New things are always exciting, and that rule most definitely applies to the new team Lespy and I are racing for this year: Maxxis Factory Racing. I've fielded a lot of questions about the move and my race schedule, and so I thought I'd share some more detailed info about the team, what our goals are, and "why now".
I don't make big decisions lightly. I put a lot of thought into every change I make, whether big or small. It doesn't matter if it's changing the brand of oats I buy or the city that I live in, I put a lot of thought into the decision-making process. And so, it goes without saying that the decision to transition teams was not made without intention and care.
After last year, I needed a change. From talking to many people who've lived through an Olympic cycle and who had intentions to go for another Games, it was clear that change can be a really important part of both the recovery process and the path forward. Imagine pursing something for a decade, living and breathing that pursuit 24/7 365, and then having it just be... over. One of the ways to get through this, and to maintain (or rekindle) the passion for this all-consuming sport, is to change up your approach. Making the decision to do that was scary, but in an exhilarating way; something that I hadn't felt in quite a long time. From my very first talks with Drew (our team manager), I knew that the racing-heart, sweaty-palms feeling I was getting about this move was exactly what I needed.
Riding for Maxxis represented a massive opportunity. It was a chance to work with new and iconic brands that embody the spirit of this sport. It was a chance to expand the scope of my career in bike racing (I'm now a professional "off-road cyclist", as opposed to a pro mountain biker... small but HUGE difference!). It was also a chance to connect with the cycling community in a way I've never been able to, with a greater focus on mass-participation events and a lot more domestic racing. 6 months on from the beginning of this new journey, I feel even more invigorated and excited than I was initially. Honestly, it feels like it just gets better and better every week.
The Team - Make Up and Sponsors
The team is made up of endurance and enduro components. Drew Esherick is the team manager, mechanic, and general leader of the squad (go Drew!). Though he's American, he holds honourary Canadian status among the cycling crowd, so we've felt at home right from day one. The endurance component of the team is made up of Lespy (Andrew L'Esperance) and I. We'll be tackling the races where the uphill pedalling portions count. The enduro component is comprised of two American youngsters, Sophie Allen and Cole Peterson, and they'll be riding the BME (Big Mountain Enduro) series, as well as some selected other events (Sea Otter, a few EWS stops, etc).
The team is, obviously, sponsored by Maxxis. Maxxis makes the tires that everyone lusts after, and I can see why. Reliable, fast, technologically innovative, and enough tread patterns/casings/compounds/widths/etc to satisfy tire needs for any and every course. Aside from the tires, I'm thrilled with the company vibe and attitude at Maxxis. I feel like a person first, whose contributions to the community are valued beyond the number that I roll across the line. It's a really, really nice feeling.
Two other key sponsors of the team are Stan's No Tubes, and Ibis bicycles. Stan's speaks for itself; the brand is synonymous with sealant/tubeless setups. Ever hear someone asking for sealant? No, they ask for Stan's. Enough said. I've always ridden Stan's sealant and have ridden their wheels many times in the past, so I was happy that the team is working with them in such a close relationship.
At the beginning of this journey, Ibis was more unknown to me. Lots of you have asked about the Exie, and I can happily give you my honest opinion: it is amazing. The geo, linkage design, lateral stiffness, ride feel, and all the other technical variables that I'm not knowledgeable enough to describe but definitely feel when I'm riding, are great. The bike feels agile, playful, light, and does an incredible job of preserving and generating forward momentum. I feel like my technical riding improved when I got on the bike, and Lespy agrees (meaning, he also thinks I got faster). In addition to the Exie, we'll be racing the Hakka (gravel) and riding the Ripmo (BIG bike) this year.
Aside from the tehnical specifications of the bike, the company ethos and production strategy are very cool, as well. The Exie is handmade just outside of Santa Cruz (in a solar powered factory!!!!), and so much care goes into each and every frame. We got to see this process in person back in December, and it made me feel so proud to be associated with Ibis.
The team has many other sponsors for smaller, but no less important parts. We'll be running:
Personally, Lespy and I are also supported by Bont (our shoes) and Smith (our eyewear). Tried and trusted brands that we've worked with for many years, and whose ongoing support we are really grateful for!!
The Race Schedule
As I talked about above, my race schedule this year is an expansion of sorts. I still have long-term goals with the World Cups and the Olympics, and to achieve those goals, it was clear to me that I would need a year or two of expanded focus. I expect lots of learning and developing to come by taking on these new challenges, and also just a lot of fun and adventure! Yay for new things.
We started the pre-season with a couple of races in Puerto Rico (the first went quite poorly for me, the second weekend was much better as I got a little less fatigued from the previous training block, and a LOT more heat adapted). Then we went to Cactus Cup. This one was my first experience with a marathon style of racing in the US, and also with racing in the desert. Both were big challenges, and I learned a lot. Cactus Cup was also a big challenge with where it fell in a large training block (we were using that race weekend to add even more progressive overload), so I hope it will have made me faster for the coming races!
Coming up, the confirmed races we have are:
That's the extent of the spring racing I have lined up (there may be another addition in between NMNM and Unbound... we'll see). Once we head into the meat of the summer racing, I'll post another update with the races to come. It's going to be a long season, stretching well into October. Pacing is key!
I feel like that's enough info for now. I hope you're as excited about the new team and new schedule as I am. Change is good!