Black history: Methods to Winning, LLC

February 7, 2021 § 8 Comments

Methods to Winning, LLC, is one of the first bike racing teams in the world founded by blacks for the promotion of blacks in cycling. I called up one of the four founders, Ken Vinson, and talked with him about MTW.

Seth Davidson: What was the motivation for founding Methods to Winning?

Ken Vinson: Our motivation was to have representation in the telling of the story of our athletes, Rahsaan Bahati, Justin Williams, Cory Williams, and Charon Smith. It was unique because we had someone from each generation. 20s, 30s, 40’s, and 50s. That’s a lot of cycling history and there’s a lot to delve into.

Seth: What is Methods to Winning?

Ken: It’s what I perceived to be three of the top African-American cyclists that were around when I came into the sport. They were operating on three separate islands and I talked to them about the leverage of unity and coming together in telling our story and in order to negotiate better endorsements, to attack the industry as a single sum of riders as opposed to as individuals. We came together for that purpose, to try and work together, to have unity and leverage with the purpose of representation in a sport where we have always felt like raisins in milk, and to show the younger generation that there are people in cycling who look like you and that you can do this, too.

Seth: What do mean by tell the story?

Ken: Typically when you are the first at something, or alone, the experiences that one can have that are different from everyone else. Rahsaan being the first black kid from an African-American family with an African-American upbringing in a completely white sport. Something as simple as music, something as simple as “How do I communicate that I like this and not be ostracized because I like something different and be deemed ‘not a team player’?” Those things were important. The other thing was to be able to show kids that this is an alternative to what’s commonly perceived in the inner city. Basketball, football, track and field, rap, and drugs. Here’s a sport that you can do, that we have the ability for if we can get over the cost barriers, and there are people already in it who look like you with your background. Methods to Winning was a way to figure out how to operate within a community that had none of us in there. For me, I saw Rahsaan like Nelson Vails, a pioneer. And of course we always heard the criticism that “You don’t ride in the Tour,” but people don’t understand that they experienced culture shock, ostracism, and no means of communication, that existing processes didn’t work well in Europe, understanding and integrating different cultures.

Seth: What is significant about telling “your” story?

Ken: We’re looking for opportunities to be the ones sharing our story through various media. As you know with our bike racing movie project, “Chocolate Rockets,” the story was getting hijacked. With a story it’s either us telling it from our experiences and pespectives vs. a white person telling us how they perceive our experience. I don’t need you to tell me how you perceive my experience; I can tell you exactly what the hell I experienced, ok? That’s important because with a person telling their own story, if the listener wants to hear them and provide the platform, we can provide the nuance, the detail, the motivations, the hopes and dreams vs. what you perceived it to be. That is dramatically important to us, and Methods to Winning was planned so that Justin and Cory and the younger guys could go off to attack the pro arena; now they have a UCI-registered Pro Continental team. We’re trying to tell our story and create an environment that benefits everyone, we’re trying to give the sport a cool factor to attract people who come from where we come from. Baseball among blacks was deemed slow, hot, and played in the summer, so not many blacks comparatively go into the sport. Cycling has those appearance issues, you have to wear tights for example, we have to get over some things to make it cool. Justin and Cory, starting with Rahsaan, put their flair on clothes and bikes, changing the environment around the races and events. If you let us lead, this is what we can do.

Seth: What was the initial reaction to the formation of Methods to Winning?

Ken: Someone sent an email saying “How arrogant for you to say that you know how win.” I responded, “Well, these guys have won quite a few races, I think they know a thing or two about winning.” But I was pretty hot at first.

Seth: Would that have happened if you’d had a white team made up of riders with as many wins under their belt?

Ken: No. The perception is that when blacks come together it is to exclude everyone else. That’s never been the case. You can look at any movement, MLK, even Malcolm X, who turned the corner and was more inviting of people who wanted to see good for everyone. Coming together means elevating ourselves but not at the exclusion of you. The perception is exclusion and an attack on white people. Not all whites feel that way but some do. Our teams have always been diverse, we have done that on purpose. There was one time early on when we talked about having a team of black riders only but we were shooting it down as we talked it through. That’s not who we are. We wanted talent but talent doesn’t know any one color. The reception of Methods to Winning has been okay but we’ve had issues. You try and help sponsors shine with social media content showing the products you receive, but even so with that we got a lot of negative comments from accepting sponsored high end bikes/shoes/clothing because of the pricing, of Rapha clothing, for example. They expected us to affect the pricing. We still get that today.

Seth: Why is Lance not expected to decrease the cost of Nike shoes and Justin is?

Ken: It’s perceived that we came from nothing and now we have to lower the prices for everyone.

Seth: What about Steph Curry? Same expecations?

Ken: No. These things are perceived as cool but no one expects these guys to lower the price.

Seth: Why is Justin being criticized, then?

Ken: Short of racism, I don’t know. Since George Floyd, in trying to understand things in the era of Trump, there is a lot of subliminal privilege that people don’t understand they have, implicit biases they don’t know they have, and Trump touched on and brought those out of people and that plays a part in people seeing these guys get all this product that, in their view, they may not have “earned.”

Seth: How does Methods to Winning play in with Black History Month?

Seth: It seems like there’s a double standard. Black rides are denied the opportunity to ride during that tiny window of opportunity you have to groom a Pro Tour rider, and then when the door is shut, they’re criticized for never riding in the Tour, for only riding “domestic US races.”

Ken: Since Major Taylor, one of the things we’ve done through the Bahati Foundation is identify a chronology of cyclists of color. There was Major Taylor, there were some black women who did the first major group rides back in 1929, rode 250 miles, then there was Nelson Vails. We’ve been trying to identify riders of color up through Rahsaan. He wasn’t in the world tour but if he’d had the support and resources, could he have been? If he’d had the resources, where would he have been? And for Methods to Winning, if we can get the support and resources, where can we go? That ties in with Black History Month, if we can get equal support, equal laws, equal equal equal, where can we go? We make the sport better. As human beings we enhance the world if we have a fair opportunity.

Ken There’s a video of Justin talking about being in Europe and always being viewed as angry. You’re correct.

Seth: Where is Methods to Winning on its trajectory?

Ken: We said that in 3-5 years we wanted to use contacts first between Charon Smith, Rahsaan Bahati, and Justin Williams, and then with Cory Williams and the Nsek brothers. We started an academy team to identify young talent to fill the gap so that when they don’t cycle out of the training scene at 18/19 because they have nowhere to go. Imeh Nsek was the first rider, and through Rahsaan’s contacts we got him signed with the Arola cycling team in Europe, but then his father died and he returned to the the US. While there he won races. The next rider was through our activities at the Eldo race series, Nigel Desota. His pro contract with Nordisk came through Methods to Winning. He’s in his thirrd year as a pro and doing exceptionally well. Given the opportunity we can have success. The other thing was to go out and find sponsors through Rahsaan and Zwift. Justin formed Legion LA and got the funding to really do what we think the next step is: Produce a team on the Pro Conti level with the goal of seeing talent get picked up by World Tour teams. In 2021 we have an elite pro team with a UCI license, and of course we have the old farts racing around here doing masters racing. Our next step is to try and get the talent on the Pro Conti team seen, and maybe on the World Tour, while putting on events that we’d like to see, events where some of the major world talent will fly here to race. We have dreams.

Seth: How are you adapting to covid?

Ken: Lots of Zwifting and riding in smaller groups. Individual training has continued because of our work ethic. We’re excited to come out of covid and show what we can do if we have the opportunity to race.

Seth: There’s been a big shift from USA Cycling to BWR-type mixed racing events. How will Methods to Winning react?

Ken: The Belgian Waffle Ride is unique and an excellent opportunity to expose hackers to pro riders. Like our MVMNT rides where the fast guys ride with the slow guys. When I was at the BWR, after the ride everyone mingled. Those events are huge and we’re building a relationship with Michael Marckx on Circle of Doom. BWR is legitimate, good, and here to stay. For Methods to Winning, we have people who are now doing more MTB, ‘cross, and that’s through Ama and Imeh Nsek via Imperium Coaching. Ama won the BWR’s Wafer ride a couple of years ago.

Seth: What are Methods to Winning’s plans for 2021?

Ken: Race-wise we are trying to figure out a way to focus on the academy team to develop a diverse group of talent. It has been a challenge to find 18/19 year-olds, and we’ve started thinking about reaching an even younger audience. That’s why we’re working closely with the Bahati Foundation to plant the seeds to sprout the talent. We’ve thought about developing a pump track where kids can ride their bikes and get familiar with bike sports at a much earlier age. Of course in 2021 we’ll have a masters team and continue to try and put on events, including the Eldo race series if Long Beach City will permit it. We suffered a fatality at the end of 2019 and then with covid we’re hoping the city will permit the event for 2021, pushing back the start until late April or possibly May. It depends on covid and the racing calendar. We’re also looking into races at the velodrome, as well as e-racing on Zwift. We’re not sure what the world is going to allow; covid is with us for the foreseeable future.

Seth: Do you think there are structural racial barriers to achieving your goals?

Ken: I’d like to see us with more of a voice in the licensing body. USAC has contracted with EF Cycling to visit historically black colleges to recruit new riders of color. Really? We already have Nelson Vails, Rahsaan, Cory, Justin, Charon, Ayesha, Tanile, why isn’t USAC finding the top African-American talent and asking them to come speak to these crowds? We’ve been contacted by no one. Again, it’s USAC saying to blacks, “We want to tell you how to do it,” rather than having someone who looks like these kids and has the same background as these kids going out there and talking with them. We can do the job far better than they ever could. USAC got Reggie Miller as a spokesperson, but he’s a name from the NBA. Why wouldn’t you get Nelson Vails or a top African-American cyclist? Those things present challenges.

Seth: Does Methods to Winning face racial issues that white teams don’t face?

Ken: Here’s a scenario. There aren’t a lot of blacks in the local LA sport cycling scene. So you have a black guy who is vocal, perhaps there is an argument, and because there are only a few of us, whites assume that the few blacks they know are the moderators for everybody else who is black. We deal with that, being lumped together, and it doesn’t feel very good. If I have an issue with a white person I don’t have a white godfather to go to, and there’s no black godfather. White guy has a problem with a black guy, work it out with him. You’re both adults. What does it have to do with me?

Seth: Do you think that 2020 has affected race relations in the cycling community?

Ken: At first blush yes because I believe that if you can change one person then that’s a bonus. Some people only count change if the number is larger than one but in my personal experience there are several people who sought me out and we had frank and difficult conversations. President Trump motivated and brought an undercurrent to the forefront and that forced a lot of people to have conversations, facing the divide in the road or the elephant in the room. 2020 has opened communications that didn’t exist before, or it has made them more truthful.

Seth: What is it about Ken Vinson that makes Methods to Winning such a mission?

Ken: I was born in 1966 and am a child of the teachings of diversity and multiculturalism, that diversity strengthens us. I grew up with parents who taught us to hold our heads high and be proud of ourselves. Look past the people who treat you poorly to those who don’t. My high school was predominantly black, my college was mostly white, and those experiences were studies in diversity. Then I spent 26 years working in multi-level marketing and that forced me to interact with everyone. I appreciate people and believe in diversity and multiculturalism. I think we are stronger together and we need to be able to listen. An example is law enforcement. You see how whites are treated by law enforcement and a completely different outcome derives with people of color. That is just one thing that reflects that we have to listen and talk among each other, which in my opinion means white people listening to us and believing what we’re saying. In a lot of cop encounters we end up dead. The last four years we had someone who said “American First” at the exclusion of diversity and multiculturalism, it spoke to white people who felt threatened. MAGA spoke to us as exclusion whereas we seek to use the platform of cycling by taking prominent African-American cyclists and using their notoriety for social engagement that benefits cycling and our communities as a whole. MVMNT rides where people pedal through communities they’ve only seen on the news. Cycling interaction, people breaking bread, the All Clubs BBQ, everything we do at MTW is to try to bring people together.

Seth: Thanks, Ken!

Ken: My pleasure.

END

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Whites know best

November 13, 2020 § 8 Comments

A friend sent me to a link to this story about diversity in cycling.

The title said it all, “US cycling powers are hoping to create change with a focus on diversity.”

The words were predictive of the story. “US cycling powers” immediately contrasts with something, of course, and that would be the “powerless.” Read a different way, white cyclists are going to fix things up for black ones. Black cyclists will be passive recipients of what white cyclists, who know better anyway, are going to do for them.

Blacks might be skeptical about what the “US cycling powers” have in store. I was skeptical and I’m not even black. One thing that immediately bothered was the word “hoping.” As a good friend who has tried more than 200 cases, most to victory, told me: “Hope is a weak word.”

It’s certainly not a plan, or a mission statement, or anything that Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Maya Angelou, Earvin Johnson, Henry Aaron, Marcus Garvey, Booker T. Washington, Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Barbara Jordan, or John Lewis ever built a plan around.

They built plans around goals and commitment to success. They might have had hope, indeed, they were incredible purveyors of it, but it’s not what got shit done. Hope is what you build your spirit around. It’s not what drives execution.

But rather than dash hastily out to get myself a conclusion at Target or TJ Maxx, I did what probably seems weird to a lot of people. I asked an actual black cyclist what he thought about this “initiative” before making up my mind on an issue that affects, you know, black cyclists.

Ken Vinson has had his pulse on racism and cycling for a while, and has been instrumental in putting together Methods to Winning, an amateur bike racing team that is anchored around marquis black riders but that is also diverse in its inclusion of others as well. He understands better than any white person out there what the difficulties are in recruiting black riders, in bringing bike racing out of the purview of “white sport” and into the domain of “diverse sport.”

And truth be told, he is far from the only one. Marty Blount, Travis Wilkerson, and so many more … Los Angeles has numerous men and women who have mentored young black riders; Major Motion and the clubs that have grown of it–Major Taylor Cycling, Cali Riders– have a storied history of finding, funding, developing, and building cycling in the black community. Blacks have been racing and winning at bike racing since the sport was invented; no one has ever come close to surpassing the exploits of Marshal “Major” Taylor. Local cyclists have worked for decades to expand cycling in black communities; the only people who have recently “discovered the need” for “outreach” and “diversity” are … of course … whites. And predictably, they’ve selected white people to go lecture blacks about diversity.

So I reached out to Ken, and here’s what he had to say:

As for the this article, frankly, the telling of our stories, the build out or development and reaching of students and potential athletes, especially at HBCU’s being done by non athletes of color or representatives doesn’t even qualify as window dressing.

I can’t even imagine why a Justin, Rahsaan, Cory or Charon are not contacted in these situations. I can tell you this without doubt–we could rise the excitement and interest quicker than anyone from USAC or EF.

USAC & EF fail to understand the power of representation and there is NO excuse for that especially NOW.

Email exchange, 2020

This response hit me hard because I realized how completely I had failed to understand the real racism of the situation. My first reaction had simply been one of skepticism, doubting that USAC and EF were sincere. After all, both organizations have a long history of completely ignoring diversity, and with USAC, of overt racism.

But Ken’s response made me think a lot more deeply. This really was a matter, again, of white voices silencing black voices, of white “powerful” people telling the story of blacks to blacks and replacing the words of those who have long been stripped of their ability to speak.

And I thought, “Ken’s words are powerful. I have a blog. Set those black words down here and let people read the real voice of a black cyclist rather than imagining, perverting, supplanting, or twisting those voices.”

Then I thought about arrogance.

How arrogant would you have to be to think that you, a white bike racer, could talk more about the challenges of bike racing than a black racer could, especially when the audience is … blacks? Put another way, how would a Jewish kid feel about having a bible-thumping Baptist come to his synagogue and talk to him about the historic challenges Jews have faced trying to overcome global anti-semitism?

Or how would an all-white high school in a small Texas town in the Panhandle feel about having a black professor from an urban university in New York come and talk about the challenges that small rural high school graduates face in big-city colleges … especially when that high school had numerous graduates from their school doing exactly that?

Think of how little credibility those people would have in front of their audiences.

And then think of how fired up the students at a black college would be at listening to the stories of Rahsaan Bahati, Justin and Corey Williams, or Charon Smith as they, black athletes in a white sport, talked about how much success blacks can have and have had as bike racers. Isn’t the point to inspire black athletes to race bikes? To give them real examples of world-beaters, people who took on all comers and won? Then why wouldn’t you choose a black ambassador, especially when fantastic ones are RIGHT THERE?

I went to a talk one evening at Rapha in Santa Monica at the unveiling of the new Nelson Vails kit, and got to listen to Rahsaan and Justin talk about the days of Rock Racing.

It was exciting, riveting, amazing stuff.

But you know what was mind-blowing? Listening to Nelson Vails. That guy has done things that are simply overwhelming. Only black cyclist to ever win an Olympic medal. Only black cyclist to race professionally in keirin in Japan. Only black cyclist to win the professional US track title five times. Oh, and he is a great speaker. Oh, and he was born and raised in the housing projects in Harlem.

What about him? Has USAC forgotten about the only black amateur, and one of the few Americans in history, that USAC ever brought home from the Olympics with a medal?

Then of course it gets you to thinking. Because USAC hasn’t “forgotten” about Vails, and they haven’t “forgotten” about national champions Bahati and Williams. They are explicitly cutting them out, taking away their voice, replacing it with the voice of “the powerful.”

It is not an accident and it is not benign. It is not an oversight. It is part of an entrenched system, a system of racism, that quickly and efficiently adapts to whatever changes blacks demand through activism, law, or struggle.

If USAC and Education Last want to inspire, impress, attract, and motivate black students to get interested in bike racing, they need to reach out and utilize black ambassadors for the job.

Vails, Bahati, the Williams brothers, Smith? They’re only a phone call away. But I’d advise those guys not to clear out their travel schedule just yet.

END

2019 South Bay Cycling Award Winners … continued!

October 2, 2019 § 3 Comments

Okay, deep into the list of “way behind on stuff I was supposed to do in September.”

Remember the glorious 2019 All Clubs BBQ and 7th South Bay Cycling Awards? Where worthy winners were crowned with a plaque and an awesome swag bag filled with amazing items from Pedal Industries, Wend Wax, Castelli Cycling, and other cool stuff?

Well, the fact of the matter is that even though this was an honor greater than winning an Oscar, several of the winners were unable to attend due to illness, being on another continent, having a critical Zwift workout to complete, oversleeping, or the ultimate deal killer, traffic.

Rather than dump their valuable plaque and even more valuable swag bag in the dumpster, Ken we traveled far, far, from the South Bay to make deliveries. Winners were incredibly thrilled and happy and etcetera.

Best Male Racer, Justin Williams. This guy nailed down another national crit title, was written up in the Wall Street Journal, and had another banner year as the unquestioned best male bike racer for this year’s awards. Justin is alway ready with a smile and he’s a willing mentor for younger racers. Just don’t look for any kindness when the finish line is near!

Greatest Recovery, “Luke” Rokuta. People know Luke as president/CEO of Pioneer Power Meters, standout rider for Big Orange, and all-round nice guy. Fewer people know that he suffered a massive fracture to his femur earlier in the year, a break that was serious enough for a hospital stay, major surgery, and a long convalescence. However, Luke was back walking and then on his bike long before the doctors predicted, and he has now returned to his usual ways of riding and enjoying the perks of cycling in the South Bay.

GC Award, Lauren Mulwitz. Lauren pretty much does it all. Road, off-road, short races, 200-mile- plus beatdowns … she is one of the grittiest riders you’ll ever meet, yet soft spoken and quick to praise the other person. She’s been a fixture on the scene for years now and has won awards in prior years as well. This year she was an easy pick for rider who excels no matter what the occasion, from group ride to race to apres-ride coffee.

Strava KOM, “Big” Bill Thomas. You get an idea of how big Bill is when you stand next to him, kind of a man mountain. He’s also a ferocious Strava rider and collects KOMs as an avocation. A complete data nerd, Bill takes the virtual world very seriously, which makes him the perfect winner for this award. “Strava or it didn’t happen” is a real thing.

END


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Celebration

October 23, 2016 § 16 Comments

The Fourth Annual South Bay Cycling Awards wrapped up with hardly any controversy! There are too many people to list for their wonderful contributions. No, wait, that’s not true. This is the Internet and there is absolutely no limit. So here goes!

First off is Diego Binatena, from Base Cartel. Why Diego? Because I fucking forgot to thank him last night, out of all the people who deserved mention. Bottom line? Buy his shit. It’s awesome and he’s a good dude.

This year the event hit the medium-time thanks to the Southern California and Nevada Cycling Association. They kicked in a ton of money and funded the toilets, the lights, the sound, the stage, free food, chairs, tables, pro photography services, and half the beer. In short, they made the event! My only question is this: Where were all the SCNCA award recipients? Jeez! What is it about “free food, free beer, and cash prizes” that you bike racers don’t understand?

The plus side was that there were plenty of SCNCA recipients to come collect their trophies and cash, and no group better represented the spirit of the night than the crew from SC Velo. What  fantastic bunch of kids. I think they may have even learned new cuss word or two. I always take pride in mentoring the youth.

Anyway, on to the thanks!

Jan Luke, SCNCA President. Made shit happen. Made this partnership happen. Lugged in the trophies. Lugged out the trophies. Was awesome in every way!

Chris Black, SCNCA Vice President.

David Huntsman, SCNCA Secretary. Lawyer, advocate, friend, guy who has done so much to breathe new life into SCNCA.

Armin Rahm, SCNCA Board Member. Racer, dad, promoter, businessman, friend. Showed up to show the Amis how a Bavarian drinks beer.

Justin Williams, SCNCA Board Member. Racer, cool guy, friend. Ready with a quip and encouragement, hell of a bike racer.

Suzanne Sonye, SCNCA Board Member. Legend, legend, legend. Oh, and legend.

Matt Wikstrom, SCNCA Board Member. Mr. Git R Done. Handed out checks, coordinated everything for two months before the shit show, brought more goodwill, enthusiasm, and execution to the event than anyone ever. Plus kicked the shit out of everyone on the Donut. Except those two pesky juniors.

Sean Wilson, SCNCA Board Member.

Omar Lozano, SCNCA Board Member. Promoter, dad, husband, and part of the “new face” of bike racing promotion in SoCal. Enthusiastic hard working dude who supports juniors, local, and binational racing.

Dan MunsonSimply the best. Pro photographer. Even as I write this he’s putting together a folio of the amazing evening. Prepare to be blown away.

StageOne: Designed everything. Logo, t-shirts, patches, bar tape, banners, posters, and virtually every kit worth looking at in the South Bay.

South Bay Wheelmen: Local bike club that kicked in hard cash to buy flowers for the lovely deserving recipients.

Wend Wax: Chain wax. Look. This shit works. So go get some. Ryan Dahl generously donated 20 sets of Wend Wax, a billion dollar retail value, for the award winners’ swag kits. So frigging cool. He also gives me all the wax I can use.

JoJe Bars: Energy bars. John Abate and Jessica Cera’s amazing energy bars that are organic, wholesome, taste great, and give you an amazing kick in the shorts when you need a boost on the bike or off.

Beachbody PerformanceEverything you need to win, to finish, or to prop your legs up on the couch and watch the Cubs win instead of riding your bike. Beachbody has been the number one step up and deliver new sponsor for cycling in 2016.

BonkBreaker: Provided awesome swag bags to award winners containing energy snacks, energy chews, and super cool musette bags. Thank you!

Marc Spivey: Wanky Committee member who filled the venue with the right sound at the exact right time. Marc’s lifetime in the music and entertainment industry, and his passion for music has meant that every single year we’ve had sound that matches or exceeds the most famous award ceremonies anywhere.

Derek Brauch: With the help of Jami, put together the most awesome Wanky Swag Bags™ ever. Provided us with meeting space for our numerous and redundant meetings, the best analytical mind around to improve, question, improve, question, and improve until we were even better than the year before.

Trey Smith: The ghost in the machine. Every year Trey provides us with incredible sound that makes the whole thing happen.

Keedar Whittle: Fantastic comedian who kept people in stitches, hit the great stuff, didn’t shy away from politics, race, and biking, and left us all happy and glad he came.

Michelle Landes: Arranged flowers, total selflessness, and was there with a smile, encouragement, and assistance every step of the way.

Chris Gregory: Truly the Spirt of the Wankies. Whether it was ordering the Hall of Fame figurines, designing and making, the necklaces, choosing and assembling the invitations, recording and double-checking RSVPs, taking photos at the event, making elegant podium presentations, keeping things running smoothly, and always helping me just when the confusion was at its max, “thank you” doesn’t even begin to do it.

Lisa Conrad, Sherri Foxworthy, Stephanie Lin, Chris Gregroy: These four amazing women have been with the event since its inception, if “inception” is what you call a bunch of drunks in a dive bar trying to give away awards to passers-by. From the minute we said “Wankies” they donned their evening finest and showed up with shimmering with beauty, poised, happy, funny, gentle, and they’ve been here every year since. Truly, no matter how rough and sort-of-ready the biker gang crowd is, they give us all the class you can’t get all sweated up on a bike.

Jami Brauch: Jami artfully designed and stocked the swag bags despite having a newborn to care for–the bags were so great this year that people simply couldn’t resist stealing them. Can’t wait for next year!

Kristie Fox: She helped with the swag bags, she set up and managed the sales table (books, socks, bar tape, patches, t-shirts), and she singlehandedly ordered and delivered the most massive and awesome cake in the history of the awards. And cupcakes! And done with a smile and ruthless efficiency.

Strand Brewing Co.: No mere words can thank Joel Elliott and Rich Marcello for this amazing venue, for their support of grass roots cycling, and for providing the infrastructure and support to pull of this best-ever event. Oh, minor detail! FREE take-home growlers of White Sands DIPA, their top-shelf, brew, to every adult who showed up.

Tony Manzella and Echelon ColorPrinted and delivered the amazing award ceremony posters. Ansel Adams said it: “The negative is the score, but the print is the performance.” And what a performance by Echelon Color it was!

Tara Unversagt: Tara worked to get SBW sponsorship involved, helped with swag bag materials, and did the ultimate job of Cub Scout Den Mother by keeping me organized and on track throughout the event. So much fantasticness in one person!

Phil Gaimon: Best UCI US pro road racer, attended our event, made us look semi-sort of legit, and promoted what is the best Grand Fondue on the calendar: Phil’s Malibu Cookie Dough Gran Fondo. Register here, register now. Phil drove straight from Clovis, NM, to make the event. How awesome is that? Very awesome!

Daniel Holloway: As if Phil Gaimon weren’t enough, reigning US road/crit champ Daniel Holloway brought the star power and picked up right where he left off. Being a part of the South Bay community. Thank you so much for sharing.

The 2016 South Bay Cycling Awards award winners were:

  1. 2016 Greatest Advocate:  Sarah Barraclough for BMUFL/Master Safety Plan advocates
  2. 2016 Best Bike Shop:  Performance Bicycle
  3. 2016Best Young Rider:  Ivy Koester
  4. 2016 Best Old Rider: George Pommel
  5. 2016 Most Improved: David Holland
  6. 2016 Best Club: Long Beach Freddies
  7. 2016 Best Event: Dana Point Grand Prix
  8. 2016 Wanker of the Year: Denis Faye
  9. 2016 Belgian Award: James Cowan
  10. 2016 Group Ride Champion: Elijah Shabazz
  11. 2016 Best Sponsor: Beachbody Performance
  12. 2016 Best Male Racer: Justin Williams
  13. 2016 Best Female Racer: Katie Donovan
  14. 2016 GC Award: Joe Yule
  15. 2016 Crashtacular Fred: Marvin Campbell
  16. 2016 Strava KOM: Chris Tregillis
  17. 2016 Most Happy to Help others: Chris Gregory
  18. 2016 Most Fun: Sochin Lee
  19. 2016 Best Spouse/SO: Jeanette Seyranian
  20. 2016 Ian Davidson South Bay Rider of the Year: Tony Manzella

Until next year, thank you!!!

END

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Honor, family, and the will to win

February 11, 2014 § 16 Comments

Some people climb the top step and the first thing they do is forget the people who helped them get there. For others, a sense of thanks is the thing they carry on their shoulders as long as they live.

When Rahsaan Bahati toed the line this Sunday at the Roger Millikan crit in Brea, he was looking forward to the throwdown. He was looking forward to it because Roger Millikan, an icon in SoCal cycling who affected the careers of countless cyclists before his early death due to cancer, was one of the first people at the velodrome who encouraged Rahsaan, a kid from the ‘hood who was destined to be one of the fastest racers in the American history of the sport.

Roger took Rahsaan under his wing even though his own son Chad was the best junior around, and even though everyone knew that if you wanted to win a junior race you had to beat Chad. Roger didn’t care that Rahsaan was gunning for his son, to the contrary, he accepted and embraced it as the apotheosis of sport. Rahsaan thought about all those things as he lined up with ninety other racers on a .6-mile course that would test the nerves, legs, and agility of every single racer who survived, from the fastest to the guy who crossed the line last.

As the pack rolled out, Rahsaan kept reminding himself not to miss the winning move, even though he doubted that anyone would be able to pull away from such a large, strong field on such a short, relatively unchallenging course.  Staying attentive and watching the legs of his opponents was key, and he stayed in the front the first 15-20 minutes to see who was on fire and who riding with sand in their legs.

By the first ten laps it was clear. They were flying at 29 mph and A-Ray, David Santos, Michael Johnson, Tyler Locke, and a handful of others were clearly on form. They attacked, followed moves, responded to counterattacks, and showed that all pistons were firing. Still, the safe money said that the course would work to bring back even the strongest riders if they made a solo effort.

There were a couple of times when Rahsaan found himself far out of position, forty guys back and coming out of Turn 4 when a good move looked like it was coalescing all the way up in Turn 1, but nothing stuck. The pain and the speed and the jockeying for position were relentless. At times like this Rahsaan’s teammates in the race,  Steven Salazar, Justin Savord, Christian Cognini, Bret Hoffer, and Arturo Anyna made their presence known by surveying the front, following moves, and motivating the field to follow.

In addition to a race victory that would pay homage to his mentor and friend Roger Millikan, Rahsaan’s family had packed the edges of the racecourse. With his wife, kids, nieces, and nephews all standing by and cheering him on, the pressure was high, especially since he’d placed fifth in two consecutive races and knew that his form was good enough to win.

Rahsaan also knew that the finish would be a battle of speed between him, Justin Williams, and Corey Williams. Between them these three rockets were marked in every single speed contest, and on a day like today when the course was tight, hectic, physical, and sure to end in a full-bore blast for the line, Rahsaan had no doubt that these two were his nemeses. As far as strategy went, it was simple: When the KHS p/b Maxxis guys went, Rahsaan had to be in their leadout train because they were the ones who would ramp it up to warp speed and set up the finishing explosion to the line.

The speeds were so high, though, that when the KHS team went to the front they would then sit up, which caused chaos as the charging field swarmed the slowing riders on the point. Rahsaan’s strategy got more complicated, because in order to avoid being swarmed he had to stay in the wind.

How did it feel?

“It hurt. It hurt bad.”

But he stayed with his nose in the wind and out of harm’s way, because it was the deceleration into the swarm that caused crashes, and suddenly it was five laps to go and all bets were off. SoCal Cycling threw its heavy artillery to the front and drilled like a sailor on shore leave for two full laps. With  three to go, they swung off and the KHS team blew through. This was the moment.

Rahsaan jumped onto A-Ray’s wheel, the powerful rider on Hincapie Development. Now it was two laps to go, tucked behind the churning legs of A-Ray, and on the bell lap all hell broke loose.  The KHS blue train hit the front with the force of a hurricane, and Rahsaan slipped into seventh wheel. At Turn 2 the blistering pace shed two KHS guys out of their own train, moving Rahsaan up to 5th wheel. This was perfect positioning because on the backside of the course, as the blue train notched it up another mph, another teammate exploded, leaving Rahsaan in 4th wheel and Corey Williams in 3rd.

Just before Turn 3, the cagey veteran Aaron Wimberley, riding for SPY-Giant-RIDE, threw his bike off the front, and the gap he opened up caught the KHS blue train completely off guard. Aaron was a closer and everyone knew it. By the time KHS closed the gap, they had sacrificed more riders, putting Rahsaan in 3rd position and Corey in 2nd. In the last turn Rahsaan gave Corey room and took a run, a hard one, with every muscle in his legs about to rip away from the bone.

Fearing a last minute move to the left that would box him in and give Corey the win, Rahsaan slung himself into the wall of onrushing wind and took the hard, stiff, unrelenting, in-your-face headwind approach around Corey’s right. The gamble paid as he shot to the line clearing Corey by a bike length. Justin, who had been slotted in behind Rahsaan, got boxed in as Corey shut down the left-handed alley approach.

This win wasn’t just for Rahsaan and his family. It was also for Roger.

Where do I lodge my official protest?

July 14, 2012 § 9 Comments

Dear Wankmeister:

I want to lodge a protest against guys who win a bunch of crits, especially that Charon dude. He sits in until the end and out-sprints everybody. What a big pussy. Plus, you know, there’s that OTHER thing…who does he think he is?

Krack R. Biggit

Dear Krack:

People like you make me barf. You are angry because he’s better than you are. If you put as much time into improving your own lack of skills as you do into criticizing his success, you might finish better than 43rd. But I doubt it. In the meantime, feel free to lodge your protest up your ass.

As for that OTHER thing, I can see how it would make you angry. There you were, on your nice ten thousand dollar bike with all your white friends, and then some black dude started winning all “your” races. Not just winning them, either, but winning them overwhelmingly, by multiple bike lengths. Plus, he’s such a nice and loyal guy that he’s become part of a team where everyone works for the victory, and everyone shares in the success, and no one cares about bullshit like what color the other person is.

That’s really different from your team, isn’t it, where everyone’s the designated winner, so no one ever wins, right? Where everyone’s jealous of everyone else? Where the composition of the team changes radically from year to year because everyone hates each other?

But back to the OTHER thing. Bike racing has always been a sport for white people. With the exception of tremendous riders like Nelson Vails, and one of the greatest cyclists in the history of the sport, Major Taylor, it’s been dominated by white people. When Major Taylor came to Europe and devastated the Euros at their own game, Henri Desgrange, founder of the Tour and racist, was so incensed that he demanded Taylor be paid in 10-centime pieces.

Most people who race against him could care less about Charon’s color, but a handful of grumblers and whiners and closet rednecks can’t stand getting their dicks stomped by a black dude in “their” sport.

See, Krack, here’s the thing: if you’re black in America and you rise to the top in ANYTHING it’s because you were better, and usually a lot better. Nobody ever woke up and had someone knock on the door and say, “Hey, any young black kids in here? We’d like to give them extra fancy horseback lessons or free TT bikes or a ten-year membership to the country club because they’re black.”

Doesn’t work that way. My buddy Lee, who grew up in Louisiana, finally quit riding bikes after five or six years because his family couldn’t afford tires, and riding around on steel rims just wasn’t very much fun, especially when the white kids came tearing by on bikes with tires and tubes.

If you’re a black athlete and you rip apart the competition a la Michael Jordan or Cam Newton, people say it’s because you’re “naturally talented,” i.e. you didn’t really have to work at it because it just came to you that way. If you’re a black athlete and you’re just average, or you’re projected to be great and you flame out, you’re called “lazy.” Natural talent, my ass. The Rahsaans and Charons and Justins of this sport work their butts off. Without an incredible work ethic their “natural talent” wouldn’t get them anywhere, much less on the podium.

When you’re a black dude breaking into a white sport, whether it’s cycling (Major Taylor), tennis (Arthur Ashe), baseball (Jackie Robinson), or any other job, you have to work harder, think smarter, and make the super-extra effort to improve and develop the personal relationships that underlie success, whether you’re trying to be a Supreme Court Justice, President of the United States, or world champion on the track. Show me a black guy who’s competing predominantly against white people and more often than not I’ll show you someone with far above average interpersonal skills, work ethic, and smarts.

The great thing about racing and riding in SoCal is that the vast majority of cyclists don’t care about color. We got the white dudes, the black dudes, the Hispanic dudes, the Asian dudes, and the dudes whose parents are from different races. It all works well, and for the most part color’s not part of the equation.

But when you’re blazing trails like Rahsaan Bahati, or Justin Williams, or Charon Smith, or Cory Williams, and when you’re blazing them over the dicks of white people, there will always be one or two who complain about the tread marks you leave on their tender parts. They were getting stomped before you ever came along, of course. But somehow it just hurts worse when they know you’re black.

So…

Please keep stomping.

New SoCal pose training camp for 8/13/2012

July 11, 2012 § 7 Comments

Upcoming event for SoCal racers: The First Annual Pose Training Camp for Bike Racers

When: 8/13/2012

Where: CBR Dominguez Hills Crit Course

Time: 8:00 AM – Noon

Instructors: Charon Smith, Rahsaan Bahati, Rich Meeker, Cory Williams, Dave Perez, Justin Williams, Greg Leibert, Thurlow Rogers

Participant Ability Level: Pretty low

Fee: $8.00

What You’ll Learn: Nothing is more important than the pose you strike when crossing the finish line. Whether it’s a first place finish or a well-earned 48th, friends, family, and the event photographer will be on hand to watch you conquer that 45-minute (or less) epic battle with fate. Tired of scrolling through those event photos only to find pictures of yourself with your head drooped over the bars, tongue lolling out, eyes crossed, and shoulders hunched in defeat? This training camp will help you find the best pose for your scrapbook so that you’ll look striking and stunning and championish after you’ve Photoshopped out the fifty or sixty people in front of you. You’ll leave this seminar able to do all of the following poses:

“The Godzilla”–Charon Smith will arc his massive arms and show you how to growl as if you were actually good enough to leave the competition snarling and snapping for second…without falling down!

“The Vaporglide”–Rahsaan Bahati will help you master the look of crossing the finish line at 50 mph while stifling a yawn (even though you’ll only be doing about 18 and weaving your way around that ten-man Cat 5 pile-up)…”Yo, was that the line? Shoot, I was just gettin’ ready to sprint…guess I didn’t really need to.”

“The Bricklayer”–Rich Meeker will demonstrate how to make your finish line pose look like the gnarliest manual labor since Dog invented the post-hole digger. Rough, serviceable, workmanlike, this is the look for every wanker who’s wanted to outclimb, outsprint, out time-trial, and outsmart the competition just like Rich…but simply can’t.

“The Jet Set”–Cory Williams will lay down the pose that made horizontal, black-striped socks famous. This is the pose when you want everyone to not just marvel at the fifteen bike lengths between you and second place, but at your sockwear as well. You’ll still look stupid in your Texas flag socks, but with your legs at the right angle you might look 1/10,000,000 as cool as Cory. Might.

“Rican Pride”–Dave Perez will illustrate the color-coordinated finish line pose that blends together terribly ugly colors that only look good when they’re going so fast you can’t see them. As an added bonus, he’ll teach you how to tell the barista your name is “Rico Suave” after ordering your double-white chocolate-soy-milk-decaf-raspberry-herbal-tea-frappucino.

“I Don’t Think He’s at this Race”–Justin Williams will provide participants with multiple ways to cross the line in such a way that people won’t even know you were at the race because you’re moving too fast to see. Wait, this might not be the pose for you because, you know, you’re so fucking slow that you got dropped by that fat dude with the triple chin.

“Happy You’re Dead”–Greg Leibert will introduce the smiling finish pose where everyone will think you’re a nice guy even though you just decimated the best racers in the state and gave them a dick stomping they’ll never forget. You’ll learn to say “Good job!” to the catatonic wanker who missed the last turn and launched headfirst into the fry-0-later inside Pepe’s Burrito Wagon.

“Wake Me When It’s Over”–Thurlow Rogers won’t teach you shit, other than to get the fuck out of his way. He doesn’t give a good goddamn how he looks crossing the line…as long as he’s first. Which, by the way, he always is. The take-home from your session with THOG is this: First place always looks good.

Bonus instructional: Learn why bright colors on your shorts (white, red, yellow, green) create highlights along the contours of your dingaling so that everyone can see each bump, ridge, and vein in that shrimpy li’l feller, and why black-colored shorts do a great job of hiding lots more than road grime.

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