Top (L to R): Beth Ann Orton, Sydney Running, Megan Gray.
Bottom (L to R):Brenna Wrye-Simpson, Alexandra Burton, Lelah O’ Shaughnessy.)
(All photos courtesy Let’s Race Bikes)
What happens when you take a group of women who are passionate about bike racing, combine it with supportive local businesses, and throw in a community that wants them to succeed?
“One of the largest hurdles for elite women is a lack of resources (both financial and logistical) and adequate support, and we aim to tear that hurdle down and build something beautiful in its place.”
— Courtney Gould, Let’s Race Bikes co-founder
The goal of the effort is to catapult a team of amateur racers from regional events in the Pacific Northwest to the national stage where they have the chance to make a name for themselves in the elite pro ranks. And thanks to a unique, crowd-and-community-backed support strategy, this team is already competing in their first big race: the North Star Gran Prix, a prestigious five day stage race that kicked off this morning in St. Paul, Minnesota.
And they’ve wasted no time making headlines.
PBLRB has six racers and a three person support crew at the Gran Prix — that’s no small feat if you consider what it takes to get there. And we’re not talking about strong legs and lots of training.
“One of the largest hurdles for elite women is a lack of resources (both financial and logistical) and adequate support, and we aim to tear that hurdle down and build something beautiful in its place,” said Let’s Race Bikes Co-Founder and Board Member Courtney Gould in a statement about the initiative.
As much as the nine-member team itself, PBLRB relies on the support of the community and a few key sponsors. Consider these amazing, Portland-based sponsors who stepped up to make the trip possible:
Sellwood Cycle Repair owner Erik Tonkin paid for one of his own full-time mechanics — Brandon Meinke — to drive the team van from Portland to Minneapolis last week and provide tech support during the race. Tonkin has raced cyclocross at the elite international level himself and knows first-hand how difficult it can be to make the jump. Gould says the PBLRB Team would simply not exist without his support: “Erik has been a pillar of strength of support the entire project/team has been built on!” she shared with us via email this morning.
Castelli sponsored the team with a full custom kit (roadie jargon for clothing).
Carbon fiber frame repair experts Ruckus Composites has refurbished and repainted two frames that they’re raffling off with 100% of the ticket proceeds going to PBLRB. Tickets are $25 a piece or $60 for three and the raffle closes June 17th. Ruckus’ owner Shawn Small said he’s excited about the effort because, “They are super rad group of gals trying to show the country what the Portland cycling community is all about.”
While the PBLRB Team is racing in Minneapolis this week, Let’s Race Bikes broader mission is to encourage all levels of female bike racers. To that end, they host regular group rides, social events, clinics, and more. They’ve also recently partnered with another local company, Portland Design Works, on a scholarship program. PDW’s Startling Line scholarships will pay race entry fees for six racers during the 2014 season. (Stay tuned for a separate post about the winners.)
We write a lot about how the Portland community comes together to support cycling and this is one of the most exciting and impressive examples yet. Good luck to the PBLRB Team! And if you have dreams of racing your bike but aren’t sure where/how to start, check out LetsRaceBikes.com or connect with them via Facebook.