OTF Stage Race

Report by Brendon Bolin

The Lead Out

When looking over the NCNCA and SCNCA race calendars in an effort to plan out my early season, the OTF stage race caught my eye. It contained a road race with rolling terrain, a flat time trial and a circuit race with some elevation. The road and circuit courses both looked to suit me well and the time trial (TT) was intriguing if for no other reason than I could put my TT bike to use for the first time in an actual USAC sanctioned event. So with that, I was ready to commit to spend my weekend up north of Fresno in what to me were parts unknown.

Unfortunately, none of my teammates could make it up for the weekend but thankfully I had a friend, Frank, who was up for doing the racing. He would race in the Men’s Elite 4/5s and I in the Men’s Elite 3s . This presented a bit of extra coordination with all of our races starting and ending at different times but it would be great to have someone to split up the drive with and hang out with during all those in between hours.

Friday morning I took my TT bike and road bike out for final test spins before loading up to hit the highway. Good thing I did. On my road bike, I noticed that one of the rollers on the chain was missing from where I open the chain at the quick link for cleaning. Luckily, it was easy to fix and with the bikes in good working order I packed up and was off. I picked up Frank along the way and we proceeded to make our way to the Knights Inn in Madera. This presented the next challenge, dinner. We settled on In & Out, delicious, plenty of calories and minimal GI stress. That double-double with chilies and animal fries served me well. Shortly afterwards, we arrived at our motel in Madera and I was pleasantly surprised we were not as isolated as I had expected. We were surrounded by shopping centers and hoses and not endless farm fields. We made it an early night as the Men’s 4/5s race started around 8 am and we had a 20-30 minute drive from our hotel to the race staging area.

Saturday morning was one of the few times I was not rushing to get ready for my race. The day did start off early as I woke at 5:45 am to my alarm. After a small breakfast, we were on the road and were parked at the staging area before 7 am. I did what I could to help Frank get ready for his race and saw him off. I then proceeded to register, pin my number and kill some time flying my drone. My start time of 10 am was drawing near and I could finally get ready to race.

On the Road Again

The parking and race start where not at the lap start/finish line, in fact it was over a little over a mile away. With all the extra time I had, I rode back to check it out and the lead up to the line. The drag up to the line was at a slight incline and there was a bend about 200-250m to go so the finish line was not visible until those last couple hundred meters. I tried to keep this in mind as well as what it looked leading into that final bend. There were bonus seconds on the odd laps of the race and I was hoping knowing the finish the first lap around could help put me in position to try to collect some on the first lap.

It was time for my race to begin. The field size looked to be about twenty with unfamiliar faces minus a couple. The lap started out on a gentle climb of 2-4% with a couple intermixed flat sections. Towards the end of this section, the road pitched up then made a right turn. The next section was quick and for the most part gently worked downhill. This lead into the short steeper climb about 1k in length which was the first time there was any real surge in pace. After completing this, the road turned right again and was downhill then predominantly rolling for the remaining 2.5 miles to the lap finish. Leading into the finish, I knew I had to be up near the front coming into that last bend. With the centerline rule in effect, there is not much room to move up and around. I was about third wheel as we came around the final bend which now had also been marked with a 200m to go sign. I opened up a sprint and some combination of a good surge, not knowing there were bonus seconds on offer, or not knowing the finish line location lead to only one or two others putting in much of an attempt. After crossing the line first to claim my three bonus seconds, I settled back into the group while thinking to myself if it was worth putting in the effort for bonus seconds or would it be best to focus solely on getting good results in the road and circuit races.

With the first lap complete things seemed to settle down. One person when off the front and rode most the second lap solo. The thought of bridging up crossed my mind but I thought back to the Santa Barbara County Road Race and didn’t want to do as much so early on and either not be able to follow later moves or be marked more than necessary. The third lap had someone go from about 1k out to take the three bonus seconds on offer. I was again in good position and crossed first from the bunch to collect an additional two bonus seconds. The next laps were completed with the group staying mostly together. However, the wind had picked up and the first couple miles of the lap were into a headwind. That combined with the predominant upward slope lead to the group riding that section comically slow and easy. Then the rest of the lap was done at a good pace with a surge every time up the 1k long hill.

The forth lap saw two people go up the road with no real effort to chase them immediately down. They stayed in sight getting up to maybe 60 seconds ahead. On the fifth lap going up the 1k hill, a junior rider from Team Swift rider attacked towards the end of the climb. This put the two riders who were still off the front, well within reach. At that point the Team Swift rider had pulled a pit of a gap on the field. I thought if I could go with him and we reached the front two, the four of us would be able to stay away if we committed. I was able to join the Team Swift rider and we set off to catch the leading two. We brought back most of the gap and almost had bridged to the leading two but unfortunately at the same time a couple from the remaining group behind us were able to catch us. When seeing this I filtered back into what was left of the main group with the two still barely hanging on in front of the group.

The breakaway completed the fifth lap still ahead albeit with a small gap. The surge of the group coming into the finish of the lap took away what was left of their advantage. Again I tried to place myself well and I put in a little sprint that was not really contested. This put me third across the line for that lap and yielded me one more bonus second. Shortly afterwards as the sixth lap started, the break was absorbed and we were once again rolling at a snails pace up the first uphill-ish section. The remainder of the lap had a few surges and small attacks but nothing noteworthy.

The final lap began much like the laps that proceeded it. Slow again into the headwind uphill section. However, this time someone slowly upped their pace a bit and the people following were not willing to put in the minor amount of effort necessary to hold the wheel. As he slowly rode away from the group, I was puzzled by the seemingly lack of care, concern and effort from the group. At about the end of the uphill section, I counted the gap to thirty seconds. Still a long way from the line, I hoped once we were out of the headwind the pace would pick back up and the solo rider reeled in. As we rode the section leading into the 1k climb, I took a turn in front and was trying to get some sort of rotation going. Unfortunately, only about three of us seemed willing to do anything but sit up if touching the wind. Thankfully things went hard on the 1k climb. The remaining group was strung out and the chase was on.  About one mile from the end, a reduced group somewhat reformed but it was characterized by random attacks and a general lack of cohesion. I did what I could to not let someone fly off solo and maintain a position near the front. Approaching the final bend, I found myself around third wheel and the rider off the front only 10-15 seconds ahead. By the time the road straightened out and the finish line was in sight I was second wheel. The rider in front of me made no real effort to pick up the pace and start a sprint so I started from long from some combination of hoping the field was still strung out behind me or the fear of having a line of rider streak past from a lull in the pace. I opened up my sprint to plenty of clear road. I felt like I might spin out my current gear and dropped into a harder gear. This would probably have held true earlier in the race but at this point it would be a stretch to call my final effort a sprint. As I grinded my way towards the line, I saw in my periphery a rider approaching on the left. He came around me by about a wheel to take the sprint for second. As some consolation, it was on of the people I knew in the race, Nick Jepson from CBS.

With the race complete, I had to be pleased with third and a total of ten bonus seconds. The race winner finished seven seconds ahead of the group and with time bonuses factored in, he was leading the general classification (GC) seven seconds ahead of me in second. The times were still tight among all those that finished in the lead group and I knew the TT would shake things up.

Neutralized Part I

I mulled over the TT but with it on the shorter end, I hoped to stay in the top 5 and if the gaps were small, perhaps move up further with the bonus seconds or forcing a break in the circuit race. After devouring a patty melt and curly fries  at the diner restaurant next to our motel, the rest of Saturday consisted of kicking back and killing time. Part of this was periodically checking email as we waited to receive the TT start times. In general, we knew they were grouped by the race categories and the groups ordered by the start times of final circuit race. Among the groups, the riders would go in reverse order of the standings. Finally, while watching the classic Sandlot, the email dropped and I knew both Frank and my start times, 8:16 and 10:26 (2nd to last) respectively. If I thought I had plenty of waiting around the first day, a two hour gap in TT start times and a four hour gap in the circuit time starts ensured waiting around to race may become my new past time.

The TT start was located only a 10 minute drive from our motel so Frank rode to the start as his warmup. I was able to take my time getting ready, packing up and checking out of our hotel. I got to the TT course around 8 am and was able to see Frank off. I then ran into some of the people I knew from the race and proceeded to enjoy some coffee and got further practice on killing time as I waited for Frank to finish and return back.

The Race of Truth

The course itself was a simple point to point route with two 90 degree right turns and totaling 8.5 miles. I don’t have any set warmup protocol but I did want to spin around to loosen up a bit. About half an hour before my start time I started rolling around and did a few shorter efforts at around threshold and had a caffeinated gel. Don’t know if the gel helped at all but I figured it couldn’t hurt and salted caramel is bomb. After all bathroom stops had been completed, I lined up to start about 5 minutes ahead of my start time. I felt surprisingly calm while I waited to start. Maybe all those Monday Night TTs out in Goleta were paying dividends. As I rolled up to the start line, I rethought my plan on pacing. The out section was with a tailwind and would be fast. I wanted to not go too hard and this point and have to pay for it on the later half which was into a headwind. After getting to the final stretch, I could adjust my pace and pick it up if I was feeling good.

Before I knew it, I had the ref tell me 10 seconds. Then I got the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 countdown and I was off. Immediately, I noticed my PM just fell asleep right before I set off from sitting around inactive too long. I hoped it would reconnect which is not a certainty from past Garmin experiences. Thankfully it was found again and I did my best to not go out too hard. With the smooth tarmac, a soft tailwind and a hint of adrenaline, I was out of the gates feeling good and rolling over 30 mph. After the first few minutes I did my best to settle in and ride roughly to power. I made it to the first turn still feeling good with my heart rate slowly rising but still about at threshold levels. It was a little over a mile until the final right turn and the final 4.5 miles to the line.

As I started the final stretch, I felt as if my pacing was good and I could hold my current effort till the end. This was occasionally interrupted by having to pay a lot of attention to the road surface. The inbound section had plenty of rough seconds where it was difficult to find a line to not be getting completely bounced around. Intermixed with the rough sections were areas that had been recently repaved and felt like being on a cloud. As the miles clicked away, it looked like I was gaining time on my one minute man but I couldn’t be certain. At some point, I passed someone else from my field on a road bike who looked like they were saving their efforts for later in the day.

I finally drew close to the finish line. From a distance, it was hard to make out exactly how far off it was. There were a few cars held up from the bike traffic and the end came up more quickly than I had expected. I did a little surge right at the end but I felt I had more left that in the tank and that I could have upped the effort for the last mile or so. Overall though, I felt I paced it well. After finishing, I checked my power and was happy with how I had performed. Upon cooling down, I caught up with my buddy Nick who was sitting in 3rd prior to the TT and asked how he did. I had done about 30 seconds better so that gave me some confidence that maybe I was still sitting in a Top 5 GC spot going into the circuit race.

Neutralized Part II

Without much else time to think, it was time to hop in the car and head to the circuit race course. My late TT start combined with the Cat 4/5s circuit start time left little extra time to complete the 45 min drive. The rush in the end was not necessary as all the officials and some of the equipment had to transfer from course to course as well. As a result, all the circuit races for the day were behind schedule and being ran to their full planned duration. The Men’s 4/5s race finished around 1 pm and I was still left almost three full hours before my scheduled race start. As the afternoon progressed, results were first posted for the TT. To my surprised, I finished 2nd with a time of 19:12. Doing some math with the previous days results looked to put me on the exact same time as the winner of the TT. This really made me lament over not finishing off the last mile or so of the TT stronger. I felt a bit better after speaking with the officials and confirming that the first thing to break the tie is a lower total for finishing place. Aside from being tied for 1st on time, there was one person seven seconds behind us. I knew these were the two people I needed to look out for in the race as well as make sure that a breakaway didn’t succeed. Then it was back to more waiting. After some combination of nature valley, natures bakery, cliff and lara bars and a countless number of water bottles consumed. It was finally time to start my race.

Short Circuit

The circuit course was a rolling loop of about two miles in a gated community with a great road surface. The road was technically open but there were only a handful of cars all day from the people going to and from the eight to ten homes in the community. There was one main uphill section that took about 45 seconds along with another ‘kicker’ that took about 10 seconds to get up and over. The lead into the finish line was fast and downhill with a couple of turns but the turns were gradual enough to require any braking. The last section to the finish line was not far from the final corner leaving little if any time to change position in a sprint.

The race went similarly to the road race. Steady or easy for most parts then hard efforts up the longer uphill section. In the early laps there were too many attacks to count on the hill but people were fresh enough for nothing to stick and the group to always reform. There were also some attacks in the downhill run to the line but these were all short lived and the group would reform again once the road flattened out by the finish line. To me, the hard efforts up the hill were very manageable and I felt good about my chances halfway through the race. I kept my eye on the two riders I needed to and was quick to jump on wheels when they put in anything that resembled an attack.

As the laps counted down to three to go, I was finally put into a position where I had to make a decision. We approached the hill section and two riders attacked and pushed hard up the hill. There was no immediate response from anyone in the group. I rode a steady effort in front up the hill and kept up the effort when reaching the flat and proceeded to flicked my elbow for someone to come around and help keep the chase up. At this point the riders ahead had a gap of ten to fifteen seconds. I waited as everyone sat idly behind me. With the gap still relatively small, I didn’t want to watch the two in front ride off and take both the top spots in the circuit race and likely the GC. I kept up a decent pace and decided to go hard into the small kicker hill which would at the least force everyone to put in an effort and at best split the field. After attacking on the hill, I kept up a good pace and had the two in front more or less caught by the start finish.

The final two laps were ran at a more steady pace and no one tried to attack on the climb. On the final lap, the rider sitting in third place in GC put in somewhat of an attack on the smaller kicker before the fast bit leading to the line. I followed and as soon as the hill crested he backed off and I proceeded to take the lead. His bike handling skills were not confidence inspiring and I did not want to be on his wheel going through the series of bends. As the finish line fast approached, there was on large attack to my right side. The road was wide enough to allow for more than one line, even though we passed through this section close to single file on every other lap. I managed to get more or less back on terms with this surging move and next thing I knew, it was close to three wide going into the final bend. As the road opened up, two riders passed by me to my right as a started to open my sprint. From there it was only a handful of seconds to the line and I just held my position of third. The two riders in front of me were not the GC threats and crossing the line I knew I had wrapped up first in GC.


My happiness was briefly dampened by the fact I had known I needed to start my sprint earlier than I had and that may have cost me the win in the circuit race. I decided not to dwell much on that as things rarely go perfectly and going into the weekend if you would have told me I would finish, third, second and third and win GC, I would have been ecstatic. From there, I got my podium pic packed up and started off on the long drive back home. After spending the day living on bars, I eventually got to have my first real-ish meal at Panda Express at some hub stop along the 99.  Finally making it back home at 11 pm ending a long but worthwhile weekend.

I would like to first thank OTF for putting on the event. The courses were fun and overall things went smoothly. Thanks to Frank for rolling out with me and capturing some of the weekends moments. Lastly, thanks to all my teammates and friends for all their encouragement and sponsor support.

Santa Barbara County Road Race (Cat 5)

Report by Rod Farvard

Last Saturday at the Santa Barbara County Road Race I competed in my first two road races ever and learned a few lessons along the way. I placed 3rd in the Cat 5A race in the morning and then came back 6 hours later and placed 2nd in the Cat 5B. A double podium isn’t bad, especially when you’re the last race of the day and the race committee wants to give away as much excess swag as they can, but more pleased with the overall experience I gained from these races than any result.

The first race went a little something like this. After mistiming how long it would take to check in, receive my bib number, relieve myself, and pump my tires to an acceptable psi through a uncooperative valve extender, I locked my friend’s keys inside her gas cap and found myself frozen in place for a couple minutes realizing what I had just done. Upon snapping out of it, I looked down and my Garmin read 7:57am. I had 3 minutes to race start and I had not even mounted my bike to get in a warmup yet. Never had I been this stressed and this unprepared before a competition in my 9 years of racing. But then again, never had a done a road race in those years either.  My warmup consisted solely of a 30 second pedal down to the race start but damn I smashed those 30 seconds. I was ready.

About 4.5 miles into the race we hit a small rise in the road and I turned to someone and non-sarcastically asked if that was the hill. He just laughed and I took that as a hard no. About half a mile later I saw the climb and sent a max effort to the front of the pack screaming “I AM CHRIS BRADEN”.

Unfortunately the move only split the race in half and I wasn’t able to solo the rest of the 23 miles like Chris last year. All it did was mark me as “the guy to watch” as riders would tell me after the race. Lesson #1 learned.

I pulled the same move on lap 2 but a little harder leading to a lot more damage, which leads me to lesson #2: if you’re going to make a move, commit to it and dig in 10 seconds longer than you initially planned. It will pay off.

By the top of the rollers it was just me and 2 other dudes and we broke away. Triathlon instinct kicked and my pulls became longer and longer. The other two noticed that and reaped the rewards as they both out-sprinted me at the line. Lesson #3 learned. As teammate Brendon Bolin put it, “The winner of the race isn’t the person with the highest average power”.

Race #2 was a little more interesting. I warmed up with teammate Carl Parker and both of us agreed we were annoyed at how slow our last races went out (classic triathletes) so we thought we’d take the next out a little harder. Carl pulled hard to the hill and I took it from there. Max effort up the climb and over the rollers. With Carl on my wheel the whole way, we dropped the entire field. But it was here we learned lesson #4: it is VERY hard to breakaway from the group when there is a monstrous headwind sending you backwards and slapping your cheeks around.

We were caught in the next couple miles and, again, marked. The group would not let either of us off the front. Frustrated, I tried to push the pace even harder on the second lap and learned lesson #5: pulling at 120% FTP won’t make anyone tired except yourself.

Carl made it to the front a couple miles before the climb and went full kamikaze leading me out for one last try at a full gas move to break up the field. It worked. Up the climb and over the rollers and I had at least 30 seconds on the chase. Let it be noted that Carl was so messed up from his effort the official pulled up to him in the final race and asked, “Are you okay, physically?” Carl screamed through gritting teeth, “FOR THE BOYS!”

From here it was a 9 mile time trial to the finish- the only thing in cycling I really know how to do. I think I put out my best 25 minute power ever in those last ten miles but like Brendon mentioned, it really doesn’t matter. I got caught by the group in the last mile of the race largely due to the laws of Lesson #4 and out-sprinted at the line by former teammate and UCSB triathlete Gordon Williams.

A solid debut into the world of cycling with a 3rd and 2nd place. 8 more points in Cat 5 before Cat 4 where placing and performance actually matter. But for now, lesson #6: if you aren’t first, you’re last. Thank you to UCSB Cycling for putting on a great event and for the dope prizes.

Rod Farvard on his first of two podiums this last weekend at the Santa Barbara County Road Race.

2018 FMBR Training Camp – That’s a wrap

Fig Mtn Brew Racing’s 2018 winter training camp wrapped up this last Sunday just before the real rain came.

Our first day started with a short 30 mile jaunt from the Santa Barbara Mission up and over Gibraltar, across East Camino Cielo, and out to HWY 154 and back. We were treated to a combination of spectacular views of the aftermath of the Thomas fire, as well as 100 yd visibility at the top of the ridge due to thick fog.

Heading up Gibraltar
Bbakes, Brendon, and Echeveste reconnoitering in the fog

On Friday the team met up at one of our sponsors’ locations,  Carmichael Training Systems (CTS) in Santa Ynez. After kitting up we headed out for a counter-clockwise ascent of Figueroa mountain followed by a Foxen Canyon / Alisos Canyon / HWY 101 loop for total of 68 miles and 6.2kft of climbing. The ride concluded with a much anticipated burrito lunch.

The team kitting up at the CTS facilities in Santa Ynez
Echeveste on the final push up Fig
The Friday FMBR crew regrouping after the Fig descent

Saturday we had a great turnout for our longest ride out-and-back to Jalama (84 miles). Again the team kitted up at CTS in Santa Ynez with each rider receiving a supply of both sports and recovery drink product from our new sponsor FLUID Nutrition based up in San Luis Obispo CA (Thanks FLUID!).

Heading out to Jalama via Santa Rosa road

Starting the slog back home from Jalama beach

Finally, on Sunday the team headed back down to Santa Barbara to participate in the Pre-Worlds + Worlds ride which started at the Santa Barbara Mission, went along Mountain Drive through Montecito, then back around to East Beach where we joined the Sunday Worlds crowd (or lack of) for the standard Worlds ride to Carp and back.

The FMBR team and friends warming up at Pre-Worlds

The team got in over 240 miles and  18k feet of climbing racers in four days. Not a bad kick-start for the race season which officially begins January 27th at the Santa Barbara County Road Race. See you there! #FIGFAST


Start of FMBR training camp = rain

So when there is no chance in hell it will ever rain again, …ever, just schedule an FMBR training camp and the water will flow. Today marked the start of the 2018 Fig Mtn Brew Racing training camp and like clockwork we had our first winter rain. In attendance were new recruit Brendon Bolin, returning riders John Echeveste, Owen Thomas, and Jason Hannon. Also in attendance was special guest FMBR alumni Brandon Baker. Owen had to abandon part way through since he is still recovering from a bad spill at the Nosco ride a couple of months back. Otherwise it was a great, if wet at some points, start to team camp.


Friday we will be riding up and over our sponsors’ namesake mountain (Figueroa Mountain of course!). Saturday we will be heading out to Jalama, and then Sunday we will be back in Santa Barbara to light things up at Sunday Worlds.

Stay posted. We will be posting pics and words to let you all know how camp is going.

FMBRacing 2018!

Wake Up! Fig Mtn Brew Racing (FMBR) has put together strong team for 2018 with a great combination of returning riders and a host of strong and promising new additions to the team. Keep an eye out for the #FigFast crew at the CTS & Fig Mtn Brew Figueroa Mountain Gran Fondo this coming Saturday (Nov. 11th) and hope to see you out there.

Just to wet your appetites here is a flash back to the 2016 FMBR crew doing a commercial shoot for our key sponsor on our favorite mountain.

San Rafael Twilight (Sunset)

Tucker makes a brief appearance on the start line (from :03 to :05) in the winner, Justin Williams’ (Cylance) video from Saturday.

Those #FigFast green & black colors look good under the lights…next year we’ll send a full squad!

Jessica also took another top ten in the women’s 3/4 earlier in the day.

Cascade Classic Results & San Rafael Sunset Criterium

The team is back from a long trip and big stage race in Bend, Oregon – the Cascade Cycling Classic. We scored three podiums, and two more top tens. Full results can be found here.

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Brandon scored two second place finishes, this one atop Mt. Bachelor, and a 6th overall in GC.

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Jess got barley nipped at the line and took second at the Downton Criterium after her TT in the morning on Saturday.

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Julia guest rode for the Canyon Bicyles – Shimano pro team in her first race as a 2. She had some unfortunate luck that saw a screw go through her wheel during stage 3, ending her weekend a bit early. We can all attest the Giesch still had fun!

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Not a bad drive, albeit 12 hours long…

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Racing in the mountains with scenery like this, we’ll be back next year!

Tomorrow, Tucker is racing the San Rafael Twilight (or Sunset as it is now known) criterium in Marin County. His form is on point, look for him to sneak up on some NorCal hitters and grab a #FigFast podium!

Bbakes also scored his final upgrade, fourth of the season, into the 1st. This is FMBR’s 11th of the season.

Patterson Pass Road Race next weekend as well…stay tuned!

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The 2s squad post Mt. Bachelor Road Race before the podium shot.

Crusher in Tushar, SoCal Crit Racing and Cascade

The team had a great adventure to Beaver, Utah for the Crusher in Tushar and enjoyed a weekend at elevation gravel grinding and enjoying the the southern Utah Mountains. David made a sweet video of his experience out on the course here:

Jess continued her domination of the 3s in the SoCal crit scene (results are updated) and seven team members are in Bend, Oregon for the 37th Annual Cascade Cycling Classic.

From our women’s team, Julia is guest riding for the Canyon Bicycles Shimano team for her first UCI pro event.

Stay tuned for #FigFast results over the course of the weekend!

Results: Nationals, CCCX & Long Beach Grand Prix

D. Priest (the Beast) took home 55th and 60th in the TT and road race this week in Louisville, Kentucky. A great showing for his first two races as a category one racer against the best amateurs in the country.

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TJ returned to racing for the first time in eleven months to snag his first podium in the #FigFast green & black. He is riding strong, happy and ready to attack the late season races in order to make the jump to the elite squad.


Stern snagged his third win of the season and a fourth place at CCCX for a few more upgrade points, bringing him over the 50% mark for his category one upgrade.


Caps Not Hats

Jessica took her second win of the year in emphatic style, posting up for a finishing line salute at the Long Beach Grand Prix today.

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Next weekend the team sends a group of racers to Beaver, Utah for the Crusher in Tushar – thanks our amazing apparel sponsor DNA Cycling for setting this up…road trip!

Full results HERE