FACES OF CROSS

There are a lot of interviews, articles and stories about racers. But what about all these other people at the races who actually make the 'cross circus work? 

With Faces of Cross, my goal is to introduce you to what's happening on the other side of the tape. From photographers, to race organizers, team managers or commentators, every role is crucial in cyclocross. All these people have something in common; passion for cyclocross (CXFever). I want to acknowledge them and get to know all these passionate people, because most of them have really interesting stories!  


Joe Devera

With US CX Nationals week already in full swing, there is a lot of excitement around the racers. We want to know how they prepared, how they will deal with the pressure and we’re getting excited to see how they will execute comes race day.

However, a big event like Nationals is not just about the racers. Sure, they are the ones under the spot light and they will be the ones racing their bikes at Riverside Park on Sunday. But they won’t be alone; January 8th is going to be a big day for their support crew as well.

So far, it seems like the conditions are pretty epic and that means a lot of work for every team mechanics. We had the chance to talk with Cannondale Cyclocrossworld’s mechanic Joe Devera to ask how he prepares ahead of big events like Nationals.

Joe has been working in the bike industry for over 20 years and has worked in all kinds of disciplines so we used this opportunity to ask him some questions about himself, his experience and his future projects. 

Good luck at Nationals and for the rest of the season Joe! 

For how long have you been a team mechanic? 

I’ve wrenched on and off since the late 80’s working for various cycling programs. I’ve taken long periods of time away from the mechanic world to pursue other endeavors but have always returned to my first love, which is cycling. I used to race in the 80’s as an Elite racer so I would supplement my income by working events as a mechanic to some teams, when I wasn’t racing.

That should tell you how good of a racer I wasn’t…

So I'm guessing you have been a cycling fan for a long time? 

Yes! I’ve been a fan of cycling since I was a kid. My BMX bike was freedom to me to get away and venture out. I worked a paper route to buy my first road bike (which ended up being the wrong size) but soon started to race. I was a huge fan of Greg Lemond and the Tour de France. I was lucky enough to find a core group of friends in San Jose, CA ; we would call ourselves the Lundy boys; our crew named after a street we used to do lots of practice crits at. The rest is history.

Nationals are coming pretty quickly and I'm guessing it's going to be a busy week for Cannondale Cyclocrossworld team. You guys have a rider in each of the elite categories; Emma and Curtis White will be going for the U23 titles while Kaitlin Antonneau and Stephen Hyde will have their eyes on the Elite titles...That makes 4 different races, which sounds like a lot of work for the team's staff.

How do you prepare for a race like Nationals? What does your week look like heading into the weekend of racing?

 I don’t really prepare for it, coming from the World Cups in Europe the week before keeps me on the sharp end of mechanics. I just like to rest up at home and catch up on sleep. I will fly in on Wednesday night in Boston and meet up with the team on Thursday Morning. I am sure Stu and the gang prepped everything before hand and now it just comes down to minor adjustments like tires, psi and selection of gearing choice. Usually we start setting up our compound for the team, which consists of mechanics workspace, food prep counter, trainers, and an area for our athletes to relax. Then, after it’s all said and done, we pack up and get the equipment ready for everyone to take to World Championships in Luxembourg. Lots of packing of bikes, wheels and spare parts.

What is your role on Cannondale Cyclocrossworld?

My biggest role is Lead Mechanic but with that said, we all wear different hats to make the Green machine work. I can be seen sweeping floors, washing the truck, scrubbing tires and cooking eggs, cooking rice and making coffee. I will do whatever the team needs me to do. I don’t do massages, chamois cream or embro in case you were wondering. But I do give High fives and hugs.

Are you nervous before big events like Nationals? If so, how do you stay calm?

I’m not really nervous before a big event. I know I’ve put in the hours and work needed so then I’m pretty calm about it. When things happen, I usually am in the zone.

 

Is there a rider who is most particular about his/her bike on the team?

I think each rider has their own thing they are particular about. I wouldn’t single out any of the riders on this. I don’t mind if they are picky or not. It’s a good thing since I can adopt how they want things quicker. I actually prefer it that way. It takes the guesswork out of the way.  

What is the detail that you are the most particular about on bikes? The aspect that you put the most effort into?

Every year bikes and equipment change so everything gets looked at in detail. Were lucky enough to work with so many great sponsors to make our job easy with top notch equipment. As a mechanic it’s natural to make sure things work. The one thing often overlooked is to make your bikes are presentable to the public, photographers and sponsors by keeping things neat and tidy on bikes. Putting bikes away dirty is somewhat unacceptable. If its a night race sometimes you run out of hours on the day so you have to balance it.

As for effort, I put the same amount of effort into everything. If the rider puts the effort in, I try to match it or better it.

What is the hardest part of being a professional team mechanic?

Long Hours! And being away from my family. Sometimes during a race weekend, although you want to grab a drink or have some personal time off, long hours and getting the job done is just part of the reality and extends your work day. The ability to work in different time zones and execute can also be challenging at times.

On race day, what does a day in the life of Joe look like?

My race day consists of coffee, followed by more coffee. Then I spend some time in the gym and go to the team trailer where we unload all the equipment and setup shop. I usually make a breakfast smoothie to get me started, cause I am pretty burnt on hotel breakfast. Then I again check over all the bikes and make any changes we’ve talked about the night before the race. The riders usually start arriving about 3 hours before their race and some text me to start making rice (must be an Asian thing). Pressure checks start and maybe a visit to the pit for some final PSI adjustments then back to trailer to wash up the bikes and get ready for the start line.

Finally, the races start, which has me going to the pit. I work the Elite Women’s race with Kaitie and soon after, the Elite men’s with Hyde. I usually ditch out a bit early (If USAC makes the schedule tight, would be great if they didn’t) from the pit and back to trailer to take care of the boys on last minute stuff. Once the racing ends, the work doesn’t stop. We start packing up, followed by a late dinner (night racing no dinner) or if the timing is right, hop on a plane back home.

***

At the races, Joe is always in good spirits and seems happy to be there, which is key to bringing good vibes to the team before or after competition. He is definitely busy, but he always seems relax and never looks burned out or overworked. After a long time on the road, though, I think it can be hard to stay motivated and excited, but it seems like Joe has figured out some good techniques to enjoy time on the road this year.

Looking at your social media accounts, it seems like you found a way to make the travel days more fun this year by going golfing or climbing during race weekends. Do you feel like doing these activities helps you do a better job?

I would say climbing before golf. Stu is the golfer so I just go out with him and pay a round or just go to the driving range. Climbing is my second love next to cycling but lately it’s been my first.

Doing things like climbing and golfing or just hotel gym workouts lets you focus on something else and keeps you from burning out. It does help you relax and concentrate as well. This year has been a bit more active for me, which keeps me out of funky moods.

What do you like the most about your job and what keeps you coming back year after year?

Being on a winning program always helps and keeps me coming back every year but I would say that forming relationships with your riders and staff is a big part of it. It sort of starts to become family since you work in tight quarters and see them basically every week for 6-7 months out of the year.

You have worked in all disciplines of cycling. Professional MTB teams, and SRAM race support at many big races. Is it difficult to change from a discipline to another and learn the different standards? Or do you like the challenge of changing things up?

Funny you should ask this. I like the challenge of changing things up. For example, coming from cross season going into road. Before an event, I have my wife Melissa to time me for wheel changes for single front and rear wheels as well as for double wheel changes. Just to make sure I have my routine down.

For MTB I do the same, but since you have to work on everything in the race pit during the race I kind of start going through scenarios in my head of different types of mechanicals that can happen in a MTB race and how I can repair them quickly.

Triathlon is different since you can’t really support a Tri so you have to make sure everything it dialed the moment they check in there bike. Four hours on the bike is a lot of time on the bike so you better make sure everything is dialed.

In neutral race support, anything can happen and it’s a nice thing to do since you get to see all sorts of components and figure it out. I kind of like these cause it puts me up to date on the latest and greatest. But cross is King cause when things go wrong, you have a bike to give on the next half lap. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of Moto support. So this is fun for me since I love riding motos.

Any favorite moment or great memory that stands out in all your years of working in cycling?

I have so many good memories and I have been blessed to work with so many amazing top professional athletes in MTB,CROSS,TRI AND ROAD and each individual victory has a special place. But I want to talk about the one that wasn’t a victory but a victory in my eyes. Being the mechanic for Kaitlin Antonneau while watching her race from the race pit when she raced to a podium 2nd place finish at World Cup Valkenburg Netherlands in 2015. The moment was surreal watching her race her heart out! It was smiles all day long! That one has a special place in my heart. (BTW I lost my voice that day). I’m hoping to create more great memories in the future as well.

Funniest thing that you have seen happening the pits?

Funniest thing I’ve seen was a mechanic hand off the wrong bike to the racer during a bike exchange only for the rider to look across the course at his mechanic with disapproval. That was pretty funny. I do have to add things get a bit confusing when you’re the only mechanic with multiple riders. 

Do you plan on working for a MTB team this summer? Or do you prefer working directly for SRAM race support at different types of events?

I don’t plan on doing any MTB in the summer, but I do miss it. If an opportunity presents itself I wouldn’t mind. I will most likely do small events with Neutral Service to fill the gap with road events, grand fondos, Dirt fondos ,etc. But honestly, I’ve got some pretty big plans for climbing and fly fishing this spring and summer so I’ll make sure my schedule is light on the cycling side of things.

*** 

Thank you so much Joe for taking the time and for giving out all your advices! We wish you and the team the best of luck this weekend and for the rest of the season. 

A voice of 'cross - Dave Towle

It was a cold, wet evening in Cincinnati. We had just finished the race and done the women’s podium when my teammate Katerina told me: “We should give our podium flowers to Dave, what do you think?” pointing at the announcer of the race.

 At that time, back in 2014, I didn’t know him well. I had heard his voice many times and I had even heard him say some nice things about me before or during a race, but I never got to meet him. But he had said some nice things, so why not give him my flowers! Plus, he had been outside in the cold and the rain all night and if Katerina thought we should give him our flowers to thank him for his good job, then he was probably a good guy.

“Great idea!” I responded.

This was the first time I officially met Dave Towle. We chatted for a few seconds; he was very nice and he seemed very pleased to receive our flowers, but he had to get back to work because the men’s race was underway...

By now, I’ve seen Dave way more often and got to chat with him on many occasion. He never fails to impress me with the respect and kindness he shows towards racers. Dave is passionate about the sport and he loves sharing his knowledge with people; his deep, powerful voice being the perfect tool to do so.

It was a pleasure interviewing him and I hope you will all enjoy getting to know the man who can scream “one to go one to go one to go” faster than anyone else on this planet.

I’m glad we gave him our flowers!

***

Which came first; your love for cycling or the desire to be a sport announcer?

By far my love for cycling, but I had to think about it. I really just wanted to be involved in cycling in anyway that I could. It was pretty clear early on that it wouldn’t be as a racer, so I looked elsewhere. I was a mechanic, worked for teams and in shops. The announcer dream really started when I started going to races a lot in the late 90’s and realized that was a thing that I could maybe do. 

How does one become a cycling announcer? How did it happen for you -Did you always want to be a cycling announcer or did the job find you (because you had an amazing voice, got opportunities, etc)?  

That’s a really hard one to answer. There was a definite moment where I made the leap of faith required. I had been doing this thing called CyberBike; that was basically indoor trainer racing at auto shows (a side show to give people something to watch and do). It was a long way from being a race announcer, which was what I really wanted, but all the jobs were taken and I was light on connections. So twist of fate in Breckenridge back in 2002, the announcer they hired didn’t show up and I was more than happy to fill in. It was an out of body experience for many reasons, and I never really wanted to do anything else since. I had to really work hard, sometimes for not much money. It took a while to build up speed, but getting to do the first and every Tour de Georgia and Tour of California helped me start to build a base to work from.

 Thanks for the comment about my voice, but I just see myself as a craftsman, I try to use it as a tool and still, and to this day, look to make opportunities for myself.

What would you say is the trick to being a great announcer vs a good one? 

I think it’s honestly either in you or it’s not. But, there is definitely a huge element of being prepared. Doing the homework, reading about riders you don’t know enough about. Staying focused and treating it like a job is really important too. A lot of people who may only announce a few times a year have a hard time with focus. With all their friends coming up to talk while the racing is going on. Its hard to say, “hey, I have to announce” , but you need to. The organizer and racers want to know you’re working, not socializing.

Dave at the Amgen Tour Of California. Photo taken on Facebook from Jon Suzuki 

Dave at the Amgen Tour Of California. Photo taken on Facebook from Jon Suzuki 

Did you ever take any special courses for announcing (ex: diction class, communication class, etc)? Do you need to do voice exercise or to warm up your voice before a big day of racing?

 I still want to work on trying to do voice over work someday. To do that, I’m going to have to take classes and get serious. I haven’t yet, but plan to. Outside of drinking a lot of water, I don’t really do anything special. I don’t want to start relying on things to feel good about my voice. So far, so good.

Do you read a lot? When I listen to you, it seems to me that you have a really rich vocabulary and you always make original comments and comparisons. You seem to be very cultured. If you don’t read a lot, what’s your secret? If you do read a lot, what are some of your favorite books/magazines/journals? 

I read a ton. I listen to a lot of audio books now, too. I just finished “Hamilton” and have been in love with history and places my entire life. I listen to a lot of NPR and podcasts like “The Moth” as well as the other end of the spectrum like Adam Carolla, who I really respect and enjoy.

Have you ever announced for other types of events than cycling? 

A bit of running and triathlon, but not too much. Almost none in the last 4 years. I’d rather work on voice stuff that I have passion for, like cycling, rather than other sports that I’d honestly be doing just to be able to hammer a check.

The other day, at the Clif Bar Speed Hole tournament in Vegas, you threw an amazing statistic on Katerina Nash. Are you a statistic guy in life in general or do you make sure to learn some for your work? How do you find those statistics? 

Honestly, reading. The Internet is amazing. It used to be tons of times going through old cycling magazines, over and over. Now I can just ask the Google or follow a path once you start digging in on a story.

Are you a fan of other sports too? 

I for sure am a fan of most sports. Some more than others, some not at all, but mostly, I love sports. I don’t know much about anything outside cycling and the Olympics, though.

How do you prepare for an event? 

Talk to organizers. I have a checklist in my own mind. Do I know what I need to know in the sense of the why/when/where/who and sponsor front? If not I need to get those basics figured out in the week before the event.

The rest is what makes you special as an announcer. Taking the time to just talk and learn about people. It goes a long way when you show the top riders respect and just ask questions about who they are as a person.

What does a day at the race look like for you? 

 I get to the venue an hour before the first start. I usually announce all categories so that means 7am. Try to give everyone their dues. If you race hard, I try to notice. It’s pretty steady all day, usually the last race ends by 6pm. Not too exciting really. I sit there and announce all day, seriously!

I think announcing is a full-time job, right? How many events per year do you cover on average? And what does a typical week look like for you?

It is a full time job, but I can always work more. There are a lot of weekends where I could work three different events and have to choose one. The next month there could be three weeks in a row with no work. So scheduling is a big part of the struggle! I’m trying to get some projects off the ground and that has been filling the rest of my time, sort of!

All right let’s be honest here. You are human after all, you must have your favorites at the races sometimes, don’t you? However, no one can tell from your comments during a race. How do you keep it so neutral when you get emotionally caught in the action of the race? 

Oh, for sure, honestly, like you. Like Amy D. Like Rohan Dennis or Alex Howes. There are just certain athletes I dig, for a lot of reasons. I try to keep it on the up and up. I try to remember that everyone deserves a fair shake out there. There are not many sports that have the commentary being heard by the athletes while they are in the arena of play the way cycling does. So, to say negative or passively aggressive stuff is bullshit in my opinion. I don’t want riders saying they could feel me rooting for their competition. It’s not easy and I’m not perfect, so I try to think about that all the time.

Dave with Taylor Phinney at the USA Pro Challenge in 2015. Photo taken on Facebook by David Hunter 

Dave with Taylor Phinney at the USA Pro Challenge in 2015. Photo taken on Facebook by David Hunter 

What’s the biggest mistake you have ever made on the mic?

 Man, I’ll take the easy route here. I’ve done a few I’m not proud of. I’d say ringing the “one to go” bell too early at Gila and Iron Horse (I still dispute my level of blame, but whatever). It certainly fucked up the race for some good guys, like Troy Wells. That’s why I’m glad he’s a friend and cuts me break.

What is the coolest thing you have witnessed at an event? 

That’s a hard one. When I was a kid one of the Soviet riders came up to me after a race and his team had left him behind or forgotten him. He asked if I could show him the way back to the dorms they stayed in. So I rode with him and everyone looked at me like I was crazy, or cool, or something. I felt like I was somebody for the first time in my life. That made me really happy.

I’ve seen a ton of people reach their goal, exceed who they thought they could be, almost always at an amateur level. That’s always awesome to watch. People seem to give way too much credit to me for being there to announce it when they do that. I’m just stoked and lucky, it’s not that far for me to go out of my way to care.

Biggest challenge when announcing at a bike race?

Being funny and high energy without being cheesy and insulting people’s sensibility. They came to a bike race, not to hear my opinions about Trump or guns, so I have to remember that. 

Favorite cycling discipline?

No doubt it’s cyclocross. 

Best memory (any particular event you announced you are most proud of or any moment you said something amazing and got a really cool reaction from a rider or a crowd)? 

Doing the Tour of Ireland for all three years it existed was my highlight. It was such an honor to be there, I met so many people. It was scary, I was out of my league but I stepped up and never let them know I was panicking! It makes me smile about how intimidated I was….

At the USA Pro Challenge Stage 3. Photo by Deirdre Moynihan on Facebook

At the USA Pro Challenge Stage 3. Photo by Deirdre Moynihan on Facebook

Do you sometimes have nothing to say? What happens in those moments?  

I know I’m in trouble when I start thinking to hard and get tired of myself! That’s a good sign that maybe other people are too. So I might just take a small break, grab some food, and reset myself. Believe me, I know I can wear on people when its all Dave, all day long. That’s just not fair to the world!

Is there something else you would like to accomplish in your career ?

I learned that the more I want to be at an event, the less likely it is to happen. I now let the world come to me much more than I used to. I hope it works, but getting your heart broken happens a lot in announcing. Way more than people may know, and I’m only kind of talking about me, as it’s a lot of others too. That said, getting to do LA 2024, if it happens, would be nice.

What do you like to do in your free time? 

 I want to go to Finland! So travel and see old friends…..

***

Thank you Dave for taking the time!

 

The Girl with the Cowbell Tattoo

She's been called "The Girl with the Cowbell Tattoo" a couple of times and she has a turtle named Sven.

Molly, who talks about her younger self as "the least athletic kid ever" said she once faked fainting to avoid running a mile in gym class. A few years later, she completed an Ironman, she competed in several UCI cyclocross races and she built her whole career around the sport of cycling; particularly around the cyclocross discipline. 

 After being the managing editor at Cyclocross Magazine and writing 3 books, Molly now works as a writer at Bicycling Magazine. She’s also writing as a freelancer (RootsRated, Map my Fitness, etc.), she hosts a podcast (The Consummate Athlete Podcast) with her new husband and gives talks around the country about lady parts! As if that wasn’t enough, in 2015, Molly got even more involved in the sport as she joined Jeremy Powers' Aspire Racing team as a team manager.

 Molly is used to be the one interviewing others, but today, we are changing roles. Get to know Molly Hurford. 

***

Let’s start with the first logical question; how did you start being involved in cycling? More specifically how did you get involved in cyclocross?

When I got to college, I knew I needed to start working out to stay somewhat in shape. So, I started running a bit. Luckily, my RA for my dorm was a triathlete, and my dad had raced a bunch before I was born, so I jumped into that pretty quickly. Then, I joined the Rutgers Cycling Team to get better at the bike leg, and they basically bullied me into trying cyclocross. Six matching cowbell tattoos later, I had friends for life and a sport that would eventually turn into a career for me… Just not as a racer!

I think you started working with Jeremy Powers (Aspire Racing) last year? What is your role with the team?

You’re right! Last year and now, I’m Jeremy’s team manager with Aspire. Basically, that means that I book all the flights and hotels, coordinate with the promoters and our awesome mechanics, and make sure race weekends run 100 percent smoothly. And this year, Ellen Noble joined the team, and it’s been really fun getting to know her.

 How did you start working with them (Aspire Racing)?

I lived in Western MA—where Jeremy lives—for six months a few years ago. I was working for Cyclocross Magazine at the time, so Jeremy knew me pretty well as someone who was always around interviewing him. He asked if I was interested in doing some work with him—essentially what I’m doing now but on a more local scale—and I said yes! When I moved, I stopped working with him, but we stayed good friends, and when he needed a manager last year, it was a great opportunity for both of us to work together again!

Now that you work with Aspire Racing, how does it change the way you prepare for and the way you live races as opposed to when you were there as a journalist?

A lot more planning! And, I admit, I love that. Even my Barbies had detailed itineraries and meticulously packed suitcases when I was a kid, so this is basically my dream come true. The amount of work that goes into a race weekend now—especially when I’m writing about it in addition to getting the team through the races—gets pretty crazy.

Team Aspire Racing. Photo from Wil Matthews 

Team Aspire Racing. Photo from Wil Matthews 

 What do you like the most about working with the team?

The people, of course! It’s been great getting to know the crew—Jeremy, Ellen, Brandon and Tom. After a lot of time together last year, especially time in Europe where we’re fairly isolated, I think we’ve gotten to be really great friends. We work really hard, but we make time for team dinners… And last year, I got Rapha to work with me so we all had Christmas stockings to open since we missed Christmas at home with our families!

***

Now on to your career as a writer...

When she was at Cyclocross Magazine, Molly was also working for a business that sold text books. One time, while in Vegas for Cross Vegas, she visited a college to try to sell textbooks. The conversation quickly drifted as Molly started talking about the book she had written on cyclocross rather than about the textbooks she had to sell. As she was leaving, the prof told her that if she could sell textbooks 5 percent as well as she sold cyclocross, she would make a fortune. She quit working for the textbook publisher the next week.

Since then, she wrote 3 books related to cycling.

What inspired you to write your books?

It was different each time, so I’ll break it down! That said, the one thing that happened with each one was that it was a book that was just stuck in my head and would not get out. So they simply had to get written.

My first one, ‘Mud, Snow and Cyclocross’ was an absolute labor of love—actually, one reader called it a love letter to ‘cross, and he was totally right. I just loved the sport so freaking much.

The second book, “Saddle, Sore: A Women-Only Guide to You and Your Bike was my answer to being asked a ton of women-specific (lady part specific) questions. I was trying to find a resource to send women to when they had saddle sore, chafing, chamois, or saddle questions and couldn’t find one that answered everything. So, I decided to write the book, seeking answers from experts like chamois designers and gynecologists. I don’t think my mother will ever forgive me for writing a book about lady parts!

My most recent book, Fuel Your Ride, was one that I’ve wanted to write forever—when I was six, I remember getting Cher’s fitness and nutrition book out of the library, and being obsessed. I read pretty much every book on exercise nutrition since then—Matt Fitzgerald and Allen Lim are huge inspirations to me and have become (I think, anyway!) friends over the years. But that book was also exciting because I got to consult with so many people with so much more nutrition expertise than I have, and distilling it into readable, hopefully fun content was an absolute blast.

 I personally think your articles are super varied and interesting. You talk about topics that are not often talked about. When you work for a magazine, how does it work? Are you relatively free to write about everything you feel would be interesting?

First of all, thanks! Working at Bicycling is pretty rad: we have idea meetings weekly, and most of the time, the articles I write are ones that I pitched. But I also end up doing articles that the editors choose for me, and that’s actually been great. It helps me stretch my writing and researching muscles when I get a completely new topic! I’m lucky that if I’m super passionate about something, they’ll almost always green light it.

How do you prepare for an article?

As soon as I get assigned an article (or assign myself one!), I break it down into doing the research, finding an expert, conducting an interview, outlining the key points, transcribing quotes, and getting the draft together! Sometimes, photos are involved. Once it’s in the calendar—broken down so it’s done by the deadline—I get to it!

Google Scholar is a lifesaver, as is Skype, since I can record calls from anywhere in the world. I don’t envy reporters pre-Internet. Some articles only take a day or two, some can take weeks.

What is the biggest challenge in being a writer in cycling?

Definitely learning about gear. It’s a really steep learning curve, especially as technology gets even more complicated! Keeping up with that, and with current cycling events, can be a job in and of itself.

For example, a lot of the pro racers I interviewed when I first started in cycling journalism have since retired, so I make it a point to stay current and keep finding younger up-and-coming riders to talk to. It’s easy to get complacent with sources when deadlines are tight and a ton of articles are due too, so I really try to stretch myself to find new sources frequently, whether that means a new nutritionist or coach to talk to. But I have some favorites that give such great advice, I always come back to them for the tough stuff!

Molly working simultaneously on being a reporter and being a team manager, at a race with team Aspire Racing. Photo by Wil Matthews

Molly working simultaneously on being a reporter and being a team manager, at a race with team Aspire Racing. Photo by Wil Matthews

Is there any interview or article you are the most proud of?  If so, which one?

Getting to interview Marianne Vos and Sven Nys—legends of the sport—was huge for me, of course. But really, there are too many to pick from: just to give you an idea, in 2015, I wrote over 250 articles for Bicycling! I’d say one of my most recent favorites was this one on chamois mistakes people make, simply because I think it might really help new riders. 

What is your opinion about the “health” of cyclocross in North America right now? Are we in a good place?

I think we’re in an awesome place! After finally making it to Europe for some World Cup races last season, I came back loving American cyclocross even more. I think in Europe, it’s amazing that cyclocross is the pro event that it is, with stadiums full of spectators. It feels like being at a NASCAR race in the US. But at the end of the day, I love American cyclocross because I think we manage to blend a spectator sport with a participation sport. To me, that’s the coolest thing.

 Most memorable thing you have ever witnessed at an event?

Those always seem to be the heart-wrenching moments, but they’re the ones that stick with you. I remember my first Nationals in Bend, Oregon: Jeremy was racing Todd Wells for the win, and in the last lap, he crashed in a corner and it cost him the race. I was standing at that corner, and I didn’t know Jeremy at the time, but my Rutgers friends were cheering for him, and I remember feeling absolutely devastated for him. It’s funny that that’s the memory that stayed with me… And I think it makes every time he wins now—especially now that I’m working with him—really poignant for me.

 The best memory as a journalist, though, was right before Worlds in 2013 at Kings CX in Cincinnati. I was able to interview Neils Albert and Radomir Simunek in their massive RV, and I remember asking their manager for the interview, him going in and talking to them, them saying yes, and me stepping into the trailer feeling like a journalist for Rolling Stone going to interview the latest boy band. They’re used to being rock stars in Europe, so it’s not that far-fetched! Neils was sitting at a table in this amazing tracksuit, and it was just such a surreal setup.

 What is your favorite race to watch?

Favorite race to watch had to be Worlds in Louisville back in 2013. So much drama, even before the races started! I remember sprinting (in galoshes!) to the media room when I heard all the races were rescheduled to happen on Saturday, bursting in, and grabbing Micah from USAC and shouting, “What is happening?!” It was the biggest ‘breaking story’ I’ve ever gotten to cover. Plus, Louisville is rad.

 Your bucket list race?

I guess I’m actually doing it! Peter and I decided next summer, we’re going to try for a crazy race schedule in Whistler, BC. And we’re starting with Ironman! I’ve done one before, but I’m excited to see how it goes this time now that I’m older and hopefully wiser. After that, we’ll hopefully jump into a yoga fest in town, followed by a half-marathon, then the XC MTB race and a downhill race at Crankworx. We just signed up for Ironman, so it’s happening!

Photo by Peter Glassford

Photo by Peter Glassford

I love that you touched so many aspect of the industry. Do you have any other big projects coming up?

A couple, absolutely! When I first came out with Saddle, Sore, I had no idea that people would really like it. I thought I’d sell 50 copies and be done with it. But almost three years later, it’s still selling and I’m still getting asked to give talks at shops pretty regularly! So in November, I’ll have a second edition of Saddle, Sore coming out with a ton more info on lady parts and the bike—including a bunch about pregnancy, post-pregnancy and menopause and how to ride comfortably through them! I’m stoked on some of the amazing women I got to talk to for this version. And… I actually changed it up a lot to make most of the book more male-friendly and added a chapter for guys! Book launch shindigs will be in Toronto in December, so stay tuned!

And my other project I’m working on is a middle-grade (4-6th grade) novel about (shocker!) cycling and rad girls. It’s scary, writing fiction, but I’ve wanted to write novels my whole life and it’s time to start!

 Finally, do you have any advice for someone who would want to start working in the industry as a writer?

I get asked this a ton, and the advice is kind of basic, but worth repeating. Write. A lot. I look back on my earliest articles and just cringe. But that’s what got me where I am today. I write around 20,000 words a week, if I had to average it out, and often more if I’m working on a book. So that’s my best advice: write, a lot. I never was huge on the networking-as-how-to-make-it strategy—that only works if you have the words to back it up, so work on those first and the rest will come!

Is there anything else you would like to talk about?

I guess I’d just say that I’ve been so, so lucky to have been able to travel and do what I do, and to have such amazing people in my life. Every day, I’m just so freaking happy that this is my life, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. It’s hard, it’s exhausting, it’s challenging… and it’s just so much fun.

***

Thank you so much Molly for taking the time and sharing your experience with us! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daimeon Shanks

DAIMEON SHANKS

A few people who worked with him were asked to use 1 word to describe him best.... 
Meredith Miller, professional CX racer used "multifarious".  Professional mechanic Dusty Labarr chose "intelligent" whereas professional MTB racer Stephen Ettinger described him as an enigma. 

Wether it was in the pits at a mountain bike or 'cross race, on the track at Evelyn Stevens’ Hour Record, on TV fixing a mechanical from a car at the Giro D'Italia or in the pictures of the new Feed Zone Table Cookbook; if you have been following cycling in the last 15 years, chances are you have seen or heard of Daimeon Shanks at least once. 

After talking to many different people, the general consensus in describing Daimeon was well resumed by Stephen Ettinger when he said: " He legitimately might be the most interesting man in the world; just when I think I have him pegged, he surprises me. There is just never a dull moment with him." 

Daimeon, commonly known as Daimo, is a staple of American Cycling. Twelve years and thirteen pro teams later, as he recently announced his decision of leaving the cycling world to pursue other personal goals, we decided to ask "the most interesting man in the (cycling) world" a couple of questions regarding the last decade of his life to better understand the impact he’s had on the biking community. 

*** 

How did you start being involved in cycling? 

My first involvement came way back in ’94 during high school on the Oregon coast... I was lucky enough to have attended a school that had a mountain bike club and a teacher that was a passionate cyclist and really introduced me to the sport as a whole. In fact, my first race ever was a cyclocross race. 

I feel like we see you everywhere; Noosa Pro Cycling Mechanic, Evelyn Stevens' hour record mechanic, Stephen Ettinger’s personal mechanic, building bikes for a few world class triathletes…How are you so connected? What is your favorite discipline and why? 

Gosh, I reckon I’m just lucky to have so many connections. A lot of it is due to things that I’ve done outside of working for pro cycling teams (and I’ve worked for quite a few!) such as the writing I’ve done for VeloNews, my bike shop, and just personal connections. Being in Boulder helps, for sure, more than any other place I’ve lived there’s a confluence of world-class athletes from many different disciplines. You can’t throw a rock in the whole foods without hitting a pro cyclist.

As for my favorite discipline, hands down, no question it’s 'cross. Having a good mechanic is so integral to a pro ‘cross racer’s success, it really feels like you’re part of their success… although that’s a double-edges sword, sometimes you can f*ck things up pretty good, too.

Photo courtesy of Daimeon. 

Photo courtesy of Daimeon. 

I think you are also the owner of Service Course? What is that business and how did you start it?

Former owner! I started The Service Course with Nick Legan in 2010, but shut it down at the end of May this year so I could enjoy a summer off before starting a new career…

The Service Course was a unique little bike shop, we didn’t sell bikes or softgoods and focused solely on providing professional level service. Myself and the mechanics that worked for me have all worked for pro teams at various times and we really found a great niche business, one that worked particularly well in Boulder. Pro service is the last thing that you still can’t buy on the internet and we capitalized on that. In fact, they’re are now a host of new businesses across the country that are based on our business model. 

Photo by Wil Matthews. 

Photo by Wil Matthews. 

I know you speak a few languages and have spent a good amount of time in Italy. Why were you in Italy for so long? 

So that actually is only tangentially related to cycling… my undergrad degree was in Romance Languages so I studied for a while in Italy and have an affinity for that nation. Really the only cycling work I’ve done in Italy has been the Giro d’Italia.

For someone who has been in the cycling world for over 12 years, what do you think were/are the best days of cycling in North America? 

For me personally, the US Gran Prix of Cylocross that ran between 2008-12 was the pinnacle of the North American cycling. Having one, large series really showcased North Americans and drew great crowds and great fields. The disjointed, semi-linked US pro structure we have today is really a poor, poor substitute and really discourages our Canadian friends up north from coming down to our events.

In your opinion, what is/was the best equipment innovation ever (the thing that made your life easier as a mechanic and that everyone should have on their cross bike)? 

As a mechanic and a racer, thru-axles and disc brakes. It’s amazing it took so long for CX to catch up to even the most basic mountain bike technology.

As a racer, I sometimes feel like the mechanic is my “big brother”. I feel like our mechanic is so much more than a mechanic. I go to him when I need advice or when I’m bummed out about a race and need to be comforted or when I want to goof around or to celebrate. Do you feel like you’ve played that role to some racers,  too? 

For sure. Stephen and I first started working together when he was on the BMC u-23 mountain bike team and that’s developed into way more than a rider/mechanic relationship. I think I’ve played, maybe not a positive role, but definitely a role in the development of a lot of young guys as they were coming up through the ranks.

I can definitively say that Alex Howes would not be the rider he is without me. But I won’t admit that’s a good thing...

Daimo and the Noosa Pro Cycling team. 

Daimo and the Noosa Pro Cycling team. 

Why did you decide to leave the cycling world? What’s next for you?

It was time for a new challenge! I’ve worked in one way or another in cycling for the last 15 years and have done pretty much everything I’ve wanted to do in the sport… I’ve worked extensively on pro circuits, I wrote a book (Essential Bicycle Maintenance and Repair), I’ve owned a profitable bike shop, there’s not much left for me to do. 

So I’ve recently began law school at the University of Colorado where I plan on studying international human rights abuse and war crimes prosecution.

I think you’ve done a couple of races yourself. Will you keep racing a little bit?

Absolutely. But pretty much exclusively ‘cross, that’s what I love about ‘cross, you can be as unfit as a turnip and still show up to a race and have someone to compete with. 

Funniest thing you’ve witnessed in the pits or tech zone? 

When I was working for Cannondale/CyclocrossWorld, one of our riders, the Swiss national champion Christian Huele, took umbrage to some perceived sketchy tactics employed by Zach McDonald and promptly put him into the fences right in front of the pit. That was pretty funny. 

Best job you’ve ever had? 

I’d say my first year working for Slipstream Sports (the team now known as Cannondale-Drapac) in 2006 - back then we were called TIAA-Cref and it was just a great group of guys, many of whom are still close friends. Will Frischkorn, Danny Pate, Brad Huff, Mike Friedman, Mike Creed… just so many awesome dudes. We were young and good looking. 

Daimo and Will Frischkorn. Courtesy of Daimeon.

Daimo and Will Frischkorn. Courtesy of Daimeon.

Favorite memory/moment of you career in cycling? 

Watching one of my best friends, Stephen Ettinger, win his first XC national championship in Pennsylvania… I couldn’t have been happier. 

Daimo and Stephen Ettinger. Photo of Kenny Wehn. 

Daimo and Stephen Ettinger. Photo of Kenny Wehn. 

Favorite race?

To watch would be Paris-Roubaix (duuuuh), but to work it’s the Giro. Great food, great racing, and Italy is just lovely.

What will you miss the most about being a mechanic? And what will you miss the least?

Not gonna miss the travel days. I will figuratively miss everything else. 

Any advice you would give to someone who wants to become a professional mechanic? 

Never, ever, ever leave off for tomorrow what you can do today. It’ll bite you in the ass.

Anything else you would like to say? 

I appreciate you asking me to do this! Hope your ‘cross season goes swimmingly and everyone realizes there’s a Daimo-sized hole in the pit this fall. 

*** 

With his great sense of humour, his incredible dedication, amazing work ethic and his entrepreneurship, he will for sure be missed by many in the cycling industry. Nonetheless, I am sure that everyone who worked with Daimo, or anyone who just hung out and had a chance to chat with him at some events will say the same thing; that we were lucky to spend some time with him, learn from his experience and have a good laugh with him! 

Thank you for all you have done in the sport and thank you for taking the time to share your experience with us through this interview. Good luck in your next chapter, Daimo. We have no doubt it will bring you success! 

Photo by Kenny Wehn 

Photo by Kenny Wehn