In case you haven’t noticed, we’re back in the business of cycling sponsorship, and we couldn’t be happier with the Backcountry Bike Team. Accompanying the Goat, you’ll find the Competitive Dots, but outside of the banality of a simple uniform, the team has been crushing at every race this season. Evelyn Dong took 3rd at Sea Otter, 5th in Fontana, 2nd at Bonelli Park, and just recently, 3rd at the Whiskey 50. And while she’s just come back to racing for the year, Chloe Woodruff has already taken 4th at Sea Otter and top honors at the Whiskey Off Road. There’s no other way to say it, they’re just crushing. Admittedly, though, we’ve been a little late when it comes to talking about the Team’s success here on Competitive (we let Backcountry have some fun for a while), which is why I felt it prudent to publish team manager, Jason Sager’s, introduction to the team and a recap of their first race together at the Mellow Johnny’s Classic. Stay tuned for more race coverage, and if you can’t get enough, get your daily dose here:
March 1, 2014
The Backcountry Bike Team has been a labor of love — it’s a project that’s been in the works for months, if not years. But finally, we were doing it. The 2014 Mellow Johnny’s Classic in Austin was our first outing, our first ride in the new uniform and on the new bikes. And in the case of some of us, our first ride together as a group. Ever.
I could hear the yells of support echoing through the scrub oak and cedar trees, down the rocky washes, and off of the rock walls. Surprisingly, it was loud enough that I could even hear it over my labored breathing and the sound of tires searching for traction on the loose limestone ledges of the Flat Creek Ranch race course. How did anyone recognize me in this new blue kit, covered by goats on every forward surface with the requisite dust mask underneath my sunglasses and helmet?
2014. Here I am, almost 40 years old and racing for a new team that I was only supposed to be managing; all in what I still consider to be my hometown. It’s been almost 10 years since I left Austin. I migrated north and west during that time. I went to the mountains, where the cars are fewer and the trails more abundant. That’s mountain biking for you, though, especially mountain bike racing. You find the bike, then the sport, and then take it with you to as many places as you dare. Yet there’s really nothing like bringing it back full circle to where you learned to ride and race, to where you saw your skillset, and circle of friends in the sport, grow to match your ever expanding horizon of what the bike opens up for you. For me, that’s the Texas scene, and more specifically, the Austin cycling community. I learned to ride here, race here, discovered my career here, and I formed friendships that endure time, distance, and activity.
We didn’t win. We had a battle. We had to do laundry each night, because we only had one uniform each — the result of incredible overnight production from our clothing sponsor, Louis Garneau. We had flat tires, illness, and mechanicals. But we were there, and we were racing. We’re a group of people brought together through reputation, networks, careful planning, and a litany of emails and phone calls. The team is the culmination of months of virtual planning — an entire organization of people from different companies all over the world.
And now, we’re starting the year off with the new team and that supportive heckle: “SAAAAAAYYYYYGUUUUUURRRR.” I can’t wait to hear it again.
With the first race out of the way, let me introduce my teammates.
Our cross country skiing convert, Evelyn had never been to Texas in any capacity before the race. I’d never, personally, met her until picking her up at the airport in Austin the day before the race. Currently based in Salt Lake City, UT, Evelyn loves racing everything from local Tuesday night races to Pro XCTs to endurance events. With a background in competitive running and Nordic skiing, she recently discovered a passion for cycling, with this being her second full season of mountain bike racing.
Currently living in Prescott, Arizona, TJ is a competitor that I’ve known for years. For most of my career, I’ve been aware of his reputation and savvy on the bike. Oddly, though, we’ve never really spoken while in street clothes. TJ first started racing mountain bikes in ’97 and has never looked back. The bike is a way of life for him: riding, coaching (his 9-5), and a healthy dose of wrenching are the daily norm. Fortunately for him, his wife, Chloe, is equally addicted to two wheeled pursuits. A pro since 2006, TJ knows how to do it as a privateer better than most.
TJ’s wife Chloe is a real race winner. She’s a champion who has a resume of achievements that any other athlete would be content enough to retire with. Originally from Boulder, Colorado, she dabbled in road racing for a little while, but given her love for exploring places that you just can’t see on skinny tires, her passion for mountain biking quickly grew. Chloe is our anchor, our sure bet to hit the box at any race that she attends. Sadly, though, she wasn’t in Austin because of an injured knee. Ironically enough, she hurt it teaching a skills clinic to the Arizona High School Mountain Bike League.