Get to Know LA Sweat
LA Sweat was formed by the need to infuse a little more estrogen into the male-dominated, testosterone-soaked world of cycling without sacrificing speed and style.
Team rider Becca Schepps told us a little bit more about the team.
Natalie: Tell me about your team! How did it all begin and what is your mission?
Becca: We started a few years ago when Kelli Samuelson was the bike painter over at Ritte. She started this women’s program with the idea of doing things differently, and perhaps showing a different version of strength. Last year we morphed the Ritte Womens’ Racing Team into LA Sweat. Cycling is such a weird sport. It’s hard to be a fan because everything is always changing. We wanted to change that and looked towards how other sports do it. So originally the idea was to create a team that could be something to root for independent of changing sponsors and riders from year to year. It would be this staple that you could always count on.
One of Kelli’s sticking points when picking riders is to find that female who is dominating locally, and wants to get out and race the bigger national races, do it. It’s why we’re super excited to support riders like Christa Ghent, Christina Birch and Jen Sharp (although she’s only part of our travel squad, she races for Stages Cycling when not on the road). These are women who have full-time jobs, but are strong as hell. They may or may not want to be full-fledged pros but we want to give them the chance to flex. And hey, we’re women and we should be able to have it all, right?
Natalie: How do you make it all work, financially? How do your sponsors and partners support your racing?
Becca: Bike racing is so expensive. We try to give our riders everything they need to be competitive and successful at the national level. So that means bikes, wheels, nutrition, clothing, travel to and from races.
That’s why when we add the logistical cost of having to schlepp bikes on planes, the price of a single ticket can easily double. We try to do everything we can to negate those costs. We will drive to races when we can. But I will say that BikeFlights.com has been a life saver. They’re like our super secret weapon when trying to make a budget when you don't’ even have a budget to work with.
BikeFlights will ship your bike for incredibly low prices, and give you peace of mind because they actually insure your bike and belongings. If for some reason, the delivery deadline is missed, BikeFlights will give you a stipend. Seriously, no airline says that, and we’ve lost plenty of bikes on airlines (last year coming back from SpeedWeek the airline actually lost my carry-on that had ALL of my team clothes and gear in it).
After a long week of racing we’ll usually print labels on BikeFlights and leave our bikes at the front desk of the hotel, or drop them off at a FedEx shipcenter for pick up. Then they arrive home to us 2-3 days later, right when we’re ready to get riding again. It saves us time and money at airlines. It also forces you to get some recovery time in. So that’s huge.
And really, in a bike race only one person gets to win, so you have to make sure you’re enjoying the race. That’s why we make sure that we look damn good, win or lose. Seriously. Maybe it’s like faking a smile when you’re in a bad mood. But hey, it works. Look good, feel good, and project confidence.
We’re fortunate to not just have fast clothing that we love (I personally love the Castelli materials. When you’re in the skinsuit it makes you want to caress yourself), but we’ve also been fortunate enough to work with great artists like Alex Ostroy of Poseur Sport, who worked with me to design this year's kit, and Yoko Honda, who did the artwork for last years kit. We’re dedicated to going against the grain of logo clad clothing, where the logos are just covered up by race numbers anyways, and making strong designs that are fast and feminine.
We’ve been really lucky that our sponsors have been onboard with this approach -- the whole, no blatant logos on our kit. Cinelli, which supports us with bikes and cockpits, has a history in great art and design, so they understand that presentation is everything, and we love being able to represent them in a wacky way. We worked with Nuun last year, and absolutely loved the zero-calorie hydration option. It lets you really control your calories and electrolytes. We wanted to work with them again this year, so when we told them our no-logo approach, they were amazing and used our kit to create custom bottles to match.
I guess you could say we’re an aesthetically focused team. Or brand for that matter. I think that’s why our partner brands have been able to get on board. They know that we are going to be sticklers on presentation. From giro helmets and shoes to Selle San Marco saddles, to Chris King, Smith Optic glasses it’s really great to see the companies understand that this approach can gain you the consistent eyeballs and media impressions that winning doesn’t always provide.
Our relationships with our sponsors really do become more of a partnership where we both promote one another. We’re super excited to do this with some more unexpected partners down the road, right now you can score that LA Sweat look with our Nuun Bottles and the pre-sale of our Gold Chain kit.
Natalie: Where should we expect to see LA Sweat racing this year?
Becca: This year we’re trying to hit most of the USA Crits circuit. It’s a great race series that offers equal pay and great coverage. We had our team camp in the hills of California outside of San Luis Obispo, near Cambria. Then the girls had a month to get home, get used to new team equipment, race locally before heading to Speedweek. After that we’re off to Tulsa Tough, Dairylands, Boise Twilight, then Intelligentsia Cup in Chicago. That takes us through July, and then August will be some Colorado racing and then ending with Gateway Cup in St. Louis.
Good luck to LA Sweat on the rest of their racing season! Check out LA-Sweat.com to read more, and while you're there, check out their Gold Chain kit and Nuun bottles they have for sale.
All images: Daniel Murphy