It's been six years since I started the Livingston Cycling Club. In the beginning there were just a handful of us, coming together on Tuesdays to "race" the four other guys who might show up and then going to the shop ride from Swain Sports on Wednesdays where 15 riders was a huge turn out.
Since then our growth has been amazing thanks to so many people who have pitched in and helped us evolve.
Yet, with all our growth, we have still remained a small club, and I hope we always will. It's our little club mentality that makes us special. It creates a sense of family. It creates a sense of accessibility and belonging. It allows riders of all types and interests to feel like they have a place to meet new people, learn new things, and contribute to the group.
Staying "small" does not mean staying stagnant though. With each new year we look to add new wrinkles to who we are and what we do while still staying familiar to our loyal members. And 2015 is no different.
We have several big moves on the horizon, and despite the snow storm that is currently brewing outside my window, I am teeming with excitement.
In fact, there are so many things happening that it's hard to even know where to start.
One of the things I am most proud of is that the coming year will mark the fourth season that Once Again Nut Butter has sponsored our race team. We started our first season with just 15 racers, and this year we will launch with 60! Yes, that's right. Six, zero: 60!
The number is important not because bigger is better, but because it shows the team's diversity and inclusivity. Nearly all of these racers have only ever raced for our team and many never raced at all before joining.
Why does that matter? It matters because it shows that we are growing the sport. We aren't recruiting established racers; we are developing them. And that's the goal. On the few occasions when we do bring an established racer on the team, it's someone who is coming to grow our movement, someone who shares our vision, and someone who is looking to contribute to our efforts.
This grassroots mentality is evident by the fact that we are taking 17 racers to the Tour of the Battenkill in April, a race known as "American's toughest one day race." Our Battenkill team will feature a healthy mix of men, women, and juniors. Of those riders, only two have raced Battenkill before (me and Chris Bookman) and both did it as members of the OANB squad. Even more astounding, two riders are doing it as their first road race ever. Yes, EVER.
Talk about a way to start (or end) a career.
The growth of our race team has also fostered the growth of our races. Last year we hosted our first external race: The Rock Criterium. The event was a great success thanks to the hard work of so many, and this year we are looking to build on that success.
For year-two, we are planning the same exciting criterium racing venue with the hopes of hosting more riders and more spectators.
But we aren't stopping there.
In an effort to reach more riders, we are adding a second day and a second event as we launch The Rock Gran Fondo. The Rock Gran Fondo will be a tour-style ride offering crazy challenges for elite riders - how does 103 miles and 8,300 feet grab you? If that sounds insane (because it is) don't worry, the ride will also offer courses for intermediate and beginners too.
The Gran Fondo is something I have been thinking about for years, and I am excited to see it come to fruition. Although my heart has always been in racing - racing slowly, but racing nonetheless - I have always loved that the bike is for everyone. The Rock Gran Fondo is built on that concept. This non-competitive, fully-supported ride will be a cycling party like no other, bringing together riders of all abilities through their common love of the bike.
Though The Rock is truly our marquee event, we are adding not one but two new events to our hosting calendar this season. First will come The Prattsburgh Gravel Classic, formerly The Ramble Around Prattsburgh, and the second is Turkey Cross at the Victor Apple Farm.
To understand how these established races have come under our promotional umbrella, you first have to know David Ferrett.
David contacted me last fall because he was interested in joining the Once Again Race Team. Knowing that he had a lot more to offer than just a solid racing backgrounded, I suggested we sit down and talk about our future plans. I have known David for a couple of years, and have raced in some of the various races promotes, but it wasn't until we had a bite to eat at the Tap and Mallet early this winter that I realized what a great fit he is for our club.
It quickly became apparent that he and I have a lot in common. Like me, David has a distaste for cycling elitism and bureaucracy. Also like me, David is very much driven by brining new people into the sport and promoting cool grassroots events - plus he likes good beer and fat bikes, making the a partnership a no-brainer.
Shortly after our meeting, it came out that the former race director of The Ramble Around Prattsburgh would not be able to host the event this year. David quickly contacted me about picking it up, and I knew with his years of experience, and all the people we have in our corner, that it would be possible to continue a unique and historic gravel tradition.
Picking up this race also fulfills a personal goal for me. I have always wanted to promote a gravel race, but I never thought I would be the race director at the Ramble, especially after telling The Keeper I would never ride it again after suffering through it for the first time a few years back. However, I love the free and adventurous nature of the race as well as the combination of its rich history and the exciting potential it holds as a gravel event.
In addition to our collaboration on The Prattsburgh Gravel Classic, David and I also thought that making David's long standing race, Turkey Cross, an LCC event would help both of us. Although we are still working out some of the details, which will go on the back burner as we focus on the events that come before it, I am honored that he is willing to share his baby with me, and I am excited to help him make it grow.
Well, with that, you are up-to-date on all the happenings of the LCC.
It's going to be a good year, but until the racing and road riding season starts, I'm going to get out in this winter storm and ride my fat bike!
Tony Sylor is the Founder and President of the LCC and the Race Director of the OANB Team.