The Backcountry Bike Team has been a labor of love; it’s a project that’s been in the works for months, if not years. But finally, we were doing it. The 2014 Mellow Johnny’s Classic in Austin was our first outing, our first ride in the new uniform and on the new bikes, and in the case for some of us on the team, our first ride together as a group. Ever.
I could hear the yells of support echoing through the scrub oak and cedar trees, down the rocky washes, and off of rock walls. Surprisingly, it was loud enough that I could even hear it over my labored breathing and the sound of tires searching for traction on the loose limestone ledges of the Flat Creek Ranch race course. How did anyone recognize me in this new blue kit, when I’m covered by goats on every forward surface and have the requisite dust mask underneath my sunglasses and helmet?
We didn’t win. We had a battle. We had to do laundry each night, because we only had one uniform each—the result of incredible overnight production from our clothing sponsor, Louis Garneau. We had flat tires, illness, and mechanicals. But we were there, and we were racing. A group of people brought together through reputation, networks, careful planning, and a litany of emails and phone calls. We’re the culmination of months of virtual planning; an entire organization of people from different companies all over the country.
And now, we’re starting the year off with the new team and that supportive heckle: “SAAAAAAYYYYYGUUUUUURRRR.” I can’t wait to hear it again.
2014, here I am, almost 40 years old, racing in a new kit for a new team that I was only supposed to be managing, and having a downright blast doing so—all in what I still consider my hometown. It’s been almost 10 years since I left Austin. I migrated north and west during that time. I went to the mountains, where the cars are fewer and the trails more abundant. That’s mountain biking for you—especially mountain bike racing. You find the bike, then the sport, and then take it with you to as many places as you dare. Yet there’s nothing really like bringing it back full circle to where you really learned to ride and race. To where you saw your skillset, and circle of friends in the sport, grow to match your ever expanding horizon of what the bike could open up for you. For me, that’s the Texas scene, and more specifically, the Austin cycling community. I learned to ride there, race there, discover my career there, and I formed friendships that endure time, distance, and activity.
Our cross country skiing convert. She had never been to Texas in any capacity, and I’d never personally met her until picking her up at the airport in Austin the day before. Currently based in Salt Lake City, UT, Evelyn loves racing everything from local Tuesday night races to ProXCTs to endurance events. With a background in competitive running and Nordic skiing, she discovered a new passion for the sport of cycling and is in her second full season of mountain bike racing.
Currently living in Prescott, Arizona, TJ is a competitor I’ve known for years. For most of my career, I’ve been aware of his reputation and savvy on the bike. Oddly, though, I can’t say that I’ve ever spoken to him while either of us was in street clothes. TJ first raced a mountain bike in ’97 and has never looked back. All things bike related are a way of life for him: riding, coaching (his 9-5), and a healthy dose of wrenching are the daily norm. Fortunately his wife, Chloe, is equally addicted to two wheels. A pro since 2006, TJ knows how to do it as a privateer better than most.
TJ’s wife Chloe is a real race winner—a champion whose resume of achievements with which any other athlete would be content to retire. Originally from Boulder, Colorado, she dabbled in road racing, but her passion for mountain biking grew because she loved exploring places you just can’t get to on skinny tires. Chloe is our anchor, our sure bet to hit the box at any race she attends, though in Austin she was injured and out with a bum knee—the result of a simple tip-over. Ironically enough, it happened teaching a skills clinic to the Arizona High School Mountain Bike League.