For Nicola Cranmer, winning races just isn’t good enough. The TWENTY16 RIDEBIKER powered by SHO-AIR Cycling Team General Manager wants her riders to go beyond being athletic competitors to become well-educated ambassadors for the sport, while also setting them up for success when their cycling careers come to a close. It’s a lofty goal for sure, but one that Cranmer is achieving. To find out how she does it, we caught up with her at the TWENTY16 team camp in Encinitas, CA.
What was your path to get where you are in your career?
My background is in mountain bike racing. I used to race for WTB and then ProFlex and then KHS and then I quit riding altogether. I had a back injury. I went back to London and lived in London for a few years and then came back and got into road riding. I was racing just Nor Cal stuff on a team and the men were getting all the support, so I decided to start a team. Now I’m in my 11th year. I must be crazy!
SRAM and Zipp have been big supporters of the team for many years, and it was a company I knew I wanted to work with. It took a while to keep knocking on the door, but finally they said yes and we are very fortunate as a women’s team to be supported in such a big way by all three brands now, SRAM, Zipp, and Quarq. Especially for a U.S. based team we have extraordinary support not just with outstanding equipment but also with marketing and the promotion of women in cycling. SRAM sponsors the Amgen Tour of California women’s race and so it’s a lot more than just the components on the bike or the wheels or the power meter, it’s really supporting women’s cycling in general. It’s a great partnership for us. We focus on high performance athletes, but we also have a strong junior development team that we’ve always had. It’s super important for us to develop the next generation of cyclists and SRAM has been there to support us in that as well.
What’s the idea behind the name of the team?
The name as we are now is TWENTY16, which represents the Rio Olympics. The team name changed in 2010. We changed it to TWENTY12 and then every quad we change again. We’ve already registered TWENTY20 after this year. Actually [Steve] Blick from Oakley and I were at Interbike and we were hanging out one evening and chatting, just trying to come up with a concept of a team name because, you know, every year sometimes a team will change its title sponsor, so it can be really hard to have a team that’s grounded. A lot of sports teams have the name of the city they are grounded in, like the San Fransisco 49ers. So it’s the thing that sort of grounds the team and creates that fan base and keeps it going rather than them not knowing the name of the team the next year. So we came up with this concept, it was TWENTY12, then TWENTY16, and then next year it will be TWENTY20.
Which riders are Olympic hopefuls on the team?
Kristin Armstrong for time trial, Larissa Connors for mountain biking, Chloe Dygert for track, Alison Jackson for Canada - road, Sophia Arreola for Mexico - road.
This is the first year of the UCI Women’s WorldTour. What does that mean for the team and for women’s cycling in general?
I think it’s going to be great. The proof is in the pudding, of course. There’s a lot of talk about the momentum in women’s cycling right now and it’s still just talk, but I feel very positive and I think that with Brian Cookson’s leadership at the UCI, he’s really pushing for a lot of change and every WorldTour race is required to have a minimum of media coverage for the event and that is really going to help us. We don’t have that traditional return on investment that men’s cycling may have with all of the media coverage, but with women’s cycling and the new WorldTour, that’s hopefully going to change that. When you are sponsoring a women’s team you look at a lot of different components as well and not just that traditional return on investment, you’re looking at community outreach and brand ambassadors and women typically really go above and beyond when it comes to representing their brands. The women are typically much more approachable than the men’s teams and also very grateful.
What is your team doing to be an ambassador for the sport?
By virtue of us supporting the junior athletes… we’re the only team to incorporate a junior team. We take our top juniors and we put them into the pro squad and it really speeds up their development. Take Chloe Dygert, for example, who is current double Junior World Champion in time trial and road. She had an opportunity to race with Kristin Armstrong and Allie Dragoo at the USA Pro Challenge last year. She did the Cascade Stage Race with them and this really speeds up the development process.
I think one of the important things that we also do is we just launched a junior scholarship program and that was with guidance from Barry Bonds, who is one of our sponsors. And we really feel very strongly about supporting education within our group. We’ve got PhDs on the team and many have college degrees. Some are in college, and if not, they are juniors striving to go to college. We just felt like it was really important for us to do. So just last month we awarded $24,000 in scholarship to three of our junior athletes to help them with college.
Women’s cycling is really not that sustainable. If I’m luring people into women’s cycling I want to make sure that we do it in a really healthy way and not just sort of say, ‘You can be a pro rider, you won’t get very much money but you may get on a European team at some point,’ where you still probably won’t get paid a lot of money, so you’d better have an education.
One of the things we also do is encourage them to keep a hand in the workplace while they are racing. For women it’s really feasible because they’re not spending six or seven hours on the bike like men might some days. The most they will probably train is like, four hours. Occasionally a five-hour ride but most are two to three, so what do you do with the rest of the day? You better be investing in your personal future. Whether it’s your own personal brand development or education or doing some kind of work. With the Internet you can get all kinds of jobs where you can train and work.
I think we’re a super well-rounded program that’s not just about bike racing.