Roxo Racing Checks In NCL Miami
As the season gets under way we catch up with the Roxo Racing team as they tackle the newly formed National Cycling League’s inaugural event in Miami Beach, Florida. Chris Watson keeps us up-to-date with everything Roxo.
Everett Rogers, the renown American sociologist, coined the term “early adopter” in his seminal 1963 publication, Diffusions of Innovations. According to Rogers, there are Innovators, then Early Adopters, followed by Early Majority, Late Majority, and Laggards. Who would admit to being a Laggard? And why this odd intro on PezCyclingNews?
Because the American criterium racing format has been around a long time. Criterium series come and go, and every so often a new series touts a new idea, like right now.
This is a story of a new series with new ideas, created by the National Cycling League (a new entity, NCL for short), and NCL’s inaugural event in Miami Beach, Florida. With anything new, there are innovative people, like the NCL, cooking stuff up for early adopters, like Roxo Racing, a Texas based women’s cycling team, who seized the chance to participate.
Here’s the CEO and founder of the NCL, Paris Wallace, with his intrepid wife, Kristen. We know of Kristen’s intrepidity because Kristen is with Paris at a bike race. Paris, BTW, is a dynamo. No Paris = No NCL.
The NCL races differ from the standard criterium format in several ways. Teams win or lose, rather than individuals. The format is akin to points racing on a velodrome, whereby points are awarded at the line each lap. More points on the last lap. As you race, there are Jumbotrons to steal a glance, so you know where you stand. But before racing there is qualifying. Teams qualify to determine grid position, like in auto racing.
Another NCL element was the use of a pit area where teams could substitue a rider, ala Madison racing on the velodromes. One racer could peel off from the pack, streak into the pit lane, thus tripping a timing strip, which allowed their fresh teammate to reenter the race as the pack passed. Sounds weird but it worked.
The use of radios was common as the teams needed to communicate when a rider would pit for a substitute, for example. The substitutes were in ready-mode, necessitating trainers to warm up. Most helpful was either a trainer design allowing the wheels to remain attached, or good old rollers.
Roxo rider Ariane Bonhomme, a Canadian Olympian in Team Pursuit, helped put Roxo on the pole (first qualifying position).
All qualifiers ride the same Wahoo KICKR training bike, monitoring their progress around the 1.1-mile lap via a tablet in front of them, while the crowd goes nuts watching the thrashing athletes and Jumbotrons behind.
But wait. There’s more! Teams are scored as men and women together, equally, with the score being accumulated for a final tally. Roxo paired with a California based men’s team, Voler Factory Racing, VFR for short. Voler is a long-standing cycling apparel brand produced in Grover Beach, CA. Even if our Olympian Ariane rocked the house, we needed our VFR boys to also rock, to accumulate a high score, thus insuring a good grid position.
Our VFR guy, Colin Patterson, eyes glued to the tablet, put in a very solid 2:15.7 qualifying run. When Colin’s time was combined with Ariane’s, our Roxo/VFR team was on the front row for the Saturday races.
The qualifying and raceday show was expertly announced by these guys, Ivan Dominguez, a former professional nicknamed “The Cuban Missle”, and Brad Sohner, often the voice of cycling in the USA. If you’ve not experienced Miami, the Cuban culture and food is wonderful, not to mention the mild weather.
Saturday afternoon and it’s time to race. Our four Roxos for Miami NCL were L to R; Marjie Bemis, who will graduate next month as an Registered Nurse, Ariane Bonhomme, our previously mentioned Canadian Olympian, Victoria Velasco, who is also an Olympic hopeful on the velodrome for Mexico, and Jaime Larmer, a Texan and original founding member of Roxo when we began over three years ago.
In the U.S., before the start of racing it’s customary for the flag to be honored with a rendition of our national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key, an American lawyer. In Miami, the anthem was sung a capella by Miami locals Michelle Gordon, Latricia Russell, and Natalie Harris, in a fabulous, moving rendition that captured the crowd’s attention for the start of racing. Bravo, ladies.
Roxo, like everyone, had a race day plan, including going from the gun in case our fellow competitors were caught out by the grid arrangement. They were not. The pack formed immediately and the strongest moved forward to contest the early laps.
Quickly the pecking order became apparent and two teams gobbled points while the others made their best effort to adapt, Roxo included. The Miami Nights (blue fade kit) and Denver Disruptors (black and gold) teams, assembled by the NCL to demonstrate, and provide to observers of the sport, a “How To” guide for the new format.
Marjie, our Cycling Nurse, a fine silver medalist at last summer’s U23 Road Nationals, had no issues and rode strongly in the front group. She probably wished for a nasty berg each lap to soften up the speedsters, but no hills were to be had in Miami.
The Denver squad struck early and ultimately held off the home team Miami Nights, yet with the points format and speedy Miami Nights, they kept the race close ‘till the end.
By the second half of the bike race, the field was whittled by half. Roxo had struggles with Velasco caught behind a crash, having to put a foot down. Larmer was on the wrong end of a split. Everyone in the bike race has a story, although the Denver Disruptors’ story is no doubt, a compelling tale of top riding. Props to them.
Round 2 of the NCL series takes place in August and Roxo will be back, with every intention of improving our performance, partnered with our VFR guys. It’s a new format for everyone, but once you see an event, you’re good to go.
In Roxo Racing’s third year, we’re registered as a UCI Continental Team, with a full schedule of stage racing, in addition to American criteriums. While these four athletes raced in Miami, our Roxo stage racing squad was at Redlands, a stage race in California, over 4,000kms away.
Postscript: NCL makes no bones about their goal: A different structure than current professional cycling. A financial model with a very clear goal of inclusion and equality, irrespective of race, gender, or socioeconomic standing. If they get it right, and they’ve already negotiated broadcast rights with GCN+ and EuroSport, fans will determine whether it’s a good show. Where fans go, revenue and infrastructure follow.
Roxo Racing is co-owned and managed by former professional Chann McRae. Roxo is a UCI Continental registered team, in its third year of competing, thanks to our loyal sponsors who are again willing to contribute toward our dream of clawing our way to the top.
# A special thanks to Snowy Mountain Photo for the imagery. #
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