The story behind the Hagens Berman | Supermint Pro Cycling Team

The news is officially out: I’m riding for the Hagens Berman | Supermint Pro Cycling Team for 2016, a new women’s UCI professional cycling team I co-own with Jono Coulter.

A team I co-own.

Those are words I never aspired to say. No part of me ever wanted to own a business, especially not one where profitability is irrelevant and breaking even is the goal. I’ve spoken to people in the past who were all, “I’d love to have my own team!” and I’d laugh and reply, “I’d love to slam my hand in a door repeatedly!” The idea of coordinating sponsors and riders and travel and logistics made my brain melt, especially when I watched teams struggle and fold year after year.

As the 2015 season wrapped up, though, Jono and I started talking about plans for 2016. We each had options on the table but also ideas of how we wanted to change the experiences we’d already had working for other teams. Those ideas turned into casual conversations that turned into more serious talks that turned into….wait. What? We’re starting our own team?

We had concepts, some connections, and balls the size of cantalopes, but no money. It didn’t matter at that point; our enthusiasm was enough to get the planning started for real and we each maintained the foolhardy belief that everything would work out. Alcohol and constant pep talks helped. We talked so many times a day that we may be legally wed in several states.

Our plans became more official as the weeks progressed – we started branding the team, brought on a great group of riders, and lined up initial details for a schedule. We were all in and excitement was building. The only minor hiccup was a complete lack of outside funding. Financial agreements we made were backed by our own money, an ill-advised, frightening concept but also the only way we could move forward and ensure that we fulfilled our promises. We refused to take on obligations we couldn’t already afford, but in the absence of a major sponsor, that meant we were agreeing to personally cover salaries and expenses.

I didn’t sleep in October.

My parents and friends expressed some concern over this plan. This is not wise, they’d say. Are you sure you want to back this plan with your own money? I knew it was a gamble, but a time-honored one taken by entrepreneurs everywhere. I believed in what we were building, believed in Jono, and believed that it was better to go all in on our dream than play it safe and sign up for another dissatisfying year. When it came time to submit the initial fees to the UCI and USA Cycling, we paid unhesitatingly out of our own pockets.

Meanwhile, I spent every free moment networking with, chatting up, and emailing potential title sponsor companies. Our sponsorship proposition was something new and different in the business – we had riders with professional careers off the bike and wanted to leverage those backgrounds to deliver better benefits to our sponsors. Instead of promising “clicks” and jersey space and “mentions” – frankly useless and hard-to-measure propositions for companies – we offered networking, access to riders for company initiatives, and our ability to engage effectively with customers and partners.

The proposal was strong but finding the right partner was a challenge unlike anything I’ve faced before. I’ve worked in business development for a long time, but never on the sales side. Making cold calls, pushing for meetings, and taking rejection repeatedly were all new, harrowing experiences. I was constantly bracing to take on the next target, send the next email, and explain the concept to yet another CEO. Getting shot down multiple times stung and it took a while to build up a shell; sometimes I would hang up the phone and just cry. Fatigue, frustration, and anxiety were overwhelming at times and I was perpetually on edge wondering what if it doesn’t come together? 

Our big break came in November. Steve Berman of the Hagens Berman law firm read the team proposal and wanted to come on board as our title sponsor. I hyperventilated, wept, and laughed all at once; it sounded like somebody was shaking an emotional hyena, but all I could hear was the sound of our dreams coming true. I love lawyers! I even went to law school for a bit! HAGENS BERMAN 4EVER!!1!11!!

I’d love to say it was painless and easy from that moment forward, but that would be a lie: building a team is hard. Just when you think you’re on top of things, another issue arises or the next item on the list needs to be sorted out. I’ll be falling asleep and suddenly jolt awake thinking something like WATERBOTTLES! The official team launch occurred while I was on a highway in New Mexico moving cross-country; I awoke on the first day of 2016 to remember OMG, payroll.

But this has also been one of the best experiences of my life. Jono and I had a dream and we refused to let it go, even when the obstacles seemed insurmountable. We have built a team with great riders and a cool brand and a talented creative director. We have sponsors that believe in what we are building and are giving us the support we need to represent them well. I’ve learned to take rejection in stride, to keep going even when the odds are not looking good, and to manage a million details at once without cracking.

Okay, I have cracked a few times. There is significantly less scotch in my pantry than there was in September.

While I can’t predict how all of this will turn out, there are a few things I already know for sure. HB Supermint’s riders will be treated like professionals on and off the bike. Each rider is paid the same salary, because every team member is valuable, whether they’re sprinting for results or finishing dead last after the leadout. We will not make promises we can’t keep, not to riders, staff, or sponsors. Our sponsors are the key to our success and will be treated as such. These are the principles on which we built this team and no matter where the season takes us, there will be no compromises. The scariest but best thing about being the boss is that you call the shots.

That’s the story of how I came to co-own a cycling team. It’s been a wild ride, but I suppose the fun is just getting started.

HB Supermint
You can read more about the team on the Supermint website or the Supermint Facebook page.

 

Posted on in Cycling, Employment, Life 7 Comments

Joy to the World or Something Like That

Merry Christmas. It doesn’t feel like Christmas; it’s in the 70s outside, I didn’t decorate the house, I’m moving west on Monday morning. What makes it Christmas for you? Cold weather? The promise that you might get an Apple watch? Eggnog and fruitcake?

For me, I don’t know anymore. There are no gifts that I want and my only wishes this holiday are intangible. I want Andrew to be happy. I want my parents to enjoy their lives. I want Kobe to know that I love him more than anything even though he’s staying behind when I go. I want Tanner to trust me enough to be calm as we head out into the world together. I want people to not ask questions I’m unprepared to answer in the coming weeks. I want everything to be okay.

Most of all, I want the handful of people around me today to know that I would be nothing without them. My family and friends are the best. The assortment of people that have made it to this point in my life are wonderful and funny and kind and awesome. I already have everything a person could want in them.

Whatever Christmas means to you and whatever you’ve wished for, I hope it all works out.

L

Posted on in Family, Friends, Life Comments Off on Joy to the World or Something Like That

An Update With No Actual News

Hello there! I haven’t written anything of substance here in a long time because I have been busy not giving a crap about maintaining a blog. Funny, that. I typically wait until there is something meaningful to say before breaking long periods of silence here but at this juncture, I don’t have anything I’m ready to share just yet. There IS news, it’s just not fit for public consumption at the moment.

There was this one thing I was going to write a full post about, but never made it past the first paragraph so this will have to suffice: Andrew accidentally lost the dog in the middle of the night last week and I got to spend an hour running through the woods in the darkness wearing pajamas and fuzzy slippers screaming “TANNNNNNNER!” (Weird how that hysteria didn’t entice him to come closer.) The slippers came to a soggy death right around the time they sloshed through the third ice cold, sludgy stream. Tanner nearly came to his death when I finally tearfully herded him back into the house and contemplated strangling his perky little self with my freezing bare hands.

Then last Friday I had him neutered. WHO’S PERKY NOW, BITCH?

I also read this interesting column about “Keeping on track during the festive season” on Ella CyclingTips. Festive season! Doesn’t that sound positively lovely? I feel festive just thinking about it. Unfortunately, there was nothing remotely festive about this advice, unless your idea of joy is discipline and deprivation capped off by forcing your loved ones to bend their plans to your training needs. Here is my advice for the festive season, carefully cultivated over several years of racing professionally and obsessively: GET DRUNK. EAT ALL OF THE COOKIES. Alcohol is a carb, chunky riders get down hills faster, and life is way too short to miss out on festivities because of cycling. Balance is worth pursuing.

(All of my exes are laughing laughing laughing at the irony of me saying that.)

On the subject of cycling, I have big news that will be shared in the coming days. There will be bike racing, that much I can say now, and there will be travel and laughter and tears and sweat and probably some more tears because crying is how I cope with being alive. Winter training has been hard because it’s long and isolating and the weather often feels like it’s sent here to make me reconsider just how badly I really want any of this. Sometimes I think about quitting. I had a leg workout yesterday that I put off for hours, dawdling and dreading everything as the morning slithered into afternoon and the excuses stacked up like the reps I refused to initiate. At one point, it occurred to me that I could just not do it. Nobody would have to know. In the grand scheme of training or life, it wouldn’t actually matter. But I got it done, banged it out and threw in some extra reps as punishment for the theatrics, and then today’s ride was lovely. The crisp air, early morning sunshine, decent legs, intervals that felt challenging but successful. The winter makes you tougher and hungrier and forces you to realize that you’re choosing all of this and it’s a privilege to have that choice and love something enough to keep making it over and over.

I’m relocating to the west coast for a few months right after Christmas because my hair looks better in low-humidity climates and I need a break from my flatiron.

The end for now. But as we will soon see, also the beginning.
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Posted on in Cycling, Life, The Pets Comments Off on An Update With No Actual News

#blessed

Here is what I do not understand about Thanksgiving: People moan about having to spend all day in the kitchen preparing so many dishes for a dinner they all agree is excessive and guilt-inducing that will be shared with family they complain about having to see. Then when it’s all done, people frantically shop for the same family members they didn’t want to deal with and kick off a month-long holiday season focused around repeating this same ritual several more times.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted on in Random Things 2 Comments

FAQ for that photo.

Have you seen this photo? Of course you have. Everybody has. It keeps making the rounds and that’s fine – it’s a great photo – but I’d like to address a few things once and for all.

2015 Gastown Grand Prix

Photo by Stefan.

Wow, what an amazing photo!

Yes.

Do you want to see the 76 photos I took of that same moment because I too had a camera and was there?

No.

Hope he’s okay!

Women crash too.

You should probably work on your cornering.

Thank you. Here is some math: I raced 26 crits this year. Assuming 4 corners per course and an average of 30 laps per race, that means I raced through 3,120 corners in 2015, not counting more technical courses, road races, TTs, and training. I ate shit in one of those corners. I feel okay with that ratio.

But since you are perfect, please tell me more about your riding.

That’s badass!

Yes, the photo is fantastic. The crash was ordinary; I took the sharp turn too tight while accelerating into that crosswalk and the bike slid out. I was a bit banged up but got back in the race and finished. This happens to men AND women in races regularly. While I would love to take credit for being hardcore for getting back on the bike, that’s my job. I wasn’t seriously hurt and I wanted to be in the race. I waited until after to cry.

Did you see the photo appeared on [Cycling Tips, Facebook, a billboard on the moon]?

Probably. Is it the same photo as it was in the previous hundred appearances? Yes? Okay. Let me know when somebody starts printing tee shirts.

Will you autograph it for me?

I can be bought.

Posted on in Cycling 2 Comments