This Team Saves Lives
Words by Natalie Tapias, Photography provided by This Team Saves Lives
Hello!, We are a women’s cyclocross team, supported by The 5th Floor (a cyclist collective out of London and NYC). Our team members are based all over America and come from a wide variety of cycling backgrounds. We are a team who encourages people, especially fellow women, to go outside, outside of one's comfort zone and we approach racing with positivity, overflowing enthusiasm and a responsibility to give back. We are all relatively new to cyclocross, but we all absolutely love it. Cross combines our love of fall, riding outside, cheering one another on, pushing ourselves, getting muddy, having fun and most importantly… snacks.
We have an amazing partnership with our title sponsor, THIS BAR SAVES LIVES, the inspiration for our team name. This Bar Saves Lives is a really delicious bar with a humanitarian aim- for every bar that you buy, This Bar sends a packet of nutrition supplement via a distribution network in their efforts to combat child malnutrition. The bars are a great snack while riding, or in the middle of the night when you are hungry, which we frequently are on busy race weekends. We’ve had boxes upon boxes delivered to our apartments and they disappear rather quickly. As good as they taste, it feels good to be supporting a global cause with our cycling/snacking/cycling/snacking habits.
What is truly unique about our partnership with This Bar Saves Lives is that for every top 10 placing that our riders achieve in competition, THIS BAR has committed to donating additional life-saving nutritional supplement through their distribution network in our honor. It is an amazing honor for us as a team and inspires us to push and support each other in achieving our goals with a purpose.
As a team, we are focused on racing, supporting each other, and also contributing to our local communities where we can to combat hunger locally. It is a small way to make a big difference to get involved with local food organizations, as well as a really fun way to spend more time together. Our team members in Brooklyn made and delivered sandwiches to NY Common Pantry, in Washington DC we volunteered our time at Capital Area Food Bank, and on the West Coast we woke up before our race early morning to help out at Glide. With racing, it’s easy to get caught up with our own schedules and goals and struggles, but it is so rewarding and inspiring to give back and help in our own communities, as well as across the world.
OK NOW THAT WE GOT THAT OVER WITH WHAT ARE YOUR NAMES AND WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT CYCLOCROSS:
I learned that everyone in the starting grid is just as nervous as you are, so make lots of small talk to distract yourself from the start line anxiety. I keep tic-tacs in my jacket pocket to keep me from feeling physically ill - which sometimes happens and has gotten better over time. Beyond that the bottleneck is scary, but holding back causes you to lose some places and causes you to have to work that much harder to catch up.
Fear is by far the most unsafe obstacle out on the course. Being afraid of a dismount or a steep descent is where you can lose control or make a last-second terrible judgement call that makes no sense.
I recommend slamming a lot of caffeine before the start and do your best to race for 30-45 minutes in a completely primal mindset, for safety's sake.
My body is capable of so much more than I imagined.
People will pass you, pass them back, they probably won't pass you again.
Starts are really terrifying but you have to be ready to be as fast and as skilled on the bike as you have ever been in your life. Look up, clip in, put out your best sprint and try to get a good start. Also, be kind to your future self. Your future self will be starving at some point during race weekend. Hide snacks for yourself in your race weekend backpack or bring real food with you so that you can feel as normal as possible after exerting yourself for an hour in the dirt.
Racing cyclocross has taught me new boundaries and limits of the self. I have cried and laughed, pushed myself to exhaustion, and am starting to really understand what it means to never give up... Even when that seems like the only option. Focus and breath is the calm to the storm. I am so grateful to my comrades and teachers for inspiring me to find fun, drive, and new adventure at every turn, every perspective, and every finish line
For me, the biggest lesson I have learned so far from cross is that I am my own greatest nemesis. This season has shown me that although I can get inside my head while racing that by having a supporting team of friends and rad ladies cheering for you can be enough to push through. I was terrified at the beginning of the season but by not simply quitting I have learned so much about myself, my limits and racing.
We are so thankful to the partners and supporters who make possible for us to get out there and shred all season long with the best products and support we could ask for:
Countless friends and supporters who bought raffle tickets + supporter gear
A little bit more wisdom...
Cyclocross is about having fun
It’s really really hard. Like think about how hard you push yourself on the toughest day trying to keep up with your fastest friends… then go harder. Then think about how you have to manage your bike and navigate a challenging course. Sometimes there’s mud, most of the time you get off of your bike. You’re totally out of breath by the end with eyes bulging and gasping, searching for a water bottle (where is my friend with a water bottle? where is a quick snack?)
Cyclocross is really fun but it doesn’t mean that you don’t get really nervous when you’re lined up in the starting grid. it’s a competition after all! sometimes that means that you have to take a little time to yourself and not talk to anyone. other times it means that you do strange things like giggle, tell bad jokes, wink at your teammate in another row
Starts are important to establish your position early on in the race, but following through and maintaining good pace is also important.
Cyclocross requires some equipment, but don’t get overwhelmed and not participate because you don’t understand the equipment you “need” or how to handle it (if you roll a tubular, it’s ok! try to roll it back on and keep racing, or if you don’t have tubulars, or understand what they are/how to maintain them, race on clinchers!)
Every ride is a learning experience, celebrate the small wins