A Sikkkk Cycling Story
No doubt, Anthony Clark has had a sikkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk season shredding bikes. The one-time “chump” (his own word) is now a professional athlete for Squid Bikes who’s set to compete in Sunday’s UCI Cyclocross World Championship in Belgium. Clark’s unlikely transformation from a youth with a knack for finding trouble to someone who discovered cycling and channeled all of his desires, energy, and emotion into the bike.
“I’ve actually never really traveled outside of New England before I started racing,” said Clark, of Feeding Hills, Mass. “When I started this five years ago I used to think getting top 10s at races was a big goal and achievement. I used to think I’d never make the worlds team.”
Sunday’s World Championship on the famed circuit in Zolder, where he’s part of USA Cycling’s seven-person Elite Men’s roster, will be Clark’s first time racing in Europe. But it’s an opportunity he’s been building toward. Clark’s season includes his first win in a UCI (C2) event, the NBX Gran Prix of Cross in Rhode Island.
Photo credit: Jeff Namba
Clark, 28, is unpredictably energetic. On his Twitter feed, he goes by the handle @tweakn101 and lists his home as “massikkkkkkkachusetts.” His intensity level is roughly equivalent to the start of a cyclocross race. “I’m world wide now,” Clark Tweeted this week upon landing in Europe for Cyclocross Worlds. “Wbanananananananna,” he Tweeted shortly after. Yet Clark is more than a CX free spirit. His story as someone salvaged by cycling resonates with many across the American cyclocross community.
A Bicycling.com feature, headlined “Saved by the Bike,” tells of how Clark was wild and reckless with multiple trips to jail and wrecked cars before discovering cycling. A chance encounter with American cyclocross star Jeremy Powers (Rapha Focus) helped change the course of Clark’s life. Around 2009, Clark was wearing cut-off jeans and a t-shirt while riding a 30-pound bike with down-tube shifters. Powers, on a hard workout, passed by and gave his greeting. Clark, though, dug deep and kept pace. Impressed, Powers began to mentor Clark, who became part of the JAM Fund Cycling Team co-founded by Powers.
Since then, Clark has advanced to the top ranks of American cyclocross. He’s worked long hours of physical labor setting up tents for his family’s rental business. He’s a single father to Gavin, who’s 6-3/4 years old and is called “the Little Man” by Clark. At times, Clark’s training time was riding rollers at 10p.m.
“People want to be inspired and entertained. People all love the story of someone who overcame obstacles to achieve their dreams. Anthony is doing this. He inspires people and gives them hope. And he is entertaining,” said Emily Kachorek, who as a founder of Squid Bikes serves as Clark’s teammate and team owner. “He has this backstory of coming from a place that could have landed him in a very different place and possibly in jail for a while.”
Squid Bikes, a Sacramento-based cycling startup, is covering some of Clark’s expenses to compete in the World Championships. For expenses beyond Squid’s budget, Kachorek created a GoFundMe.com page seeking $3,000. The photo on the page showed Clark with fists clinched, eyes closed, and mouth wide open in a victory salute with a splotch of blood on his right sleeve. Within 11 days, 180 people had donated $7,500.
Clark was a bit overwhelmed and wanted to close the donation page, Kachorek said. “People want to support you,” she told him.
Photo credit: Jeff Namba
Kachorek first introduced herself to Clark while Squid Bikes was still in its planning stage. Squid wanted to have a two-person pro team, and as Kachorek discussed with her husband what athlete to bring on Clark seemed to fit the bill. Kachorek would be racing, so they wanted a male racer. She was on the West Coast, so an East Coast athlete made sense. And the Squid brand of bikes is all about creativity.
“One of the things that is so fundamental and important to Squid is self expression and individualism. That is what the Rattlecan model is all about. Making it your own. Doing it your own way. Style. Self expression,” Kachorek said. “That was part of the draw to Anthony from the beginning and why it has been such a great fit…. He is unapologetically his own person. He rides with his own style.”
Photo credit: Jeff Namba
Last season Clark rode a Squid bike but remained a member of the JAM Fund Cycling Team. This season, he raced as a member of the Squid Bikes team. Clark’s increase in racing opportunities have come as he’s become more confident and dedicated in his training and racing.
He’s training more intensely. He did lactate threshold testing with JAM Fund coach Al Donahue. “We found out my V02 is a lot higher than what I was doing,” Clark said. “I used to train too easy.”
Now he’s doing more motor pacing. He’s in bed by 9p.m. most every night. He’s on a tight budget for food and clothes. One of the biggest factors to his success is having access to top equipment as a sponsored athlete. Clark said he’s always been a believer in a single chainring for cyclocross, previously running a “hobo” 1x setup. Now he runs SRAM Force 1 with Hydraulic Disc Brakes. Depending on the course, he runs a 40 or 42-tooth X-SYNC Chainring with an 11-28 cassette.
Clark said he used to get yelled at mid-race by rivals. He’d hear, “Stop messing up my line!”
“Here I am getting called a professional athlete by those guys,” Clark said. “Being able to go to a race and show up and have everybody there think you’re fast and just respect you… you’re not like the chump anymore.”