Fast Talk Femmes Podcast: Tom Schuler’s Impact on Women’s Cycling Advancement

Tom shares insights from his experience in developing and managing women’s professional endurance sports teams, talks about the ROI for sponsors, and provides advice for aspiring female cyclists.

FTF EP 118 with Tom Schuler

Tom Schuler is a Former American professional cyclist who rode for Team 7-Eleven in the 1980s, represented the US in the 1976 and 1980 Olympic Games, and is the founder of Team Sports Inc., a sports management company that focused on cycling, mountain biking, triathlon, and rollerblading. Tom has also managed several successful professional cycling teams, including Saturn Cycling Team, Volvo-Cannondale Mountain Bike Team, Timex Women’s Cycling, and Triathlon Teams.  

In this episode, we discuss with Tom one of his most remarkable accomplishments — his contribution to gender equality for women in cycling. He is a pioneer in initiating and managing women’s professional teams with a commitment to gender equity.   

Most recently, Tom has been managing various events including the Tour of America’s Dairyland and the Intelligentsia multi-day criterium series, both of which draw a diverse demographic of cyclists. 

Catch up on previous episodes of Fast Talk Femmes and subscribe for episodes on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsOvercastSoundcloudSpotifyStitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts!

Episode Transcript

Dede Barry  00:05

Hi and welcome to Fast Talk Femme with Dede Barry and Julie Young. Our guest on this episode is Tom Schuler, a former American professional cyclists who rode for Team 7-11 in the 1980s. Tom represented the US in the 1976 and 1980 Olympic Games, and he’s the founder of Team Sports, a sports management company that focused on cycling, mountain biking, triathlon, and rollerblading.

Dede Barry  00:28

Tom has managed several successful professional teams, including team Saturn Road Cycling team, Volvo Canadel mountain bike team, Timex Women’s Cycling, and Triathlon teams. Tom was a pioneer in starting and managing women’s professional teams that had relative gender equity, and more recently, he’s been organizing and managing events such as the tour of America’s Dairyland and Intelligencia, which are multi-day criterium series that attract a diverse demographic of cyclists.

Dede Barry  00:58

Thoughtful and down to earth, Tom has been one of American cycling’s greatest advocates for decades. Julie and I were very fortunate to have raced for Tom’s teams during our careers and benefited greatly from the opportunities he provided. Our discussion with Tom will focus on his work and advancing racing and professional opportunities for women in endurance sport. Tom, welcome to Fast Talk Femme, and thank you for joining us today!

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Dede Barry  02:33

Tom, it was great to connect with you last week at Toad Tom organizes criterium series that’s been very popular in the Midwest for at least the last 30 years. It was a series that got me introduced to cycling from a young age. And it was a real pleasure seeing you and Jim Markowitz and it made me reflect on how I first met you and Jim, which was in 1988. I had crashed at the Junior World Championships in Denmark. And I’ve done pretty well in the pursuit that year. And Jim invited me to join 711 and I met you and Jim at the at the warehouse and 1988, the 711 team warehouse. And it was really neat to see you two together again a few years later. I appreciate you joining us today and looking forward to picking your brain and getting some insight on where you’re at with things.

Tom Schuler  03:28

Absolutely, really happy to be here to reminisce and thinking of forward looking view as to what’s next too.

Dede Barry  03:36

So Tom, Julie and I had the pleasure of riding for the Saturn professional team in the 1990s with you. And at that point, I felt like you’re a real trailblazer and the cycling world at least because it was really the only program at the time that had a highly professional men’s and women’s team that were more or less equitable, at least in terms of support, maybe not necessarily salaries. But I was curious as to what your motivation was to form a women’s team along the men’s Saturn team because I think the men’s team existed for a couple of years prior to the women’s team starting up,

Tom Schuler  04:09

actually the women’s team, and I think Julie was a founding member of the Women’s team. Yep, I sure was. Yeah. When Jeanne gelei and Jesse just congressional I think, and I think that was 94 season. Is that correct? That is correct. Yeah. So I retired off the 711. Team 90 was my last year I kind of worked with the Motorola team with OCE and Jim Miko, it’s a 91 Of course 711 They had a had a very strong, you’re part of a DD a very strong women’s program. But when we, when 711 went through bankruptcy, we had to shrink the team to just a men’s team. So Motorola never had a women’s component right? In 92. I started as separate OCE and I started a separate comp wanting to look at other sports like mountain bike, and lo and behold, rollerblade came away. So we had a, and then I opened, I split up. So we had a rollerblade team and all of a sudden mountain biking was growing. And the thing I liked about mountain bike was, it was very much a level playing field for the, the women and the men as it related to support salaries, publicity, prize money, how the sport was presented, right. And that’s completely different from road cycling, right? road cycling is been around forever for men, right, as a men’s sport. And as much like football is is one of those old school sports as a men’s sport. So cycling is the equivalent of you know, in Europe, where it’s where it’s been a sport forever, is the equivalent of football is here. Or basketball, it’s a little harder for all of a sudden say everything should be the same for women as it is for men. But mountain bikes started at zero for both genders, right? So when mountain bike started, it started in America and in the 80s. And it was starting from zero. So Julie for Tato was presented the same way. Missy Gob was presented the same way as NAT overend. Right. So I kind of saw that as I stepped back from as I stepped back from road cycling, and I had the opportunity to start the Volvo Cannondale team, mountain bike, equal platform for men and women, the same year, the Saturn team started, and I don’t want to take the credit for having the idea of the women’s team. But the minute Saturn said, What about women, I like, you know, just busted through the door. And I got three women up and running. Julie, it was very late in the game. I don’t know when when we, when they asked me and when we made that happen. But we only had budget, we only had time. You know, this was throwing it together where the Saturn men’s team was already up and running for two years. So there was carryover there was, you know, some equipment, there’s some personnel, that kind of stuff. So again, I don’t want to take credit for the idea. But I do want to, I will take credit for knowing it was the way I wanted to go forward with that team. The minute the sponsor, thought about the idea. And all of a sudden, Saturn was selling cars now for maybe five years, all of a sudden, all their data showed that their buyers were skewing female, you know, they they weren’t sure where the brand position would be. But all of a sudden, you know, 45% 48% 52%, somewhere up around 60%, maybe even higher of their customers were female. So now it’s a no brainer. As you guys know, by the late 90s. That team lasted under my management for 10 years. We brought on some Europeans and we were the UCI number one ranked team, the women’s team, and the men’s team was a good domestic team, but we weren’t going to compete. Even though Saturn never sold cars and Europe. They were willing, I took them about as far as they could go with the women’s program because they weren’t ever selling cars in Europe, but we were racing quite a bit in Europe with with either tooten Berg and Anna Wilson. DD I think you weren’t weren’t on the team anymore. At that point. I can’t remember.

Dede Barry  08:30

I raced in Europe quite a bit with a team kind of from I guess 95 till 2000. Okay, I was there. Yeah.

Tom Schuler  08:38

So you were on that team with Anna Wilson. And Petra,

Dede Barry  08:43

I think, you know, maybe came just after i i left the team, but

Tom Schuler  08:47

after was there I’m sure. went over to T Mobile, I think is that right? Yeah,

Dede Barry  08:52

I took a gap couple of years and then re so T Mobile. Yeah.

Tom Schuler  08:58

So a long winded answer. And you know, we did what we could, and DD I think you correctly identified, we tried to present the men’s and women’s team. Equally, we tried to give equal support and the only area where that wasn’t the case. And I’ll give you some good examples with Falvo Cannondale, but with Saturn is in the salary, environment, you know, you pay, you pay the market rate, and we paid well, but we’re still paying the market rate at the time.

Julie Young  09:25

Tom, it’s a really interesting point you bring up about mountain biking and kind of it’s a clean slate and starting at zero, so there was no precedent set in that how like cycling was kind of bogged down in the tradition. So you know, in addition to Saturn, you you also started and ran the Timex women’s team when there were very few pro women’s teams. Can you tell us about your motivation in starting that team?

Tom Schuler  09:51

Yeah, I mean, as I didn’t actually start it, it was a holdover called Canadel. Seiko, you might remember and it was under the name Management of Mark korski in the their management company out of San Francisco, through Canada. Well, because Canada was connected with US postal, I can’t remember all the connections. And quite frankly, they wanted to focus more on their men’s team of, I think it was called postal Montgomery at the time. And I was already working with Cannondale through Volvo Canadel. So it was a natural fit. And I was already working with Timex, but they really were interested in a women’s cycling team because they were launching all their heart rate products, or their heart rate products. And they thought the women’s platform might be a better platform for their products, as opposed to a men’s team. I don’t know. I don’t think they even looked at things like what it would cost to support a men’s team. I think they just thought they wanted to go to market with women wearing their products than more than men. And then we inherited the Seiko. So we hit Timex was new money to that team. And then we had Seiko. And we also had Canadel. So that was the support level. I think that team lasted for about six years. You know, Linda Jackson was a part of that team. She Anna, Roberto was a part of that team, you would remember the all the members more than I would because you competed against them. And I think Diddy was retired by them for the second time.

Julie Young  11:22

No, 90 was it 98? Because I actually rode with them and 98 2000

Tom Schuler  11:29

Okay, who was the director of then on that team? Mike Neil, like me? And you guys, you guys punched above your weight? Mostly because of Mike Neil, I’ll give you I’ll give you the riders some credit. But Mike always brought out the best in almost any athlete he worked with.

Julie Young  11:47

Yeah, we had a really fun team dynamic. And it was Yeah, Mike set that precedence.

Tom Schuler  11:54

You guys took it to the Saturn team that I had a bigger budget more than once. And from the outside looking and people thought there was some sort of collusion between the teams might fail. And if it was Renee Wenzel, I can’t remember who the who was directing the women’s team. So Timex was only a women’s team. Saturn was a man and women’s team. So the only time they went head to head was on the women’s platform. And they, you know, I would get all kinds of comments, there was all kinds of collusion, you know, from John worden, or something. And nothing was further from the truth. Because I always believe that, you know, competition breeds better performance, right. So we wanted, I wanted competition between those teams. And then I think we got it.

Julie Young  12:38

It’s interesting to me to hear you say about, like, Saturn and Timex, those companies kind of driving that or I guess, women being the main market for them, or trying to capture that market. So I think it’s interesting how running, like if I think if you look at the statistics, it’s it’s majority women like that market yet. It seems like it’s always been hard for cycling, to capture the women’s market. I think, obviously different things in play. It seems to me that road cycling has always been intimidating for women. And it seems like it’s always been a tough sell. What are your thoughts on that?

Tom Schuler  13:18

Well, my mind was going there when we’re talking about some of the gravel events because Diddy saw that our numbers are pro women’s numbers. That tour of America’s Dairyland and another event I promoted earlier in the spring and Iowa road event are way down this year across the board. And I really think a lot of women have chosen to a lot of the good women that would be racing in the pro one two have chosen to try some gravel mix and gravel and and we had the professional us championship in Knoxville on our second weekend. And DD. That’s why our numbers were down. When the juniors racing in the first weekend, we have pretty healthy numbers. But if you take there were 70 Pro one two women down in Knoxville. There aren’t enough women at that level to even support a second race, a second quality race on the road right now. Or, you know, there might have been a race in California, I don’t know. But I think a lot of women are in that case are saving up for the gravel race, saving up for the gravel race. You know, everyone has limited time and limited financial resources. And coming to Toad is a big commitment. So there were a few sort of beginning you know, future star women that I tried to get to know a little bit at Toad understand why they were here and not going to pursue gravel you know, that kind of thing. But that’s that’s my own theory. That’s entirely me i on all my race promoter. Peers are trying to colleagues are trying to figure out the same thing, because across the board, the numbers have been way down this year. I mean, five years ago, and I think DD that’s one of your questions. We’re going to talk about it Five years ago, 10 years ago at Toad, we had 80 women, every day, five years ago, we probably had 60 women, you know, it’s been a slow decline. And I think, you know, gravels could be intimidating. The group riding the crashes, the mechanical aspect is the same, whether you’re on gravel or whether you’re on the road, you know, in fact, it’s less than down the road, because you have pets and mechanics around, whereas you’re on your own. But you know, there’s sort of that it’s more inclusive, I think, gravel, and sort of supportive, you know, if you have a flat tire, you’re gonna get help. You know what I mean? So maybe that takes away that intimidation factor.

Julie Young  15:39

Yeah, I mean, that would be my assumption, as well, I think now, we just have so many different options. And I feel like, gravel is so much more inviting, like, we were chatting about these different events and you know, different distances. And it really does kind of create this experience, you know, you go to these cool places, and you camp and I think that’s appealing to women. And just, you know, I think sometimes the road scene can seem really aggro. And that’s kind of a turnoff. I also think a DD and I have chatted about this, like cyclocross, that’s such a cool entry point for women just because it’s so playful and not huge distances, it’s contained, you’re not going to be left behind. There’s not necessarily, you know, a sense, like Comparison, where you’re way off the back, you kind of can’t tell where people are in those kinds of events. And seems to me, those are things that women gravitate toward. And of course, like the mountain biking, I think, is also really popular with women, you know, you see this just women’s groups that was skills clinics or whatever, it just doesn’t necessarily have to be competitive.

Tom Schuler  16:42

Yeah, I would, I would definitely agree with you on all those points, for sure.

Dede Barry  16:47

In contrast, as you know, Tom, I was at Toad with junior boys. And for them, those credits are a real highlight. I mean, it’s like a lottery win every time they went to preme. Right. They’re, like, so stoked, and I’ve always been a real advocate of criterium, racing for development, as well as all the other disciplines in cycling. But we came away from last week, these kids, you know, went into the Pro on to field feeling pretty intimidated and, you know, losing the wheels through some of the turns. And by the end of the series, they were carving the turns and breakaways when in premiums, and they had some of the older guys mentoring them, which was really nice to see Justin Williams and Adam Myerson really reached out and tried to help them throughout the week, which was super cool. But I think you know, they’re a really important part of USA cycling’s landscape in terms of development. And you know, definitely for the crowd experience. I really liked the vibe at those crits. It’s really, really great to see the atmosphere there.

Tom Schuler  17:50

You’re almost almost every rider as they move up the ranks. And even if they’re a cat three, they seem to respond to crowds, when that’s not everyone, but most most riders like crowds, right. And then we don’t have enough road races. If you’re want to be a road racer. We don’t have enough road races to all make on a diet of road races. So you’re gonna end up doing gravel, you’re gonna end up doing criteriums and, to your point DD, I’ve always believed there’s numerous examples. Men and women that go to Europe get into the pro peloton, and they don’t have the skills and the cross winds. They don’t have the skills in the tricky finishes. And that’s what criterium racing is, you know, that’s criterium racing is a necessary component to have all the skills you need, in very tricky situations on the road. And you know, whether you’re a BMX racer, or a mountain biker that switches to the road, I fully believe in, especially when you’re young to do all those things. Do do them all is the best thing.

Dede Barry  18:56

Yeah, definitely agree with that.

Julie Young  18:58

I think that is a really good point. You bring up though how it can really they can complement each other. You know, if we, if we have these, this lack of road racing, the gravel racing is great for that kind of developing that diesel and to your point like the crits are that’s that snappiness, the skill, the handling. So it’s really that’s a really great point that those two really do complement in terms of developing fitness and skills.

Dede Barry  19:21

I felt like one of the other things that I really liked about the current racing and gravel racing as well as just that they attract a relatively diverse demographic of people and compare it to other cycling disciplines, especially the road, which I think is super positive and it’s good for the future of the sport. It brings new groups and but why why do you think it is that it attracts a wider demographic

Tom Schuler  19:42

will you mean people of color,

Dede Barry  19:46

just generally like age color women men like I do think it attracts. Like, if you look at at least road racing, you know, across the board has never been as diverse as criterium race sand and gravel racing from my standpoint.

Tom Schuler  20:02

I don’t I haven’t looked at it as gravel specifically or mountain bike I don’t I don’t think of mountain bike as being incredibly diverse. But this is a new, relatively new phenomenon American Racing because we have some really solid heroes starting, you know, from resign Bahati, Aisha McGowan, Justin Williams. So I think that helps a lot. And it’s a city sport, it’s a city activity, you know, it’s an urban center activity. And if you go to places like Washington DC, way higher percentage of people of color on road bikes, you know, New York City, and that’s where there’s you know, clubs. And so I totally agree with you, didi. There’s the diversity that we’re seeing people of color, male, female, MCS is all, it’s all a really positive thing that’s new. It’s very new. I wanted to go back to a point about development and specifically the EFF on toe kids, and not using them. But given a situation that happened with us. So there was a kid that won the best amateur Jersey in the men’s category. Grace Arnett son won the best amateur and the women’s for the whole 11 days. She was in the crane. She’s with automatic team, she’s a swimmer that came over to cycling, she started during the pandemic, and she’s gonna, she’s gonna give it like two years to see how far she can go. And she’s, I think she’s gonna go after the road and not dirt. But on the men’s side. It was this cat, three, and he upgraded right before toad. In fact, I think he raced and did well or won a race in the two threes as a three and then he upgraded to tos. And the first two days he found himself, like in the In the Green amateur jersey, you know, the best amateur Jersey in the two threes. And usually that’s someone who’s in like, 20th place overall, typically, because our fields are pretty good, as you know, mostly current racers, but some road racers. This kid’s name is Riley Weitzman, and he happens to be from Wauwatosa. And on day three, his dad came up to me and he said, Hey, Tom, I know his dad a little bit. He’s a Nika racer, he and his sister do Nike and he came up, they said, Hey, Riley’s got a bit of a predicament. He’s having such a great time at toad. But we’re signed up for a USA Cycling mountain bike camp in Crested Butte or somewhere somewhere in Colorado, that starts in two days, and we’re going to leave, like tomorrow to go to that. And he really wants to stay at toad. And as a parent, you know, to good options, you’ve probably paid for the family trip to Colorado, you know, is already booked and all that. And I thought about it for a while and they said well, how’s he feeling about it? What I didn’t talk to Riley, unfortunately. But I think his dad was pretty straightforward and honest, he didn’t try to steer me towards what he wanted the kid to do. And he basically said, Well, he’s really enjoying this. And he’s, he wants to stay for another day or two. And I said, Well, you know, when a kid wants to do something themselves versus their parent telling him they should do something. And that’s, you know, the kids motivation and direction, that’s the most powerful thing. And it’s not a bad option to stay and do another six days of criterium racing, because those are all skills that are going to apply to his mountain bike career, should he choose to go in that direction. So again, great opportunity is in the leader’s jersey, he hadn’t planned to race here beyond the first four days, and it’s like with your your son, and the auto kids, you know, they want to be pursuers. You know, that’s where they’re gonna get the most out of it, if they want to do criteriums, and they love cream hunting and whatever they’re doing, they’re going to learn the most. A coach then, you know, listens to the aspirations and kind of holds up a mirror and basically says, Oh, you want to ride criteriums you know, or you want to stay at toad and not go to the mountain bike event, when someone has their own direction, and they don’t need a lot of prodding. And Julie, I’m sure you found that yourself as a coach, you know,

Julie Young  24:18

when I think Didi and I have had this conversation with Ashlynn, and just how just exposing kids to just all these different options because you just never know what’s gonna float their boat and I think that’s by far the most important ingredient is that they love what they’re doing. But again, like you all have said this but everything they’re doing, they’re developing different skill set, and it’s all going to you know, play into their favor whatever direction they go. So, I think it’s, it’s excellent and you just need to think about like, how they do interplay and the you know, the our best our best road cyclists now like they’re really most of them did come from mountain biking. And so I think it’s just keep keep that door but for the kids and expose them to all those different opportunities. The one thing I also want to mention I’m not sure we said this when we say Toad for the listeners, we’re speaking of Tom’s tour of America Dairyland. Race 11 Day series

Tom Schuler  25:14

tour of America’s Dairyland every good product needs a good acronym right? So yeah, definitely realized code. You know, it’s not what you call your event. It’s what other people call your event, and they refer to it as code.

Brittney Coffey  25:29

Hi, listeners, we’re so excited that you’re here to check out fast talk, then a new podcast series. It’s all about the female endurance athlete. Here at fast talk labs. We pride ourselves on being the pioneers of information and education in the endurance sports world for both athletes and coaches. If you like what you hear today, check out more at fast talk

Dede Barry  25:53

We spoke a little bit earlier about kind of the evolution of women’s cycling and how like the 1984 Olympics obviously spurred this period of growth that kind of happened through the 90s. And then I feel like the beginning of the 2000s there was like a bit of a dip women’s cycling and then there’s been a real resurgence at the World Tour pro level, I think probably less so on the road and criterium racing level in the States. But definitely on the World Tour level, there’s been a huge resurgence in the last, you know, two years even. But I kind of want to get your take on like from your experience. What do you feel like draws more women to cycling? And like, what makes it exciting and animated for like women who are spectators of the sport like what do you feel like it is that draws them in and makes them want to try it?

Tom Schuler  26:46

I guess I didn’t always know the path of like Julie young when she came to the Saturn team. I knew DD demetz path a little bit better because she was from Milwaukee. But as soon as you know, Julie unit up on the team, I tried to understand your background. I know you were a collegiate athlete. I believe you were a golfer. Yes, that’s right. But I tried to understand like where especially are women athletes came from and they they all come from another sport. Female cyclists at that time all participated in other sports. And they got to the end of their collegiate days or whatever could have been at the end of high school. Mostly it was at the end of college. So they’re coming into road cycling late and they were runners, we had gymnast, you know every other sport, but I try to understand their background. And that helped me understand is that a team sport is an individual sport. We have soccer players. It wasn’t like that with the men because they started concentrating on cycling at a much younger age, the most successful ones when they’re juniors right. And later on, we got more male cyclists that came through the collegiate ranks collegiate road cycling. And now like Julie said, we get a lot of top of our top talent, men and women that come through Nika, and then through collegiate ranks. And the very best ones have already sometimes can’t go to college because they’ve already left for the show, road or mountain. I’m too far away from that, to know where the path typically is. Because I know where the path. I have a sense of where that path was in the 80s and the 90s. But I do agree with you DD, I think the USA as far as a dip, and I think that dip is more. We felt the dip in America, because 84 Olympics, Connie carpenter won the first I think ever cycling gold medal in any discipline in cycling, there were two Olympic medals awarded road and pursuit, I think. And it just grew from there DD until 2002, you want a silver medal, I believe, right? 2000 4004. So again, that’s that incredible growth in American cycling. The rest of the world wasn’t there yet. The World Tour The Dutch women weren’t, we’re coming on now. But they weren’t so dominant than we were more comparable. Maybe the corporate backing wasn’t as strong than it was maybe directed more off road. And now that the rest of the world, Australia, Germany, certainly Holland, Italy, France, when you look at the strength of all these countries and women’s cycling, except for the Dutch women, it’s a pretty balanced scene. When I saw that question, I said, What have I thought about women’s cycling? I like watching women’s cycling on television, and there’s a lot of it on television. And I liken it to women’s tennis is just as exciting as men’s tennis right? They’ve sometimes Bali longer. I can’t speak to golf because I don’t watch golf. But women’s tennis is just as exciting as men’s tennis because they sometimes volley longer. You can’t tell if the serves going, you know 10 miles an hour less a women’s serve. It still exists Riding action, they’re diving for the ball. And it’s the same way with cycling. And the women’s cycling some of the races, I watched the Italian women’s road championship were trek Segafredo, just the other day, where trek Segafredo were had a battle with a couple other riders. And it was like one of the most exciting races I ever saw. So as a fan, and maybe as a sponsor, you realize this is just as exciting as the men. Now, you know, the women don’t have as big of a platform, they have the Tour de France, but it’s not the Tour de France. So it’s is gaining and I think that’s, that’s what we’re seeing that’s really happened women’s cycling right now is the television product is so much better now than DVD, when you raced a, there was no women’s television product. And the men’s product was okay, you know, but now the drones and the motos that are in there, and all the owners of these races realize their future is television, because people in Japan can watch any race, any women’s race. And that’s really helping women’s cycling, I know that many brands have chosen women’s cycling, because it’s a much better return on their investment, you know, for $5 million, they can have an amazing team right now. And again, the market will keep driving the salaries up, you know, as that continues to grow. So I, you know, I see a really bright future, right now for women’s road cycling globally, because of television and what what that’s doing, and that’s all different, you know, there’s always been men’s television, good quantity and quality. But the parody I guess is is coming up for the women’s races too. And we’re not seeing as all the the exact same coverage but we’re, you know, the the women’s race are making up closing that gap a lot quicker.

Julie Young  31:44

Tom, we had the opportunity to interview Kate Ferno, who is with Swift, and she’s the one that’s basically spearheaded that effort for swift to sponsor the Tour de France Femme and Perry Ruby femme. And it was, it’s really interesting, you know, like she said, like, it’s not charity that they’re, they’re sponsoring this, they’re really seeing a return on investment. And, you know, I think it’s neat that they’re really taking the lead and showing other companies this is viable, you’re getting a huge return on investment. And again, it’s not a charitable action. It’s what

Tom Schuler  32:19

Saturn discovered. It’s what Timex discovered back in the 90s, and the return on their investment and where they wanted to be. So it’s a legitimate platform. But back to a DVD set of that platform doesn’t exist in America. It doesn’t exist really for the man either. And America, it’s really a global platform. And we want the American women to play play stronger in that league, you know, because I think during your day, your guys, Dan Saturn, Saturn was at the top of the heap globally, right? We were competing, we’re UCI number one team, etc, etc.

Dede Barry  32:54

Yeah, when in the World Cups, and yeah, but I mean, also, there was a healthier road racing scene in North America in the 90s. I mean, I there were seasons on Saturn, where I raced, like 95 races, you know, they were maybe like half in Europe, half in the US and a good mix of criteriums and road racing, whereas, you know, I look at the landscape now. And in terms of the road, that seems like the majority of the opportunities are actually criteriums not not road races anymore.

Tom Schuler  33:25

Yeah, there are some road races. There’s about six Redlands being one of them. Show Martin, you can say maybe Valley, the sun, maybe to some bicycle class that are legitimate roadways, but their three and four day road races, you know, it’s, you might get more benefit to coming to the tour of America’s Dairyland from a development standpoint than doing a three day stage race. You know what I mean? So they’re the opportunities here, right are not there there aren’t the, you know, the Alright, a challenge

Julie Young  33:52

course date. Like I loved core state. That was one of my favorites.

Dede Barry  33:57

San Francisco GP, that was another good one. But I think like, I mean, I’ve heard that a number of the road races got shut down, because the cost of closing the roads got to be too high with the police, hourly wages and whatnot. And do you think that’s the main reason? Or are there other reasons that some of these classic races have gone away?

Tom Schuler  34:17

I think that if the return on investment was there for the sponsors, the banks, whoever, you know, bank sponsored the core states forever, they would still be able to justify the expense. But yeah, the even back to San Francisco Grand Prix that was in the Saturn days, that was you know, 2000 that was already $350,000 of city costs to run that race so that the numbers were were big back then too. But certainly now it’s much more difficult. You know, if you misspell the sees the benefit of having a celebration of cycling, they will find a way to, you know, discount the police services and that kind of thing. But yeah, clearly it’s a lot less expensive to put on a criterium than it is to close down roads and Philadelphia and that That’s a big factor for sure. So a huge huge factor why Rotarix? You know, but in Europe, they have similar costs, but someone will leave. It’s worth. It’s worth it, right? They tradition, the spectatorship, all the elements that go into this sponsorship.

Julie Young  35:14

So Tom, we’ve we’ve chatted a bit about just kind of road cycling, struggling. I mean, what do you think is the answer to reinvigorate road cycling in the US?

Tom Schuler  35:24

So to me, you know, I always try to look at the glass half full aspect of a question like that, and more people are on bikes, and ever, more people want to compete, more people want to do events, the road is never going to go away, road racing is never going to go away, it will come back, you know, mountain bike was the popular discipline back in the 80s, and 90s, even over road cyclists, where, you know, there’s a American mountain biker, you could make more than on the road as an American Road Rider back then all the car companies, all the bike brands are putting their money behind mountain bike. And quite frankly, a lot of that activity is going into gravel. No, I, you know, I believe that gravels racing will cool off, it’s gonna, it’s another 10 years, I believe, we’ll start to see a decline, just like mountain bike and rollerblade and other things. Because when the people that are doing now kind of aged out of that, it’s not cool for the next generation to do what that older generation did all that was for those old people, there’ll be something else. But road cycling is always going to be here. And there’s if you put two people on, on a road, and on bikes, they’re going to race and they’re going to want to go to the Tour de France. So I don’t really look at it as a doom and gloom, I look at it. If there’s enough people wanting to do road racing, there’ll be more promoters wanting to put on road races, and there just aren’t enough people and the bike brands give you all the statistics of where the bikes are, what bikes they’re selling. And I think they’re still selling the most amount of gravel bikes now are the biggest growth area are ebike sorry, e bikes. Now, e bikes are where the manufacturers attention is right now, because that’s where the money is where the sales are. But again, you know, road cycling is not going anywhere, because there’s something called RAGBRAI with 50,000 people on road bikes, you know, and there’s lots of events like that some, I definitely look at it like last fall and there’s a professional category that’s very, very healthy right now on the men’s and the women’s, you know, the men’s professional road cycling is very healthy. And women’s is to, I think, to your point Divi, I think there’s been a resurgence because of the media to access. So I’m, I’m optimistic, but we might we’re gonna be in a maybe a lull here for another 10 years relative to other things that people want to do to compete or to participate.

Julie Young  37:49

What do you think about these initiatives? It seems like a lot of people that are trying to reinvigorate road cycling in the US are really focused on that criterium type format. What do you think about the national criterium League?

Tom Schuler  38:02

Yeah, I mean, any new thinking and new money into the sport I encourage, I think all boats eventually rise, but it’s, you know, again, there has to be a return on investment are races, Tulsa tough. Tulsa tufts, just like Toad, you know, gateways just like Toad, the better events are just like Toad, they are community celebrations of cycling. And they need to have a top level race, but it’s very community driven. And what’s the payoff for some of these other leagues isn’t going to be media, because they might be better off to just make their media around the tour of America’s dairy lands. And the Tulsa toughs make that their platform because we already have crowds, we have activity versus building and the cost to build new events. So right now, they’re, they’re building new events, the NCL is building new events, they had one in Miami. They’ve got one scheduled in August for den in Denver, one in Atlanta, I believe in one in Washington, DC. And they’re incredibly expensive. Their cost of doing business is very much more expensive then all of us who are doing it. So if they can make it work for their investors and get that return on investment. I think it’ll go somewhere. But you know, we don’t know it’s too early to tell. So that’s the NCL that’s up and running. There’s only two teams. There are four races and other teams are coming to race. Those two teams are also they were at toad. The Denver disruptors are not at Toad, but that Miami knights were at toad and they won. They went first and second in our American criterium cup. The American criterium cup is a series of 10 of the best races Athens, Georgia, Aniston, Tulsa Toad Salt Lake City, Boise, Twilight Denver intelligencia cop one Momentum, Indianapolis and gateway. And those are really 10 events just like toad. And Didi was just that toad. She knows she’s she has, you know, she’s been there the last couple of years and they’re solid community events. So, Julie, I don’t know. It’s, I think too early to tell. They are storytelling, like the Netflix show that just came out on the Tour de France, which I haven’t watched yet. People are talking about a lot of storytelling and series and that kind of thing, making it a storyline throughout the year. I just don’t know if there’s enough following in America to follow anything else. But Tour de France right now, you know, from a media standpoint?

Julie Young  40:41

Well, I’ll tell you, just to be honest, I mean, I’m a huge obviously cycling fan. I love watching the coverage. I have GCN app, you know, I have it pretty much going like there’s racing all the time. And I watched the first national criterium league race and it was at Miami Did you say? And I’ll tell ya, I just thought wow, way too many rules. And I personally just did not find it appealing. And that’s that’s kind of saying something because I’m like a huge lover of the sport, a huge spectator of the sport. And I I ended up just not watching the entire race. So I don’t know, I just kind of wonder how it’ll go.

Tom Schuler  41:17

Well, I mean, I believe criterium racing is tough, because, you know, when in road race, you know, the helicopters come in, and there’s a castle in the background, and they’re going down this to this descent, and then they’re going up climbs, and there’s, you know, there’s more variety, and criteriums are is a repetitive activity. You know, and I think if you could make gravel racing, exciting and affordable, we’d see gravel television, but they’ve tried, you know, they tried to do the lifetime series last year and they quickly threw in the towel, so it’s likely he’s at least criterium racing, you’re mostly fixed cameras, couple of drones, but it’s hard to make it exciting. I don’t care. I don’t the best job in the world. A Tulsa did a pretty good job, but it’s very hard to make criterium racing exciting. It’s better live, I think.

Julie Young  42:06

Yeah, but I do think it is exciting, Tom, but I think the national criterium League has like a whole set of different roles where they trade in like, there’s a women’s and men’s team. And like midway, they trade them in and I don’t know, it was very different. There’s a lot of different roles involved in that particular league as opposed to your races. And I mean, personally, like, I do think the criterium races are just they’re so spectator friendly, and the energy level is so amazing. And to your point, like, I don’t know, if you watch the gravel World Championships, but it was, I found it quite boring, like, you know, and here’s the World Championships. And so you’re right, I don’t think that Racing’s necessarily that exciting. I mean, one thing I was thinking about is, as we’ve been chatting, you know, I worked with Harvey nets as a coach, and he and Tom Weitzel for a while we’re trying to get track leagues going, and I think that’s so cool. Like, in a good way. Like, you know, you said, Tom and I know DD said this, like, you know, those tracks that are in those cities, those inner cities and, you know, to have like, different every city has a team, and it’s just I don’t know, it’s so exciting. And it’s, it’s contained, and I think it’s just great for the spectators.

Tom Schuler  43:19

Yeah, I mean, we all have different opinions. I grew up racing that track as much of the road I grew up in Detroit, we had a velodrome and we did both disciplines equally. And, you know, as a cyclist we go where the money is right? There were no opportunities on for me, I’m like Ashlyn. You know, if I could win a Priem that’s where I’m gonna go. There was no opportunity to race the track for me. And I was probably better suited as to be a track racer to you know, just pursue points race or Madison’s or whatever. But this is my own personal feeling. I think that the beautiful thing about cycling is, we race anywhere we raised on gravel. We raced on trails we raised on city streets. A velodrome is putting us in a stadium. You know, I don’t want to be in a stadium I want to be, you know, in the wilderness, I want to be on my mountain bike, I want to be bike packing, I want to be doing a road race going down mountains, or I want to be in a city center and a tight course. Like we had in Wauwatosa DD that was one of the most the coolest courses we have. I’m sure the boys said that. It’s got a hill, but not too hard. It’s got tight corners down hills. I mean, there’s no way that’s not exhilarating to ride that race as a competitor, that course right? It’s not a four corner big wide streets. That’s like mountain bike and that’s and that’s where I as a cyclist that’s where I want to be. So I choose. I like Harvey’s a track cyclists didI did pursuit arrow the track that’s my own view. But even in Europe, you know velodrome racing has not really hasn’t gone anywhere since the 60s Right. I mean, there are winter tracks. Next leagues but they really don’t they don’t get much attention or people can’t make a lot of money compared to the road I guess it and that’s, I don’t know to me that’s the beauty of cycling everything we’ve talked about men, women, different surfaces, different events short fat, there’s so many ways to do cycling you know, I’ve got my gravel bikes packed in the car or going up to cable tomorrow Betsy and I are going up to cable to out to ride bikes with Jeff Bradley and his wife and some, some other people on the Fourth of July, you know, it’s like cycling is you can it’s so easy to do, no matter what age you are and where you are bike packing mountain bike, but Ashlyn you know, again, it goes back to Grace Arlen son who won the green green jersey at Toad wore it for all 11 days. Like, that’s where her her drive is right now on the road, she’s going to, I’m sure dedicate herself. She can’t she doesn’t have time to switch, she’s probably 2024 to pursue mountain bike because she’s focused 100% on learning the road as quick as she can, and probably making that going for the national team, I would think. But she’s just started just like Ashlynn wants to do whatever he wants to do. And this is Riley Wright’s been, you know, the the guy that was supposed to go to the mountain bike camp, you know, there’s so many ways you can pursue cycling. Yeah.

Dede Barry  46:25

Hey, Tom, I’d love to get your opinion on this. Because you have such a rich history in the sport of cycling. What are your thoughts more generally about the evolution of pro cycling right now and teams in the sport, like we’re seeing a lot of younger guys in the sport, getting contracts really young, but also producing really exciting races? I’d be curious just to get your take on kind of how things are evolving both for males and females in terms of the professionalization and the teams, the team structures? Yeah, I

Tom Schuler  46:56

mean, I have to look at the men’s side of the sport and management of those teams, because I do look, think about that, relative to my own experience, and how you spend your money where you put your direction. And on the men’s side, young talent is the new thing, right? And locking up young talent, like Ashlyn, like the teams with the most money, tried to put them in their farm system, so to speak, to use a baseball acronym. And, yes, it’s hard to compete. I don’t know how we how we how you get that out of the professional sport, unless you have a severe salary cap, right? You know, how do you how do you try to equalize the teams like baseball, you know, all the teams are equal on, there’s some sort of formula that that, you know, that tries to equalize the payrolls of those teams, I can’t see that in cycling for a long time. On the women’s side, I actually think the best riders will get plucked by the best teams. And that always goes on on the men’s side and the women’s team, but in the women’s side, it’s more of a linear, if you do well, on a small team, you’re gonna get picked up by a Dutch team or trek Segafredo, or one of the better women’s teams, so you can see more of a straight line, but now, you know, the depth. And every year the women’s depth is growing, the teams are growing, like we talked about earlier, return on investment, I think is unless you’ve got, you know, $40 million plus to spend on a road team, your women’s and depending on your product you’re trying to promote, it might be your best investment. So we’re seeing a lot of teams, I mean, trek Segafredo, they love their women’s team, they, they it’s probably been the better, the better growth area for them, but they don’t want to ignore the men’s side. And you have to look at teams that have both men and women to really understand and Saturn was an example of that. Probably our best value dollar for dollar was on the women’s team. And we weren’t even paying the meant we weren’t in the global salary League, you know, the men salaries or the women’s? Well, the women’s we were because we were paying as as well as anyone back then, you know, because there weren’t the opportunities that there are now for female cyclists on the road.

Dede Barry  49:11

Yeah, it sort of looks like there are kind of two three teams on both the men’s and the women’s side of the sport dominating right now. And it seems like that’s budget and organization, team structure, infrastructure related.

Julie Young  49:27

I was just thinking about as you’re you’re saying that Tommy, I thinking back on Saturn. You provided us with that infrastructure, because you had you know, you had Swan years for us. You had nutritionist for us. And I think that’s something that was I mean, to me, kind of before its time. Yeah. I

Tom Schuler  49:42

mean, we did what we could to provide the most comprehensive platform of, you know, wrap around care whether it’s like mentioned, massage, or nutrition or media training, and hopefully take the burden off of worrying about paying and tickets and things like that. So you guys could concentrate on your training, not have to work, hopefully, and concentrate on your racing. And that’s the same whether you’re a male or a female, we try to equalize all that. Another example is our bike components company at the time with Saturn said, Okay, we’ll send you X number of theories group was for the men and X number of old Tiger for the women, I said, now they get the same thing figured out, you know, because that’s a small thing. But it means a lot. Right and providing that equal coverage. So I hope we did that across all the things that we provided. And Didi pointed out except on the salary side, because again, you know, to do your your job for return on investment for the sponsor, you pay, you pay what the market will bear, you know, for salaries.

Julie Young  50:52

Tom having brands, so many successful teams, I’m sure you had lots of riders coming to you wanting to be on your teams. And so kind of for those young riders, those young female riders that are looking to get their foot in the door, either on a domestic or international pro team, do you have any suggestions? Because I think sometimes that can be really challenging.

Tom Schuler  51:11

Yeah, um, that might be the three things that you could recommend from the management side, if my team directors are comfortable with those conversations, I want them to down to be the ones to select and do those negotiations if they are comfortable doing it. Because they’re the direct line between someone’s livelihood, you know, and they have more than impact on how the team behaves, right. So I would do at some managers weren’t as comfortable with doing those things. But as it relates to, you know, the cyclist, we talked about it, you know, what, what my recommendations were, we talked about, you know, follow your passion, you know, you’re way more attractive as a as talent and a writer, as an A representative of any team, when you’re, you’re engaged and passionate, just don’t go where you think that’s where you should go. And even if it means, you know, you can make more money on the road, but you want to do mountain bike, or you can make more money in mountain biking, you want to do the road, follow your passion. And then look for solid mentors, like I know Didi had and Julie, I can’t say who your mentors were. But I know Didi had some pretty solid mentors along the way. And look for those mentors at any stage of your career. And you may not find those mentors within that team, you’re racing for it, maybe outside that team. But those people are very valuable for perspective. And of course, have the wisdom of experience those mentors. And then the other is just make sure you have a good support network, wherever you may be, whether it’s at home, friends, teammates, whatever that is, because there’s always going to be setbacks and always going to be some hard times injuries and that kind of thing. So make sure you’re going to be able to get through those things. And that support network could come from within your team. And often it comes from outside of the team that are fellow cyclists, or not cyclists. So those are sort of my three things. That’s really helpful.

Dede Barry  53:11

They’re  are really good tidbits of advice. That was another episode of Fast Talk Femme. Subscribe to Fast Talk Femme. Wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcasts. Be sure to leave us a rating and review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk Femme are those of the individual. As always, we’d 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 at Fast Talk Labs, where you’ll also find all of our episodes. You can check them out on the web at For Tom Schuler and Julie Young. I’m Dede Barry. Thank you for listening!