In our latest Fast Talk Femmes podcast, USA Cycling CEO Brendan Quirk joins us to talk about the work the national governing body is doing to help develop and elevate women’s cycling. He shares details on some of the initiatives USA Cycling is undertaking to create more parity in the sport, as well as the steps being taken to ensure athletes fulfill their potential at the 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games.
He talks in-depth about athlete development and talent identification, as well as some of the corporate development around women’s programs and underrepresented groups.
Catch up on previous episodes of Fast Talk Femmes and subscribe for episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Soundcloud, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts!
Dede Barry 00:04
Hi, welcome to Fast Talk Femmes, hosted by DeDe Barry and Julie Young. Our guest on today’s episode is Brendan Quirk the CEO of USA Cycling.
Dede Barry 00:14
Brendan started racing bikes in 1986. He has raced at nearly every level of the sport and his passion for the sport pulled him into the cycling industry in the mid-1990s and led him to start competitive cyclist in 2000, which he quickly turned into North America’s largest e-commerce cycling business. He later served as executive vice president for backcountry.com. Then as president of North America, for Rapha.
Dede Barry 00:40
In 2018 he went to work as a cycling program director for runway group, where he helped transform northwest Arkansas into one of America’s foremost cycling destinations. His experience and race promotion spans local events, as well as international ones. In fact, most recently, he served on the Organizing Committee of the 2022 UCI cyclocross World Championships.
Dede Barry 01:03
In his current role as CEO of USA Cycling, his mandate is to develop the sport of cycling in the United States at all levels, and to achieve sustained international racing success. Our discussion with Brendan focuses on USA cycling’s initiatives to develop and elevate women’s cycling, create more parity in the sport, and how USA Cycling is helping their athletes build towards the 2024 and 2028 Olympics. Welcome to Fast Talk Femme Brendan.
Ryan Kohler 01:31
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Dede Barry 01:55
Brendan Quirk 01:56
Thank you excited to be here. It’s good to see you again.
Dede Barry 01:59
Yeah, it’s a real pleasure to have you on the podcast. I wanted to start out by talking about the Olympics. La particularly, you know, I was super excited when they announced that the Olympics were coming to LA partially because I think we’re actually around the same age Brendon and Julius to but for me, the 1984 Olympics were hugely inspiring. And I really believe that spurred growth in the sport of cycling, it also inspired me to get engaged in the sport. And I’d like to hear about what you’re doing at USA Cycling to build towards the 2028 Olympics,
Brendan Quirk 02:34
the LA 20 Olympics are the artists the biggest priority we have in the organization, I literally have a sticky note on my bathroom beer, it’s 12 to 15 medals at the La 28 Olympics. It’s everything that we get up every day, everything we’re doing, as far as I’m concerned, it all targets LA, as far to the future as we can can look. And for us as an organization. You know, it’s the long term is what matters the most long term in terms of how we’re thinking about developing athletes for the national team. It’s also long term in terms of grassroots cycling, and how do we grow the sport in America to get people into that talent development pathway. But for us, we are very clear about what our ambitions are with that medal total. And the Paris Olympics in 2024. It’s very important to us, but home games is monumentally important. USA Cycling is based in Colorado Springs, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee is based in Colorado Springs are about 40 other national governing bodies that are based in Colorado Springs, as they call it Olympic city, USA for that reason, and spent a lot of time with my peers. And what I can tell you is that everybody’s on the same page, the meaning and the value of a home games is just it’s like five acts any other and you know how big the Olympics are, but it’s that much more consequential. And so every day, we’re talking about it, and we’re thinking about it. And as we prioritize things, it all boils down to the same question is this driving towards our medical goal for La 28. But it’s amazing and affordable. We’ll talk about later in the conversation, I’m sure. But we talk about our most important diversity initiatives and other things like that. So much stuff is oriented around LA. It’s incredible the value that and the clarity you get by having that home games.
Dede Barry 04:19
Yeah, I agree. I mean, I felt like Connie carpenter and Rebecca twig inspired an entire generation of women when they went one two in the Olympic road race in 1984. And it would be hugely inspirational to have another performance like that in 2028. Well,
Brendan Quirk 04:32
look, I mean, you look at if the US is going to win battles, it’s going to be on the back of women. 2020 Tokyo Olympics were rough for us. We only got three battles. They’re all women. 2016. It was five medals. Four of them were from women. 2012 adequate for metals, all of them were women. So Cisco going back to Beijing in 2008. Men have only won one battle for the United States at the Olympics. Our success So as a nation, in bike racing, historically has been for the foreseeable future, will be on the back of our ability to support and develop women and seeing their success. You know, even looking at last year, your world championships, we had 11 men’s world championships last year, nine from women, what was a relay? One was from a guy. And so, you know, we won’t we know is in the past. Yeah, think about your time on T Mobile, for example, you’re talking about the real growth of an era when the US was the number one cycling nation in the world and the opportunity, we’re definitely not there now. But that’s what the opportunity is for us is to become the leading women’s cycling nation in the world again, man, that’s a that’s a tall order. If you’re not Belgium, or Italy, or France, but women, you know, we can definitely do that. And we’re really motivated to do that. So it’s important to us and I hope that we can, you know, a lot of stuff that we do, it’s talking about women, like Rebecca is talking about what happened back in the days of T Mobile was all the magic that we’ve seen with women, but Kristin Armstrong achieved things, the only human who’s ever won three in a row, your gold medals and cycling of the Olympics. You know, it’s the women that inspire us the most. And so that’s front and center for us looking at LA, frankly, at Paris as well. You know, our success in Paris, we want to get seven medals and Paris, women will win the majority of them if we’re successful.
Dede Barry 06:27
Well, I think we’re seeing a lot of promise on the men’s side, too.
Julie Young 06:30
Yeah. Brendan, it’s, it’s really great to finally meet you. And it is interesting hearing you putting it in words the success that female cyclists have had. But I think we still have some work to do in terms of growing like female participation in the sport of cycling. I’d love to hear what strategies and specific initiatives USA Cycling has in place, or is working to put in place to draw more females into the various disciplines of cycling, but also retain that participation.
Brendan Quirk 07:00
I think it’s probably helpful to look at like different phases. A woman’s lifecycle is a bike racer, and how are we trying to address those problems? So let’s say it’s a woman who’s never raced the bike before. And they’re curious, you how do they do their first criteria? So that was really interesting. Last year, when I came on board as CEO kind of went on a listening tour, talk to club managers talk to vet organizers talk to local associations, like okay, look, you guys bring the sport of bike racing to life on a local level. For us to the national governing body, we were not really built to be hyperlocal. So how can we support you in achieving your goals on a local level, most of these organizations want to do the same thing. Clubs want to grow. Event organizers want to have more participants, local associations want to have more events, and great opportunities to get more women racing. And so were they started having some success was learned to race clinics, I’ll give you an example. My wife, she was turned into a marathon runner, but you know, she’d never run before. And she got involved in this program called Women can run. Maybe you guys are familiar with that. But what it is, it’s just literally, you go to your local track, there are some coaches that you start by, you run 100 yards, you walk, you know, two laps, you run 100 yards you walk it’s total basic building blocks of learning how to do a 5k. And I think that was the big ambitions by the time you’re done with this program, you can raise a 5k you it’s taking that kind of approach, which is you make it approachable, you strip it down to various, there’s just the absolute basics of what it is you’re trying to achieve. And it’s amazing the kind of participation you’ll get in a clinic or a program like that. So we experimented that with that this year, we developed a program of level up your ride, we held it in nine different cities across America. And they were big criteria. So they’re around, you know, the intelligencia cup in Chicago, they were around you have little to create out of Colorado, any of that really was all pretty much all the criteriums of the American criterium cup which was the big criteria of series, the Thursday or Friday of that week, we would work with a local Race Club to host a level up your ride clinic and what that was was exactly that. How do you corner when someone’s right next to you, you know, how do you break into a quarter? How do you think about shifting just basic fundamentals of pack riding in a tight technical situation for you, you’re talking about women coming in, you know, their their Lulu tights, they’re in running shoes, it’s that those are the people we were trying to reach people who otherwise they would never have the courage to come out race. So we hosted that nine different cities to huge success. The number of women we saw actually racing after that was a significant number. You know, it was a formula that worked. So we can’t scale that as an organization. We can’t be in 100 cities next year. So we’re not developing a curriculum that really works that clubs and event organizers can Then perform on their own on a local level. And we give them all the guidance we can. And the tools basically teach the teachers right to break down the barriers to getting women to try their first race. So that’s sort of like one step and the life cycle. The next step in the life cycle, or a different step in the lifecycle. We’re spending a lot of time thinking about women, it’s at the collegiate level. Collegiate is a really big initiative for us going into 2023. It sort of started a roundabout way, we started on this quest of how we grow Junior cycling. And obviously, Junior cycling is essential to help with the sport. We spent time with Nika, were sponsor of Nika. So they were very generous with their time with us talking about this. We talked with the industry, give talk to, you know, talk to existing collegiate programs, we talked to them promoters, the feedback we got was the same across the board, which is if you want to grow Junior cycling, the best thing to do is going to be is to turn collegiate cycling into a legitimate sport, because you got 10,000 kids per year, graduating from high school, mountain biking, who 200 of them go and race collegiately there basically is no except for 10 or 12. Really good schools. There’s no collegiate ecosystem. What college is a place that’s majority women, right? Most schools now it’s 55 60%. Population is women’s if you want to find concentrated women’s population to get them into the sport colleges where you do it. So we raised the money. We hired a National Collegiate director, her name is Margot Abel. She’s lives in Boulder now. She spoke about data if you guys know Maryellen Yeah, she’s great. She’s amazing. She spent a decade as the CU Boulder coach. She’s a national champion of cyclocross masters national check out of her own. Both of her kids are very accomplished bike racer, she’s a CodeShip boulder Junior cycling, one of the foremost development programs there is right now. And she is extremely passionate about collegiate cycling, and the way in which that could directly impact women. Because it’s not just getting girls who are racing in high school and opportunity to continue their careers in college. It’s exposing the sport for the first time to this place where the majority of your population as women, but then as you start to think about the elite side of the sport, you look at the number of successful American bike racers over the last 15 years, who were collegiate athletes and sports other than cycling. Kristin Faulkner races for bikeexchange is four year row or Harvard. You’ve got your Lily Williams just racing to her fraud. So she’s an Olympic medalist in Tokyo. She raced cross country at Vanderbilt, you’ve got your Lord Hall, the only woman who ever won’t get bubblegum. She played collegiate soccer at Mississippi State. Meredith Miller, your multi time cyclocross national champion has gone to worlds for road and for cross. She played collegiate soccer at Wisconsin. So there’s this long history of women kind of getting sort of like a passing visibility to bike racing, when they’re very focused on other sports. But then USA Cycling successfully helping with tele transfer to getting these women to come into bike racing later in life. Having college cycling visible when these women are participating in other sports is going to be critical with that talent transfer process. And then finally, in terms of women, more broadly speaking, COVID killed our our development programs for junior youth 23 men and women started to go into decline after the Rio Olympics, for reasons we can get into some other time, they started going into decline after Rio COVID hit a completely stopped. So big investment for us is going out there, right, we’ve successfully raised the money to bring in particular road and mountain, you 23 and junior development programs back. So these athletes have more time at training camps in the US and have more available you have more access to getting to Europe to go race. And for us. Everything is you know, men and women, we think about it equally, you’re never going to see a program where the guys are doing it and the girls aren’t. And it’s just not how it is not how it works at USA Cycling. So as we get the funding and as we get the opportunity both the young men and the young women are going to have so we’re thinking about it kind of at all levels. How do we create exposure? How do we create access? How do we create support for women to get into the sport, stay in the sport, frankly, become Olympic champions in the sport is what we want. Ultimately,
Julie Young 14:24
as you’re speaking there, Brendan, I was thinking about like entry points and in my experience, gravel and cyclocross have become really good entry points for female athletes. This I think they’re less intimidating more about participation. I mean, cyclocross is just kind of fun and funny and people are having a good time and people don’t feel kind of left behind. So I think those have been fantastic for female development in the sport.
Brendan Quirk 14:49
Here’s some amazing women who are raised. Excellent at the row. Katie Klaus. Matty Monroe Madigan row got a you know, a medal in the relay mountain bike world championships this year, but she got 10 Cross worlds, we have got some amazing young women cross. It’s tough, because it’s hard for anybody to make a living in crops if you’re not Belgian or Dutch. And so, cross has a purpose where I think we’re at a little bit of a crossroads. Right now we’re trying to figure out what the purpose is. We love cross, we want to invest in cross, but we’re trying to figure out what the role is in cyclocross, as far as Team USA goes, and what our goals are. These for us as an organization, we’re really wired around the Olympics to go back to your original point, Diddy. And everything we do, ultimately, it needs to result in Olympic medals. And cross clearly is great as a supplemental activity for road mountain athletes. The extent to which we can invest in cross is something that we’re vigorously debating right now trying to figure out how to be smartest about it, then gravel, you’re absolutely right lately has been a huge introductory point for people into the sport. And so how do we build pathways from gravel to road gravel to mountain is really important for us to do.
Dede Barry 16:02
It’s interesting with cross because I mean, I agree it’s hard to justify the investment when it’s not an Olympic sport, given that your organization is so revolved around that. But at the same time, it really helps young athletes particularly develop skills that can help them and it’s also a really good entry point, from the standpoint that you could pretty much implement across course, and across race, at any high school or in any park around the world. And like mountain biking, for example, isn’t as accessible in that way. So it’s more implementable from like the development standpoint. But I completely agree in terms of like, does it make sense to try and take these athletes to the elite level in it? Maybe not. But
Brendan Quirk 16:47
the challenge Didi we would love to, you know, I would love nothing more than to have a you 23 Women’s, you know, world champion across the fundamental challenge we face I’ll give you an example. A young man named AJ August races for hot tubes, one of the best Junior men, road racers and cross athletes of Oregon, definitely a top five kid, he’s won nations cups on the road, he won the kopen Burg cross a big Belgian cross race. This fall when solo by a minute against a really tough field. I mean, this kid is legit. But at the same time, two weeks before the cross World Championships and hoogerheide this year, he got invited to go to a training camp with ENEOS for a week, like oh my god, I get to go hang out the New York Yankees for a week, of course, I’m going to do that. And that’s the path for these kids. If they’re really promising, and they really flourish across there’s a real career, a real living and real opportunities, a road mountain, that right now don’t exist in cross cross is amazing. The challenge is just the opportunity, the financial opportunity, in particular, the career development opportunity for those young men and women just isn’t there. That’s a real tragedy. Because crosses so cool.
Dede Barry 17:53
Yeah. So speaking about pathways, it was interesting. We spoke with Julia Viola, which and one of our episodes about collegiate cycling, but more about Nika, because she’s heavily involved in Nika. And she spoke with us about how difficult it is for a lot of the young women that come through Nika and come through the bear national development program, that mountain bike development program that she’s started to really see a pathway, career wise, and a lot of them tend to drop out of cycling when they’re 1819 years old, and no longer a junior, and go to university. And one of her comments was, there’s two issues she sees, like one, collegiate cycling is great, but, you know, so far, there’s not enough schools with viable programs, which it sounds like you’re already finding solutions for. And the other piece is just, you know, how do we help young women see a career pathway and cycling and that’s getting better, too, because we are seeing more professional teams, we’re seeing a minimum wage implemented and, and cycling on the road at least. But yeah, it’d be interesting to get your perspective on on that and kind of what you’re doing in that regard.
Brendan Quirk 19:06
You know, I think pro sports is hard. I mean, it used to be to the beauty of rooms road teams are big. And so there’s a perception of more opportunity with with road teams. I think that with bear though, right? It’s a mountain team and other amazing examples of women who are doing Haley baton is incredible. And I guarantee you she’s making a nice living doing what she’s doing. Kate Courtney. I mean, oh my god, she’s, you know, you’re one of the top three American cyclists to ever live in terms of their influence on American race and culture. She proved that there can be a path you got younger women like Quentin Gibson coming up on the mountain bike side your she won a bronze medal in the short track mountain bike Worlds this year. You I think she just really believed and she is making a nice career for herself. So I think there’s a pathway I mean, there are teams that are there. You know, your first year writer on the trek factory team running the World Cup circuit. I mean, that is not glamorous living? No, it’s first year pro kind of stuff. I think the pathways are there. I just I do think when I contemplate bear, and I think about mountain biking, the number of available spots are so small. I mean, according to Gibson, she won a World Cup this year, she won a world championship medal. She lost her sponsor, and she was on without a team until the last minute. And it’s because trek is really smart. They realized, Oh, my God described her is so amazing. Of course, we need to make room for her. That that was a little bit of Lightning in a Bottle frequently, because she was so accomplished, it is really hard, it is really hard. And especially with this post COVID bike industry bust, where a lot of the industry support has dried up, it is difficult. Now, one thing we are working on is what formerly existed, which doesn’t exist now is a means to say, look, you can be a domestic mountain bike Pro. Right now, there’s not a domestic series that’s coherent, that has real prize money, so that maybe you got a 20 hour a week job. But what you’re really doing is training and trying to take your let’s say you are a top three collegiate mountain bike racer, that means you’re not good enough to be on the World Cup. What do you do in between what we want to do, and we’re we tried to do it for this year, we just ran out of time. But our folks we’re working on in the background, now I expect it to come to life in 2024 is a genuine national, a US national mountain bike series. You know, there’s a Swiss cup mountain bike series, there’s a French cup mountain bike series, we need a similar race series in the US, where it’s, let’s say eight races with a cumulative prize purse that’s meaningful, so that you can say, Look, I’m gonna give this a go for a couple of years, I’m gonna see how I perform in this US Series. And you know what, if your top five in that series are top three in that series, it means you’re probably good enough to go over to Europe and give that a crack. But if you do it and your top 10, you know what you’ve probably tapped out. But at least you have the opportunity to take that next step after kind of a class collegiate racing to see how good you can be. So getting that national series in place in 2024 is a big priority for us. We I really hope you’re gonna get it done this year, we were willing to commit $100,000 to the price list for a series price list 50 for men and 50. For women, we had a bunch of existing races who were like we’re in let’s do it, just the logistics, the complexities of it was such that we just pull it off this year. So I think that’s something else that we’re doing that will be beneficial. It’s sort of this bridge between high level collegiate racing and World Cup racing will be you’ll get this dream of being a domestic mountain bike Pro.
Dede Barry 22:37
I think that’s a really good step, I think back to the norba series in the 1990s. And that was huge for development. That’s,
Brendan Quirk 22:44
we call it the enormous series internally, we’re arguing for the reticle. The next series, the nervous series, people who were not around in the 90s don’t understand what we would want to call it the nervous series. Yeah, we’re having a little debate over what the series is going to be called.
Julie Young 22:57
I mean, Brendan, I do think it is interesting, chatting with you and chatting with Julia veelage. And for listeners that maybe didn’t listen to that episode, Julia veelage is the founder and director of the bear national team, which is arguably the most successful long standing development team in the country. But anyway, in her in our chat with Julia, she, you know, helped us understand like, there is so much good happening and there is so much of that pyramid falling into place in terms of development where you have Nika which is that big net, you know, and then you have programs like Julia’s program and she you know, she did obviously mentioned there’s other programs out there, it’s not just her program, but you know, then that that program helps keep the kids in the sport then the collegiate programs, and then all good feeders into USA Cycling.
Brendan Quirk 23:46
Yeah. Oh, for sure. Julia is the godmother of American mountain biking, and she has done more to grow the sport of mountain biking in the United States. The I mean, pretty much anybody. She is amazing. She has given her heart or soul a lot of her money, and a lot of her energy and the thing about Juliet that’s amazing is she’s capable of writing big checks. She’s also capable of cleaning water bottles and she’ll gladly do everything in between. You know, she is fantastic. And I really enjoy the time I get with her and I learned a lot from her and USA Cycling and bear together a couple of programs that really stand out in terms of being bridge supporting athletes from being let’s say, accomplished you years or conference 23 riders, you know, as they’re getting ready to make the leap to Europe. Bear is one of them. BJC boulder Junior cycling is one of them. There are a couple of universities. Yes, CMU right now is a place that has just done incredible work, supporting riders with for us without these programs, we would be a big, big trouble in terms of trying to execute successful development. So the work that Julia has done has been invaluable. And you look at the American mountain bikers who are at the peak have been at the peak of success in the last 10 years. A number of those riders who at some point in their career were better athletes. It’s just incredible. So it’s like the Bear A LITTLE nightclub is what it looks like. It’s just amazing.
Julie Young 25:09
Yep. And I think too, in terms of the pathways for females, I think when you do have like the Kate Courtney’s and the Haley battens, and it just shows the possibility. You know, it’s just like being on a team and one rider, you know, succeeds, and it brings everybody else up. And I think that’s what they’ve done for the sport. They’ve shown the possibility for other female athletes.
Brendan Quirk 25:30
Yeah, I agree. I agree. Haley, and Gwendolyn, I mean, the women we have coming up right now. It’s just at every level are incredible. You know, there’s a young woman Well, I think I may have mentioned her already. Maddie Monroe is another one of the 20 threes. Really, at every level, what’s going on in mountain biking in particular, is really astonishing. And I think we are sitting here today talking, we are at the peak in the history of American mountain biking in terms of top to bottom talent, your current elite level metal capable talent, the women who are one step down from that these women who are coming up to college right now, I almost feel like it’s like we’re the Dutch it’s like we’re finally developing bench strength. It’s such a level, that you can really be optimistic about what the future looks like for women in American mountain biking. I think we as a nation, women in particular, but but you’re very likely for the men as well. We have the opportunity to be the new Switzerland, we could go and sleep at Olympic podium, not 2024, necessarily, but as I look at 2020, the path we’re on is that the bench depth is just incredible. And so it’s easy to be excited about where we’re headed with mountain biking.
Julie Young 26:38
Do you think that is largely due to Nika and just having that big net?
Brendan Quirk 26:44
I think like as part of it, Nika creates opportunities for the really ambitious kids to have a little bit more racing. And I think it’s helpful for mountain biking to be seen as a mainstream sports. It’s helpful for everybody. I think Nika. Nika views itself as a kind of a youth development organization, first and foremost, that uses bikes as a tool. They don’t, I don’t think they view themselves as a bike racing organization. And I think they take pride in that fact. And a lot of the work that they’re doing is diversifying away from racing. It’s like their grip program just to get young women on bikes in any way shape or form, their trail stewardship, their teen trail core program, just getting kids get they need to understand that advocacy and building trail and maintaining trail is key to what it means to be part of mountain biking culture. Nika is they’re almost like obstinate about saying we’re not a bike racing organization. And I think that’s right. I think that’s one reason why they’ve been successful, but they really legitimize the sport and a lot of ways that I think young women can look at bikes. It feels good about that as they do volleyball, or basketball, or some of these other conventional sports. And I think that’s important. And Nike gets a ton of credit for that.
Brittney Coffey 27:57
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Dede Barry 28:21
Brenden, I want to switch the conversation a little bit right now to talent Id sure. So you launched an exciting new talent ID program in LA? I saw Yeah. Can you tell our listeners about oh,
Brendan Quirk 28:32
yeah, it’s amazing. It’s called Search for speed. So a huge problem that the entire outdoor industry and the entire bike industry, which is a subset of the outdoor industry, a huge problem they’re trying to solve for is how do we facilitate diversity, you go to a ski slope, you go to a bike race, you go to camping, basically, one thing that’s the same as the demographics, you tend to see upper middle class white folks, predominantly male doing all these activities. That is a real problem for everybody involved. And so full credit to the outdoor industry, the bike industry, bike companies, national governing bodies, everybody’s trying to crack the code on how do we welcome these underrepresented communities into these activities that we love that we think are so magical, and it is really, really hard because you can gift your activity to these groups, it doesn’t mean that they want to take the gift, it doesn’t mean that they want to participate. And how do you create opportunity where they look at some of these activities as being there’s so that they feel attracted to actually pursuing it, get involved in it, and that is a really hard problem to crack. So our best effort to try to address this is developing what’s called Search for speed. So it is focused specifically on track and then within track a sprint track right track ACC has two disciplines, you’ve got sprint, and you’ve got endurance. And so this is focused on Sprint track. And our thesis is this. Our thesis is that you could probably build an entire you can’t build an entire Olympic team, just around athletes from Southern California, right that density of talented young, athletic men and women in Southern California’s greater than any countries as a whole in the world. It’s the only place in America with an indoor What 250 velodrome, which is the Olympic standard. And Carson is kind of in the middle of a lot of neighborhoods read about these really diverse communities. And then you know, our track program basically died after 2060, where we’ve always been good at women’s endurance track, but men’s programming died or SPRINT program, pretty much more or less died as well. And so as we made the decision to bring a sprint program back on life back online, you have to build an athlete pool from scratch. And so we’ve kind of tried to take couple of factors and kind of mush them all together, which is concentrated population of athletic youth in Southern California, the track is there, a lot of energy around the LA Olympics, a lot of kids have, you know, or eaten up at the Olympic dream in Southern California. And LA, the LA 28 Olympic Committee is very motivated to create a legacy for the Olympic Games before the Olympics. What you always do at the Olympics is they always talk about the legacy after the games. And what la wants to do is build a legacy before the game. So they’re very interested in seeing Los Angeles youth participate in an Olympic discipline sports now. So what the search for speed is, is we have a team of people based in Los Angeles, and we are engaging with schools, with churches, with community groups, anyplace where their kids and we take these walk bikes, they’re these really ultra heavy duty indoor bikes, we’ve got wired up with iPads. And what we’re doing is we’re getting these kids in these communities to get on these bikes, and we’re gamifying it. It’s just like you go to a baseball game. And you say, how fast can you throw a fastball, how fast is your pitch, it’s that kind of dynamic, where we’re engaging these communities, and we’re trying to make it fun, and we’re getting them on the bike. And what we’re actually doing, so we’re introducing them to cycling and track cycling. But what we’re really doing what we’re testing for is six second, maximum average power is what we’re doing. If you get some kid who’s a pretty good high school football linebacker, or some young woman who’s a fullback on her soccer team, he or she’s got the physiological makeup to be a track sprinter. You get them all that Wattbike. You know, it’s Tippetts is basically your watts per kilogram, you figure out what their power output is, those kids who go through this, this open tryouts we’re calling them that hit the numbers, we’re then inviting them back to what’s called a talent combine. And that talent combine is where we run them through kind of a larger battery of tests to figure out if they’ve just got the raw physiology to be attract sprinter. And then those kids who make it out of that next level of these tryouts, we’re going to do talent integration into our national team. And basically, we’re gonna say that was look, we have an Olympic tree, and you haven’t looked at Treme, we desperately need to do talent, identification, or depth of talent, and our tracks per program is very, very thin. And we need to, we need to build it up, and we need to do it rapidly. And we’re going to integrate these kids into our sprint track program. What we know is that if you’re coming from an under underrepresented community in Los Angeles, you don’t have beans, it is not going to work for us to say come to the track, we’ll give you a bike. You it’s how do we engage with these kids in a way so that we don’t just get involved in their lives when they’re trading in there on the bike? But how do we get involved in their lives off the bike as well to make sure they’re eating right make sure they have transportation to get to the track, make sure they’re actually going to school? You How do we deal with the kids in that part of their lives so that they’re off the bike lives don’t create failure for what they’re trying to achieve on the bike. So our track sprint directors kind of Aaron Hartwell, I’m sure you know him DD from from your racing days. And fuck you guys might even been teammates at some point. ervice he’s noticed that the three Olympics he’s won two Olympic medals. He’s run the track programs at Trinidad, Tobago, Canada, and China. And what’s very interesting is what he did at Trinidad and Tobago was he built that track program from scratch. Your T and T is a very poor country. These happened in velodrome and have big ambitions and the stories he tells of what these kids had to do just to get to the track. It’s a two hour bus ride than a 45 minute taxi ride than they had to walk two miles to get to the tracks like impossible to develop world class athletes. So Earth learned how to do was developed these kids as athletes on the bike but also How does he help them manage their own lives off the bike? How does he get the family by it. So these kids can actually try to become world class athletes. And they were very successful. And if you look at a track world championships, or especially if you look at like a capace, you know, America, Pan Am championships. TNT is a track powerhouse. And it is because what the strategy was, is you have to care for these athletes both on the bike and off the bike. So that approach is the approach we’re taking to search for speed will be identified these kids who we’re going to try to do talent integration to the program, is that we want to work with them to get buy in from their community at home, alongside the work we’re going to be doing with them on the track as well. So we are really focused on this. We’re trying to get 700 kids to the open tryouts between now and June, that’s when the combines will happen. You Our hope is to get about six to eight kids through the combine, and then get those kids as sort of the next generation of youth getting integrated into our national team program. And our B hag or big, hairy audacious goal is one of these kids will win a medal that LH 28.
Dede Barry 36:12
That community based approach is so key, I think, because one, they’ll all strive towards excellence, if they’re in a community that supports them along the way. Parental buy in will be really key. It’s good that you’re thinking about all that from the outset. And of course, hopefully, you’re gonna have some battle aside of it. But ultimately, I think the way you’re structuring the program is that a lot of these kids are going to develop transferable skills that will make them successful beyond what they do at the elite level of cycling, which I think is really key. And it sounds like you have a really great system in place.
Brendan Quirk 36:49
The hard thing for us, it’s just there’s one massive challenge, a couple of massive challenges we face in relation, one of the massive challenges is being a national governing body, and really making an impact on a local level is difficult. I mean, that’s the great challenge for us, how do we really come to life in Los Angeles. And that’s been the biggest hurdle for us. And it’s also been the thing we’ve been the most focused on. But whether it’s search for speed, or whether it’s supporting, you know, local races, you know, wherever they might be, I mean, that is always the great challenge. How do we really understand what the needs are of people who bring bike racing to life on the ground, local, your local environment, that’s the great challenge for us to keep our ears to the ground and to listen, and to react to what we learn on an ongoing basis.
Julie Young 37:34
Brendon was the impetus for this program, the LA games.
Brendan Quirk 37:38
Oh, no, the impetus for this program was the fact that our board right answer to the board, the board says look, diversity is really important to us cycling is really, really white. You know, we want to be the next skiing, we don’t want to be the next waterpolo we want to have a truly diverse community. That’s that’s, it’s, it’s yes, it’s mostly about winning battles. But it’s also about social impact for us, we the boards that we think we think this organization can do both. And so when you look in America, where is diversity, programming and cycling, the most successful, at least how it relates to athletic performance. I’ll give you two examples. It’s the Lexus velodrome in Detroit. What Dale Hughes is doing there. You’ve got a velodrome that is literally in the middle of public housing in downtown Detroit that has become a magnet for young black men and women and young Hispanic men and women in Detroit to learn how to race bikes, and it’s the Star Trek program at the Casita, velodrome in New York City led by Pete Taylor, same thing. They’ve got a waiting list for kids to get into that program. So I went to the Lexus velodrome for the first time last March. And first of all, it’s the most diverse community I’ve ever seen in a bike race in the whole life. So I was just blown away by that. The second thing is that it’s one thing to say, man, look at all of these, again, young black men and women, young Hispanic men and women risk by going to Belgium of 50 degree bankings it’s a 166 velodrome. It’s the scariest velodrome I’ve ever seen in my life. And these kids, they’re just voting that track that’s amazing in and of itself, but that’s not what’s most amazing. What’s most amazing is the fact that Dale’s programs and Star Trek in New York are producing junior national champions on the tracks now. So you’ve got young black men and women you’re 1314 Audience 1516 Omnium 1516 points raise girls boys. These are black boys and girls with these these are Hispanic boys and girls doing it. This is where diversity is coming to life. Maisie Wimbush she has she did when Jr Jr road race 1516 girls I think it was two or three years ago and that was amazing. But where you’re seeing it in numbers is on the track it so for me that’s what the inspiration was it’s like oh my god these tracks got it figured out. How do we take inspiration from that and have it also address terrible need? We have which is we’ve got to accelerate talent ID for our track program to bring it back to life. But the inspiration I will tell you, it’s Detroit in New York, it’s learning from the people who are doing it because it’s amazing. Do you ever have the chance to go to one of these bigger races at the Lexus velodrome in Detroit, it’s one of the most inspiring things you will ever see in bike racing.
Dede Barry 40:19
So Brandon, our son Ashlyn, who’s 15, got to race the RAF International and at the Lexus velodrome in Detroit in January, and he was so impressed. And the racing was just super fun. I mean, they build a really good show, they make it really engaging. And the best part about it, I think, is that all of the youth programming is subsidized. So they have sponsorship, so there’s no cost for anyone under 18, to race to do the training sessions, because the cost and cycling have like the economic barriers have become staggering. So I think that’s a huge part of the success. And I think they’ve accomplished a lot partially because of that they have, you know, free bikes for the kids everything. Yeah,
Brendan Quirk 41:06
there are some groups of individuals who have really stepped up to help with that. And one that I will mention, the brand that is most associated with track cycling globally is look, looks team in the US has really stepped up they have given all the bikes that we need for grassroots programming at the Carson velodrome in Los Angeles, they gave them to us brought us free, because they want to help bring down those barriers. They’re also working in Detroit and New York to create your really low cost availability to bikes as well. So there there are some good examples out there of good corporate citizenship. And look, it’s just one that has, I think, exceeded everybody’s expectations is that they just deserve a shout out for that. We couldn’t do what we’re doing with search for speed. If it wasn’t for look, and you mentioned the raffia International, the Rafah Foundation gave us a very significant grant to make search for speed happened. So those are two amazing corporate citizens that are putting their money where their mouth is in terms of trying to break down those barriers and trying to accelerate diversity.
Julie Young 42:11
Brandon, will the search for speed program stay located in the LA area.
Brendan Quirk 42:16
So we are already talking about how can we branch out to three new markets. It’s Detroit, New York. And we’re actually going to do a test event in Miami. The NCL criteria, and that’s happening on April 8, that’s going to be the first time we’re actually going away from Los Angeles. Here’s the challenge joy. The talent ID is one thing, talent integration, as it’s known is the next thing. So I’ll give you an example. I used to live in Park City, Utah. And it seems like the entire Olympic team for ski jumping comes from Park City. Well, why? Well, because there’s great programming and some great ski jumping hills there. Now I live in Arkansas. Now my kids can have all the ambition and might have all the natural capability in the world to become ski jumpers. But there’s no ski jump hills here and there’s no snow. And so they’re great, they’re not going to be ski jumpers. It same holds true with access to trap time and access to let’s call it the appropriate level of coaching. The whole point here is we’re trying to bring this program to where people are not where we want them to be. And let’s say we find the most talented young 14 year old who lives in inner city, Miami. Well, you know, if you don’t have the Velodrome access, you don’t have the coaching access, they can’t move to LA. And LA is where this national team exists. And so it’s tough. It’s how we figure out how we could do an appropriate level of talent ID and talent development up to the point where that talent integration is critical. That’s what we need to figure out right now. But tell integration is the name of the game. And what we don’t want to do is invest money in programs for an athletes that can’t then take that next step in their in their jury. It’s just sort of a disservice to everybody.
Julie Young 43:57
Right? I was curious if you would have staff like on the ground in LA to be supporting that those kids in that program? Yes,
Brendan Quirk 44:05
we do in LA, we don’t in the other markets. So what we’re working with, for example, I mean, we’re having conversations like for example, with Dale Hughes in in Detroit, how can we make this this program come to life in Detroit, is the shared resources is what it boils down to. And every situation is different. And so each of those conversations will be different. We made a very deliberate decision when we launched this, well, we kind of came up with this program, we were going to focus on one market at the outset to see if we can come to life in that market if we can get access to kids. And if we can get kids to actually come out to these programs. Can we be successful? If we can be successful in LA that we’ve earned the right to go to other markets. The idea of trying to make this happen and four markets at the outset will be crazy. It’s been hard enough just to do it now lay
Julie Young 44:52
smart. Will you be identifying equal numbers of girls and boys?
Brendan Quirk 44:57
That’s the goal. That’s the goal. It’s you know, it’s up to The kids to show up. But without a doubt gender parity on this is 100% what the goal is?
Julie Young 45:06
Sounds like an exciting program.
Brendan Quirk 45:08
It is. Yeah, we’ve got a website search for ski.com. So some basic information there. If anybody who’s listening lives in Southern California, and you know, is is involved with youth groups, any of any kind, any sport, you know, we’d love to hear from you. Because for us, it’s just about us getting in front of these groups of kids. Talent ID, it’s just it’s, it’s crazy, because you don’t know when you’re going to find that your needle in a haystack, right? He’s got the physiology and it’s got the aptitude, that desire, you just have to get in front of them and get them to engage with us.
Julie Young 45:38
When I love the simplicity of the program, a watt bike, and I heard you on another podcast, I think you had mentioned you take a plyo box
Brendan Quirk 45:45
that will be in the combine. Yeah, that’ll be in the second step. We wanted to make it super approachable and super easy. On the first step. We want to really create zero friction for the kids. I mean, I wish I could show you some of these photographs of these kids are some of these videos. Some of them are hilarious, just as big group of teenagers, you know, each other on. It’s like stuff you never see in bike racing. It gives you hope, you know when you see that.
Dede Barry 46:08
That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Creating opportunities.
Julie Young 46:11
Yeah, Brendan, can you tell us about the roles that women play within USA Cycling such as coaching physiologists, biomechanics, sports psychologists and nutritionists
Brendan Quirk 46:23
or sports performance side of the USA Cycling business right we kind of have two basic businesses grassroots sports performance sports performances rights, talent, Id talent development, its World Championships Olympics. Jim Miller, you know very well DD Jim Miller is the chief of sports performance. He’s the big boss of that whole business. In the way we are structured is that each major discipline has its own discipline director. So what that means for us is road has a discipline director, mountain cyclocross has one discipline director, track as a discipline director, and BMX, both race and freestyle together has its own discipline director. And so that’s kind of in the organizational chart, if you envision it that way, Jim, on top for discipline directors, that beneath the discipline directors, you’ve got coaches and DSOs, directors, 40s, directors for Chief beneath that group of people. So I am cognizant of the fact that Jim is the guy, we’ve got four discipline directors, they’re all guys. And then when you look at our staff of DSS and coaches, it’s a lot of guys there. There are some exceptional exceptions. I’ll give you an example of Katherine curry, on the roadside. She was one of our DS is at the world championships this year. And one of the most memorable things I saw was the junior girls team, just that her connection with the juniors girls team was so strong. You know, for those girls, many of them it was their first World Championships. Really the the relationship between that group of young women and Katherine was so important and energy your women, they didn’t get a result. But I think that they performed well, and one of the reasons they perform well was that the mentorship and just the sense of connection they had to Katherine, just for me, it was really obvious, you know, the benefit, it’s intellectually it’s obvious what the benefits are of having women around. But then seeing Katherine in action, made that come to life, we had a vacancy in our road discipline, director position this fall, we had to hire and it’s really, really important role. And especially with the major investments, we’re making a new 23 inch Junior road development discipline director is basically a general manager of the entire discipline. So they manage all the calendars, they manage the riders, they pick what races to go to the manage the budget, they help fundraise. It’s a critical, critical role. And so Jim, and I had an extensive conversation, I’m like, man, we both said it would be amazing to hire a woman in this role. So what that meant for us as Okay, at our, as we recruit, as we build a pool of candidates, we need to turn ourselves inside out to try to get as many women as we can. And we have a couple of really good women candidates in the process. So just first steps, important. Women are part of the recruits. That’s stupid to say, but it’s just it’s these basic building blocks of you know what a company’s culture is like, you have to make an effort to recruit women before you can hire women. So it’s very happy with the effort we made to recruit women, the challenge we ran into, it’s just fundamentals of what it is to be. It’s to be a modern day ambitious woman in the workplace, like women. My wife ran into this, you know, I’m sure both of Julie, I don’t know your family situation. But Didi, I know you’ve, you’ve probably run into this. It’s like you want to, you want to do everything you can in your career to exploit all the opportunities that are available to you to grow and make an impact. But at the same time, you’ve got kids at home, and you’ve got a family to take care of. It’s like how do you manage both? Well, it’s hard enough to manage both if you just want to be a lawyer, and all you have to do is commute to the office in the same town every day. But if you want to be a rude discipline director in a national governing body, which is responsible for rapidly growing development calendars that are primarily located in Europe, and you know, this job means you’re gonna have to spend 90 days a year on the road, and you’ve got a two year old at home, guess what you’re probably going to opt out of taking the job is you’re gonna think about it really hard and have lots of sleepless nights. But you know, most likely, you’re gonna say I can’t do it. And that’s the situation we ran into the best women that we had her candidate pool, were somewhat recently retired racers, who were extremely capable as managers, extremely capable, in terms of the administrative part of the job, do bike racing inside now could just as easily handle the men and be really beneficial to the women. But it’s just the way the job was constructed. Couldn’t do it. And so what we ended up doing very happy with who we hired 10, or 20 is amazing. And I think connects with the women on our team very well. But it just this is the problem, you run up against an international sport. And you know, you guys know this as well as I do. You live on the road. And if your family situation makes it so you can’t live on the road, it’s just the job is going to be impossible. And you’re going to be torn up as a human being trying to live up to all of these masters. So we recognize the need to get women on the team on the sports performance team. But we’re not their first time in the history of the organization, the board is majority women, the way that the usopc requires board composition to work at a national governing body 33% of representation on the board has to be what’s called a 10 year athlete. What that means is 1/3 of your board seats has to be an athlete who raised for team USA, in the Olympic Games in a world championships or to pan out games. So that population is really small of athletes that you can recruit for the board. So our board is made of 11 seats. That means four of the board seats need to be tenure athletes. All four of those seats are women. 100% of our athlete representation is women. So you’ve got seven women on the board out of 11 You’ve got all the athlete reps your women and then our chairman Carrie Higgins who just got elected in December as the first woman board chair in the history of USAC. She’s also the first 10 year athlete board chair in the history of USAC. Into the currently in the NGB community there’s 60 national governing bodies in the American Olympic movement. She’s one of only two athletes as board chair in the American Olympic movement. Then on top of that, we’ve got a very important organization called the AAC for the athletes Advisory Council. They are basically the group that directly interfaces with our population of elite athletes, and the organization and the board. They also interface with the usopc. This Athlete Advisory Board or Athlete Advisory Council is made up of six athletes. It’s one for each discipline, your road mountain cross track BMX effort, we’re trying to match it with your 675 of the six A C reps are women and you’re talking Lily Williams is the track rep. Kate Courtney is the mountain bike rep Clara Hassinger is the cyclocross rep. These women didn’t get like thrown on they volunteer to run in an election to have the seats to advocate for athletes. And five out of six are women. So when you talk about the critical places where power resides in the organization, there has been a women’s revolution at USAC, where its majority women. On top of that our chief marketing officer who is responsible for the lion’s share of the budget, the lion’s share of the organization, especially how we make grassroots racing come to life. Her name is Erica Lehman. She’s the first to my knowledge the first woman Chief Marketing Officer we’ve ever had, and she is an absolute freaking Crusher, she has made a massive impact in the year that she has been with USAC. So the impact of although the coaching statistics are not where I wish they were, I could tell you otherwise in the organization, we are probably better than any NGB and the Olympic Movement terms of the impact of women. Then on top of that, just final PS because these things don’t get talked about and I think it’s important. You look with David reports yet at the UCI he has made it a priority to create equality in the gender makeup of the Management Committee. If you see the use of managing committees, the UCI is board of directors, and it’s now made up of 40% women you look 10 years ago, I don’t know if there’s a single woman on the UCI management committee. Now it’s 40% women and he’s been very vocal about the fact that he wants to create gender parity on the metric really the next election is in 2025. And I know he fully intends to do that. Then on top of that, when you look at the UCI, the heavy lifting of the UCI, it’s two people that David will party. It’s the face of the organization, the political face. You know, it’s his agenda that’s being put forth. And he’s done a lot of good stuff in his role. His next in command, the Director General is a woman named Amina Allah nya. She’s a Moroccan French descent. She’s from France, her background is Moroccan. She’s a lawyer from Dijon, and she is the most powerful, the most influential woman in the sport of cycling on planet Earth. The amount of power that she wields at the UCI is monumental. The reliance that present of the poor to get the overall organization has on Amina is monumental. And a lot of the good that is going on in women’s cycling globally is because of the conviction that personal partea and Amina have about women’s cycling. And because of the direct impact that Amina has at the absolute top table of power in the sport. So these things are not known. But it’s kind of things you observe when your advice seat is you see these changes that are happening in real time. And it’s amazing. And I think there’s I know, given your interest in the kind of the future health and prospects of women in the global sport. I think there’s a lot of reasons when you look at where power resides, there’s a lot of reason to be optimistic about the direction of things.
Julie Young 56:27
Didi and I were chatting about this before we hopped on and, you know, in our careers, we had male coaches, I didn’t have a single female coach. But I’ve just noticed, like in the Nikah programs, or the Nike teams, I’ve been involved with that, when there are more female role models, and I can’t say this is a direct cause and effect. But when there are more female role models, more coaches, it seems like those programs have more females and retain more females. But I also understand the reality of the situation in terms of recruiting people for those jobs.
Brendan Quirk 57:00
You look at coaching and what’s what’s interesting is this when we think about a lot of our DS is in coaches or contractors, so we use them kind of in and out based on what the events are that’s going on your road, mountain, BMX, to some extent, those are disciplines where there’s enough of a healthy professional racing ecosystem, that the coaches are really in the trade teams. Right. And so we don’t have like a lot of like route coaches, because if you’re Claire Hollinger, who wrote coaches on EF right, you know, if you’re Kate Courtney, your coaches on Scott, right, you’ve got your own coach, for us. You what that means is that we have a lot of reliance on those organizations within the trade team environment, or just within the ecosystem of those sports. I know we’ve talked about Julia a couple of times, but it’s hard to understate the impact that Julie Viola and then your Nikki Kramer with with Virginia’s Blue Ridge 2020 for the influence they have over American cycling and elite talent development is monumental. And especially Nikki, when you look at Road and Track. Jen Valenti, you’re one of the five greatest cyclists in the history of American cycling, just one of the greatest track riders we’ve ever had. But she’s technically her. She’s on a road team, which is 20, Virginia’s Blue Ridge 2024, which is Nikki’s road team. And so you know, they’re the reach that they have goes beyond the disciplines that they’re focused on. And the influence they have on the pipeline of athletes and the support that they get, and the way that we engage with them is monumentally, I guess, it’s hard to understate, we get a lot of positive influence from people who are not necessarily on our payroll, I guess, is what I’m trying to say.
Dede Barry 58:46
Brandon, I wanted to just come back, we spoke a little bit about the economic barriers, more related to talent idea, and like getting kids into the sport, but I wanted to just talk about that further, more related to the development of athletes, particularly youth development. I mean, cycling is becoming an incredibly expensive sport. And I think that it holds us back from participating in multiple disciplines, which I think can be hugely beneficial as you’re coming up in the sport, wanted to figure out your strengths and weaknesses, but also to develop bike handling skills, like we talked about with cyclocross, and, you know, the the travel costs are so high registration fees, I was hoping maybe you could touch on some of the initiatives that USA Cycling has in place to reduce the financial burden, particularly for development athletes.
Brendan Quirk 59:34
Well, I mentioned what we’re doing a search for speed in terms of the access to equipment and coaching, etc, there. That’s really the totality of what we’re doing for track, really with rowed out and there is not much that we’re doing and one of the things that is a little bit painful to be it’s I get it, but I also don’t get it. And this is just sort of editorial comment. Something going on at Nika if I could roll the Cine and make her you magical thing happened for Nikah, it will be somehow to create a quality for the bikes that the kids race at Nicor races. I think when you’ve got a kid who has nothing who shows up on a huffy next to wealthy parents who thinks that daughter’s the next cake, Courtney. And so they’re showing up on an S works with envy wheels, at an age where sort of that the way your self image is formed, and self consciousness kind of does dark things with you, there, it’s just kind of jacked up to have a huffy next to an S works, I don’t like it. And I think it’s actually an opportunity for the industry to create a single class of hardtail mountain bikes that would be appropriate for Nikon races, you know, everybody would throw up on that idea for 100 different reasons. But there’s just having raised three teenagers and having seen the negative impacts of that kind of self consciousness in so many ways. I know there’s a kernel of something right to creating a single class of mountain bike. So that’s just editorial content, a comment that I wish the world could do something about, but I would say that we have not done a lot to bring down the barriers. I think the best answer I have is this, the last year, we have brought a lot of new life and new energy to our relationship with USA BMX, USA. BMX is actually a private for profit organization that runs most of the BMX racing in the US. When you look at kids who are aged, you know, five to 12. That’s the that is bike racing. That is like 100% What bike racing is, and I’ll be the first person type unit is somebody came to me said, I have a six year old I want them to get racing to start racing bikes, what should I do? I’d say find your local BMX track. That’s where all the magic is happening. It’s a great family environment. It’s the bikes are relatively inexpensive. You’re running a lot of photos and one weekend of it, it’s not the cheapest thing. But USA BMX is doing a lot of stuff to bring down the barriers of cost to kids who can’t afford it. So I think that the best answer I’ve got is that the relationship we have with USAA BMX is in a place now that we have an answer for young for families without means that want to get into bike racing. It’s like what we were not going to help you get a subsidized mountain bike. But what we can do is we can steer you towards usap MX, where the costs of the tree are the lowest. And it’s just it is the gateway sport for young kids to get into bike racing as a whole. And I think there’s an abundance of evidence that the energy that we have in our relationship with USA BMX is about the best answer I’ve got. But you know, we are a small nonprofit that’s trying to grow the sport recognize the cost challenges, we’re just not in a position to really do much about it. Our junior licenses are the least expensive licenses out there. If you’re racing, Nika, your USA Cycling license is free. But that license costs relative to bike cost and travel cost is pretty much de minimis. So I don’t know how much of a difference hopefully makes.
Julie Young 1:03:01
Brendan, I was going to make the same observation about Nika when you show up to a race and one kids on an S works and the other on a target special. And it’s more than just the image. It’s an unfair playing field, you know, and I think the kid that’s on the 21 pound s works versus the 35 pound huffy, you know that the experience is going to be entirely different. You don’t want that kid to be demoralized. You want that kid to come back. So I agree. 100% with that, and I love the idea of BMX. It does seem like such a good entry point. It’s simple. It’s contained. You know, I’m sure it’s more accessible to a lot more people. Yeah,
Brendan Quirk 1:03:40
yeah. No, it is. I want to be clear about like, I don’t I don’t want that to be taken as a dig at Nike. I don’t think Nike has created this problem. I think it’s parents have created this problem. Your I looked at Park City for four years, and I see how well to do parents invest in ski equipment and bike equipment. And it’s just if you’re a cat one, and you know you’re on the edge of qualifying for Worlds team and marginal gains really matter. Yeah, I get it. But you know, for a 15 year old guy who’s just racing bike fits. Just parental decision making is a little bit bewildering. Sometimes I just want to be just the case somebody from Nike is listening. daggone thought so much to create access. Yeah, for kids who otherwise would never have access. It’s apparent problem. Certainly not like a problem.
Julie Young 1:04:27
No, we love Nika.
Dede Barry 1:04:28
Yeah, there’s a couple other things I noticed in the last year with our kids being more involved in road cycling, particularly in the last year that USA Cycling is doing very well. One is subsidization of the entry fees, like for instance, in intelligencia. And then America’s Dairyland. All the entry fees are subsidized and incredibly inexpensive. Like I think they basically cover the insurance and that’s it. So that was really nice to see because I don’t see that happening up here in Canada. On fact, in many cases, the youth are paying as much or more than the adults sometimes, which is it’s a big difference. And then the other thing I was really pleased to see is that USA Cycling brought the junior cup series back. And that’s something that existed when I got into the sport and was just so good for development. But also that you brought it back with no TT equipment. Eddie Merckx style time trial, it makes it you know, a fair playing field for all these young juniors.
Brendan Quirk 1:05:29
So I want to be clear on a couple of things, the decision for subsidized or low cost entry fees, intelligencia, cup, Dairyland and other places. Those are the actual event promoters themselves who are making that decision, I’d love to take credit for it. But it’s the actual event promoters themselves that are electing to do discounted entry fees for juniors, which I think is the right thing to do. And I am like you I applaud it. So I don’t want to steal their thunder, because it’s, you know, they are entrepreneurs that are trying to make a living on these race series are trying to make them economically sustainable. And it’s a risk to subsidize Junior entry fees. And I applaud their courage for doing it. So I want them to get the credit for that, that will stay the junior cup series. It was the event promoters of the races in the series that created the junior cup, it was not us. So again, I’m glad you’ve recognized that junior cup exists. And we are 100% supportive of it. But I think what, what what I want to be clear is it’s amazing that in local markets, multiple event, promoters are coming together in a way to uplift the sport as a whole. We love that we embrace it, we support it again, I just don’t want to steal their thunder. I’m really excited about the junior cup, though. And we need more of that, for sure. You already mentioned what I can’t wait, we haven’t mentioned it. But one other really instrumental program for young women that we’re really proud of is called cynisca cynisca cycling. And this is really, it’s honestly, it’s inspired by T Mobile, where it’s a combination of the national team and a trade team coming together. And it’s based in the south of France. And it’s 12 women, all you 20 threes, who are going to be based full time in Europe, to really get that immersive experience in racing in Europe. And it’s the bridge into the world tour sets up the 12 women is one young Canadian woman there eight Americans, three French women on there. And these eight American women, and some of them are amazing. Zoe top Perez, are you 23 Ruth champion, Catherine Sarkis off was on our thing on our junior group, worlds team this year, these are really promising women that if they have significant didn’t exist, they will be racing a domestic program, they would not be getting immersion into Europe, maybe they get to Europe for like one six week block. But you know, it’s not the kind of environment where they would be able to make those physiological adaptations to really become appropriate to step into the world tour. This was your really great collaboration between us and some private sponsors here in the US. And we are really excited about the direction of this team. They’re already won their first race in Spain this year. But more importantly, getting these huge 23 American women trading days and race days in Europe, which you say what is the ultimate currency to say, what is the direction of your development of young women in terms of their trajectory to being World Tour pros to being an Olympic medalists, it’s simple. It’s race days in Europe. That is what matters. You cannot race the domestic program to become a world class athlete. period, full stop. These young men and women need to get to Europe, they need to recognize Europe is where they need to be if they want to be bike racers. And we need to give them supportive environments for doing that. That’s what SanDisk is all about. It’s an incredibly nurturing supportive environment. But at the same time, it allows them to race at the absolute highest level as you 23 Women in Europe, and it was a big, big breakthrough for us, and we’re excited about
Julie Young 1:09:02
- So is that led by USA Cycling.
Brendan Quirk 1:09:05
It’s led by cynisca. It’s a sponsor based out of Bloomington, Indiana. It’s a guy named Crisco. Toski is the kind of the manager of the team. They will do some races to cynisca some races is the national team. You 23 Jr. And you guys know this, but your listeners probably don’t. There are a lot of like five day stage races in Europe that are critically important if you’re you 23 Or juniors, that is an American basically an America team. You’re not going to get an invite to but they will invite the US National Team and so to be able to either races so this guy or the national team makes it so these women are going to be able to race in all the races they need to race it.
Julie Young 1:09:43
I think Didi and I both recognize having race the majority of our careers in Europe that it takes your your level to a new height and you really have to immerse yourself in it. I think we would go it like stents of like say four weeks, you know, maybe Three times a year. And you’d really feel like you’d get in the rhythm of that racing. It’s so entirely different, but it definitely, I think takes your game to a new level. For sure.
Brendan Quirk 1:10:09
Yeah, no doubt about it. That’s the best gift that we can give to these developing athletes is it’s it’s just taught in Europe. And so it’s really, really important.
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Dede Barry 1:10:54
Brandon, I think we should wrap up. But always at the end of our show, we like to ask for a few takeaways. So Brendan, you’ve been in the sport for most of your life, and in a variety of roles that have had a significant impact on the sport. If you were to give a few pieces of advice to an up and coming female cyclist? What would they be?
Brendan Quirk 1:11:15
Well, that’s a good question. I think the first thing is have really, really clear goals, really understand what you’re trying to achieve, not just as a bike racer, but actually out of life. And the reason why I say that is because women have two unique pressures. I certainly don’t envy. I think one for some reason there is there is a pressure on young women to do it all to have it all, to basically make no concessions. Yes, you can go to Harvard. Yes, you can go to the Olympics. Yes, you can be a world class athlete. Yes, you go to medical school all at the same time. You know, there’s this notion that you can have it all be it all do it all, that I don’t think it’s fair. And I don’t think it’s realistic, and I think is detrimental to the achievement of any of those goals. I think at a certain point to become if you decide I want to be a world class bike racer, that you can’t be a renaissance woman, if you want to win stage and the women’s Tour de France, if you want to be an Olympic medalist, no, you cannot go to college while you’re trading. I don’t think you can. That’s my opinion. And that’s okay. Because there’s plenty of time to go to college. But it’s you have to understand what your priorities are as a human being. And you have to fully lock in and focus on that. And I think that then dovetails with the second concern I have that I have seen come to life, which is there is really the Farias pressure that social media gives young women athletes to seem like they are perfect. Their training is perfect, the racing is perfect, their private lives are perfect, their family is perfect. And the fiction of the picture that you have to paint on social media is something it’s impossible to fulfill. So if you go to your a race, and you crash, or you fish 16th, instead of first, I think the sense of failure, and the sense of demoralization you feel is far worse than it might have been otherwise. And so I think it’s it’s understand what your goals are, how you’re going to get there. That’s a piece of advice number one, a piece of advice number two, is be and I’m only saying this because I’ve seen this come to life occur a lot of women in the world of sport right now. Just be careful with the picture you paint on social media, of who you are, what you’re trying to achieve. Because I wouldn’t want you to become your own worst enemy, as you’re trying to be ambitious. I hope that does help patronizing or like an old man.
Dede Barry 1:13:46
No, I completely agree, Brandon. Interestingly, our next episode is with a sports psychologist Julianne Merman. And we’re gonna discuss body image specifically related to social media pressures. So many women are struggling to find a balance with that as they develop, it’s important to think about what image you want to present. Brandon, we really appreciate you taking the time to do this today. It was a great conversation. And we appreciate you sharing all the initiatives that you’re working on at USA Cycling. And it sounds like you’re doing a lot to advance women’s cycling, which we appreciate. So thank you.
Brendan Quirk 1:14:19
We’re trying good. We’ll check in again next year and see how it’s going.
Dede Barry 1:14:23
That was another episode of Fast Talk Femme. Subscribe to Fast Talk fam wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcasts. Be sure to leave us a rating and a review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk Femme are those of the individual as ours. We love your feedback and any thoughts you have on topics or guests that may be of interest for you get in touch via social. You can find Fast Talk Labs on Twitter and Instagram @fasttalklabs, where you’ll also find all of our episodes. You can also check them out on the web at fasttalklabs.com For Brendan Quirk and Julie Young, I’m Dede Barry. Thank you for listening!