On 1 January 2018 I started racing under the banner of “Xypex – Verge Sport”. With this individual program established with like-minded people, I intend to continue my pathway in cyclocross. The prospect of putting together my own project was exciting; an opportunity to establish something from scratch with no stone unturned. Alongside racing, I hope to break down barriers for racers around the world. My performance on the bike, as well as my work off the bike, have given me a position of responsibility in the sport where I need to set standards. If I’m not going to do things right, new riders to the sport aren’t going to grow up doing it right either.
I set about finding partners, both endemic and non-endemic to the cycling industry that understand the potential of women’s cyclocross and want to drive their sales based upon that understanding. Sponsorship is a privilege, not a right, and it’s my responsibility to create a return for all of my partners. This is only achieved with unique points of return for each partner and my belief in a product to help develop it.
From my first call looking for potential partners, KindHuman Bicycles got in touch. They have been a leader in establishing the “Xypex – Verge Sport” program and have kept the project focused simply by their name. Being a Kind human, on and off the bike, and making and sustaining a program where everyone involved from fans, partners and other riders are treated as Kind human’s is the goal.
Alongside KindHuman, MotoGP racer Bradley Smith got in touch and offered to secure my program for the future. His passion for equal opportunity in sport was clear and he provided valued security to ensure the right partnerships could be found. My clothing for 2018 will feature the #38 of Bradley and I’ll be wearing a replica of his GP helmet.
I still have the ambition to be at the top of the sport. I enjoy every pedal turn; I get inspired watching young riders create new pathways in the sport. I’m excited by the progress the sport has made over the past few years and encouraged by the avenues for change already in place.
I believe that the best place for me to influence the sport is from within. My immediate goals remain unchanged; to be the best I can be and represent my sponsors in a positive light. I’m exceedingly grateful for the opportunities offered to me, and never take them for granted.
Off the bike, I’m keen to develop riders and products to make cyclocross a more inviting place for sponsors, riders and families. Over the years I’ve been involved with cyclocross, it has become less accessible to some, with financial barriers playing a part and a perceived lower ‘prestige’ with a lack of Olympic status. I want to make sure this myth is busted and riders have an opportunity to transition from regional, to national and finally to international racing.
I was asked many times if I was leaving the sport, and it was a conceivable option. But now, with the backing I have received, I can continue chasing my dreams and then, when the time is right, choose to leave the sport I love.
Partnerships formed over the past few weeks have given me a huge opportunity to make an impact on the sport through 2018 and beyond. Stepping up from their roles as supporting brands to much more prominent roles are both Challenge Tires and Kogel Bearings. These brands have not only been long supporters of mine, but also of the sport. Their products are steeped in passion and having a hand in their product development is a great way to help them make moves in the industry.
You won’t find a more passionate person that Dan at Grimpeur Bros coffee. Everyone needs coffee and Dan reached out and backed me right away. Two more key partners who are also full of passion for women’s cycling, it’s athletes and its development, are Feedback Sports and Look Mum No Hands. Feedback makes the must-have products for cross right now and they’re sweeping across the sport and for them step up is amazing. Look Mum No Hands will become a hub venue for me, where I’ll be able to meet and speak to people, share experiences and help another generation of riders.
I’ve become known over the past 4 years for my work off the bike, but that started long before I was elected to the UCI CX Commission. I got the opportunity to work with Koppenberg Cross to bring a taster of greater equality to their great event. Kris Auer stepped up and we created GP Twenty20 Koppenberg to complement his standout event in the USA. Now that very event, Charm City CX, based in Baltimore is backing me, and giving me the task of helping develop their race, giving back to the racing community there, to riders of all ages. Further to this, myself, Kris, along with my coach Stef, will be launching coaching services with immediate effect for CX riders to benefit from our experience and expertise.
In a little café in Germany, I received an unexpected phone call from Damian from Xypex. He loves cross, he loves Belgium and he wanted to help. Partners from outside the industry are key to make a program such as this tick. It shows that our reach as a sport stretches beyond those that are currently invested it. Damian made this partnership happen; he’s clearly a doer in life and my opportunity to proudly represent Xypex from 1 January is one I’m very grateful for.
All of this will be wrapped up in an image created by Verge Sport. Not only do they make unbelievable clothes, they’re a company with riding at its heart. Their partnership with me has gone from just USA to a true global partnership. They value the input of their athletes and are creating clothing that improves performance and comfort, two essential ingredients to me being happy on the bike.
This project is about now. It’s about creating a program model that is versatile, efficient and effective. And while there are many future possibilities, now is about ensuring a performance environment that allows me to race unhindered, yet provide unrivalled access to me, as an athlete, to riders of all ages and abilities.