the final question, three words to describe your practice.
Intense, consistent, crazy.
That’s all you get.
No, that’s fine. I say, before we press record, you can do three words, or some people have things that they wanna work out, and I’m not fishing. I’d just really love to hear everybody’s answers. So, thank you very much.
Oh, thanks for having me.
My pleasure. I think will just say, have a great day. Bye.
All right, you too. Thanks. (/highlight)