How Some Of L39ION’s Riders Got Started
Becoming a cyclist and figuring out what impact you can have on the sport doesn’t happen overnight. Knowing these realities well, L39ION of Los Angeles co-founders Justin and Cory Williams established their cycling team to help riders find a comfortable home within cycling. They don’t want riders to just go through the motions, but to develop into the cyclist they want to be and find a long-lasting purpose in the pack. We caught up with a few of the team’s riders to find out how they got into the sport.
Defining Moments We All Go Through
Justin found cycling starting at age 13 when he set out on his first road ride with his dad. After 50 miles of riding—damn impressive—he felt the weight of the pedals and had to stop. However, his dad continued and left him at the side of the road to learn that if you head into the world on a bike, it’s up to you to figure out how to get back home—Justin did end up getting a ride home from family. It’s not a far stretch to wonder if that experience served as a catalyst for his push to create one of the strongest and most tightly knit U.S. teams.
In cycling, you start at the bottom, and then you’ve got to put in the work … “a lot of hard work,” according to Cory. Although he’s co-leader and a protected rider on L39ION now, he’s been in many relatable situations. His worst time on the bike came when he was also about 13. He was a confident racer by then, but when you flat on an out-and-back racecourse in nowhere Nevada, confidence won’t fill your tire. He had to wait for the service car, it started hailing, and he had no warmers. We’ve all been in that type of situation. He finished the race and lined up the next day.
What Discipline To Choose
L39ION’s full of multi-disciplined riders, covering road, criterium, gravel, cyclocross, etc. Some, like Lance Haidet, do it all. The mountain biker turned cyclocross national champion turned road cycling national champion mastered the art of applying his skills to each discipline and you can do the same. The skills you learn will undoubtedly help you develop as a rider and be uniquely yours as you pick up other disciplines in the future.
Sean McElroy knows this well, as he holds national titles in MTB, BMX, road, time trial, and criterium. His best ride experience was his national title ride when he was 10 or 12 years old. “It was the spark that led me to today,” he says, and he encourages newer riders to pursue their passions and “to be yourself, have fun, and work hard,” no matter what bike you’re on.
The Traditional Development Path Through Europe
Since Europe hosts the world’s largest and most prestigious races, if you want to “make it” in professional cycling, the tradition is you move to Europe to chase your dreams. Before finding a place back in the U.S., some newer L39ION riders, including Ian Garrison from Atlanta and Alexis Ryan, born-and-raised in Ventura, raced professionally in Europe.
But it’s tough to feel settled and thriving in the Old World. The European calendar is long, and the races are far from home. Ian spent two years abroad pulling the pack around and going through the paces, and Alexis had been pulling in pro results across Europe since 2016. But, over time, some riders start to miss home. “I decided to take a step back,” Alexis says, “because I felt like I wasn’t where I wanted to be as far as contributing to [and feeling part of] my community [at home].”
Creating New Pathways For More Riders
L39ION is making professional cycling sustainable in the U.S. by making it popular and accessible to a larger audience. Their goals are to set in motion a culture shift in cycling to inspire more people to ride bikes and to create more accessible pathways for anyone interested in cycling or racing to chase their dreams.
Learn more about the team, their mission, their race season, and shop team gear in The Lion’s Den.
Photos by Kit Karzen