ALP Cycles Racing
Words & Interview by Addie Levinsky | Photos by Mahting Putelis
There’s no doubt, to be a successful bike racer you need the fitness and mental tenacity. Less appreciated, however, is the huge tactical component. If bike racing were a board game, it would be chess. Understanding bike handling techniques, knowing when/how to attack, riding comfortably in a pack... each piece, individually, is a skill. Combined, it is fast-paced art form.
There’s one woman in particular who knows the ins & outs of bike racing strategy. She also just so happens to be one of the most decorated and accomplished females in the world. We had the pleasure of catching up with Alison Powers, former professional competitor and head coach of ALP Cycles Racing, and heard all about her new endeavor as a team coach in the world of women’s cycling.
2017 marks the inaugural year for Alison’s new cycling team, ALP Cycles Racing. This is not just any women’s team. It came about from a definitive need for something different with the influx of amateur women’s teams. While anyone can gather a group of girls, design a kit, and show up at races (which is a great way to build community), it’s not common have a team that is focused on the importance of tactics -- especially for women destined to join the pro ranks. Even Alison admits when she joined her first professional team in 2006, she had no idea how to race bikes.Even with her incredible talent, she “made a lot of mistakes, missed a lot of yellow jersey’s and pissed off teammates -- just by not knowing. No one had taught me the art of bike racing.”
ALP Cycles racers, just a couple of weeks into the road season, are already completely stoked on the team/coach dynamic. And these are women, like Alison, whom are very familiar with the history of women in sport, and the (lack of) teaching strategy.
“Each (team) ride has a purpose, focus, and a plan. Everyone learns and the reward is huge. Alison is also very positive; there is never “I can’t do this.” but, yes you can do this. And this is how it’s done. Trust me, if you do something wrong, you will learn how to do it correctly.” - Lynne Anderson
(It’s clear Alison doesn’t want her teammates losing yellow jerseys and pissing off teammates!)
Sandy North, at 60 years young, jumped at the chance to join the ALP team, recognizing what it really means to have a progressive women’s race team.
“(I joined) to push myself to become a better person, cyclist and teammate every day and not let my teammates down! I grew up in the Title IX era when girls had limited access to any sports and now, 50 years later, I have the opportunity to be part of something VERY special and empowering! I am so grateful to Alison Power for her vision, passion and dedication to the sport and to our ALP Cycles Racing team.”
Sitting in with Alison Powers:
What inspired you to start the ALP Cycles Racing team?
Over the last few years, I have seen a missing component in local racing. That missing component is bike racing basics. It seemed to me that, at the local level, the art of bike racing was not being taught. Riders join a team in the hopes of having people to ride and train with and then to go to races with. But, the actual application of training and racing together never comes to fruition. Thus, the actual art form of bike racing, tactics, teamwork, etc is never taught and never learned. If a rider has a big engine, lots of power, and motivation she can make big leaps and end up on a profession team without ever knowing how to actually ride and race as a teammate. For the rider, team, and her teammates, this is a big disadvantage because she is going to be expected to do jobs in a race that she has no idea how to execute.
What sets the ALP team apart from other women's cycling teams?
ALP Cycles Racing is coach-led. The coaches organize the rides and the team races. Each team ride, we have 2-3 per month, has 2 ALP Cycles Coaches to teach the riders different skills and tactics. We have organized team races with an ALP Coach to talk about the race tactics for the day, learn about the wind, where to start the lead-out etc. Also, each rider has paid to be on team. That shows a true dedication to the team, the training, and the racing.
What sparked such an interest/passion for you in teaching tactics?
I was that strong rider who was named to a professional team and expected to do lead-outs, team work, and things that were completely foreign to me. When I first started racing, I had no idea what I was doing.
As an incredibly talented & seasoned bike racer, as well as coach, how have you seen the women's cycling scene change over the years?
I've seen teams come and go. Races come and go. Riders come and go. But, honestly, I haven't seen a lot of change. It seems kind of stagnant.
If you could only offer one piece of advice to a new bike racer, what would it be?
Find a team or a coach who will teach you how to race your bike. Bike racing is a learning process, the more you can learn and the smarter you get, the more success and fun you will have.
What's your ultimate hope for your team/the future of women's racing?
I'd love for ALP Cycles Racing to be kind of a farm team for Professional teams. If a rider comes from ALP Cycles Racing, you can be sure that she knows how to race her bike, be a good teammate, race as a team, and is ready for that next level.
And, like us all, Alison just wants to see equality.
I'd love to see women's racing on par with mens. I'd like to see sponsors use and promote women and the team's they support. I'd like to see more women's bike racing covered in the media and advertised in the industry. I'd also like to see a change in the level of professionalism of women's racing. In my opinion, if a team doesn't have a budget for a full time director, mechanic, and swanny, they should not be considered a professional team. You don't see men's teams traveling around without a swanny and sleeping on air mattresses. If you are going to be professional, then be professional and treat your riders, your sponsors, and the industry with respect.