On Saturday and Sunday of this past weekend I got a chance to see a big project come to completion. It is a project we are all very proud of here at Bikesport.
The new Bikesport/Lifetime Fitness/GDX Automotive/Ford Cycling Team was unveiled at Lifetime Fitness and The GDX Automotive Building in Farmington Hills.
On Saturday Bikesport Team members were the celebrity guests at a Lifetime Fitness charity benefit spinning event and on Sunday the Bikesport Cycling Team kicked off their season with a team meeting in the auditorium at GDX Automotive in Farmington Hills.
The Bikesport Team raised money, posed for photos and got their team uniforms issued. The Bikesport Team is made up of twenty-one of the best Category 1,2 and 3 cyclists from all over Michigan and is now part of the Ann Arbor Velo Club. Ann Arbor Velo is a club that has promoted safe cycling, cycling advocacy, development of junior riders and a continued commitment to the growth and promotion of the sport as well as a responsible dedication to safety and social awareness of the sport. Other clubs may talk a good line, but Ann Arbor Velo has walked what they talk for many years. They are the premier cycling club in the Midwest.
Our store, Bikesport, Inc., is the title sponsor of the Bikesport Cycling Team. I can’t tell you how excited that makes me- it is an enormous goal realized. Standing in the lobby of the GDX building and watching the team pose for photos gave me goose bumps. Seeing all those Bikesport logos on the uniforms, and the accomplished cyclists wearing them, was an incredible thrill for me. Unbelievable.
I’ve been in the sport since I was 15 years old. My first job was sweeping the floor and taking out the trash at Schuman’s Schwinn Cyclery on Warren in Detroit. I rode my bike there every day after school for work. Between that and skateboarding for a demo team, that is how I started in this industry. I would have never guessed or dreamed that one day a big racing team would wear the logo of a company I owned. Absolutely amazing.
Like any big project the Bikesport Team required a lot of work from a lot of people. John Rigdon is the Director of the Bikesport Cycling Team, and the man behind the dream. John is a U.S. Marine, former law enforcement officer and an accomplished cyclist himself. He sells freight and logistical services for Dayton Freight. John also possesses the qualities a person needs to pull a project like this together: He is a “people” person and a great communicator, he is a great organizer and a natural leader, and most of all, he has that gift of being able to make a vision a reality. John has been working on this project for almost a year now. This weekend we saw it become a reality.
The first part of the weekend was a four-hour spinning marathon at the Lifetime Fitness facility in Novi, Michigan. Lifetime Fitness is a major sponsor of the Bikesport Cycling Team and we are proud to be associated with them. Saturday was the first time I had the opportunity to visit a Lifetime Fitness gym and use their facility. As the guy who signs the checks for the team I got to put on a uniform and join the spinning class with the real stars, the guys on the Bikesport Cycling Team.
If you’ve never been to a Lifetime Fitness gym then you have to go- you’ll be impressed. My first impression of the place when I entered the door was that it was a fitness playground for adults. The place is huge and the parking lot was packed. The locker rooms are opulent, new, spacious and clean. The workout areas are massive and filled with every imaginable type of fitness equipment. After our spinning workout I sat in the steam room and let all the accumulated fatigue of hours on an indoor trainer seep out of my pours.
If you like training with other people and having a fun, supportive, state-of-the-art facility you need to get into Lifetime Fitness. In addition to their health clubs and sponsoring the Bikesport/Lifetime Fitness/GDX Automotive/Ford Cycling Team, Lifetime Fitness also sponsors the richest triathlon in the sport, the Lifetime Fitness Triathlon in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The race has an enormous $250,000.00 first prize and is contested in a unique handicap, “battle of the sexes” format.
Four instructors traded off during the four hours of spinning instruction at Lifetime Fitness. The Bikesport Team guys rode the entire time- four hours on their indoor trainers. We had music and food and drinks and fresh towels handed to us by Lifetime Fitness attendants. We had music and a big screen TV with the Tour de France and the Ironman on it. The Bikesport/Lifetime Fitness/GDX Automotive/Ford Cycling Team and the completely sold out spinning class raised big bucks for the Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs and we got a great day of training in doing it.
Lifetime Fitness is a fantastic co-sponsor of our cycling team, and I’m very excited to be associated with them.
Sunday the team presentation continued at the enormous GDX Automotive facility in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Steve Geerligs is the Chief Engineer at GDX Automotive and he showed me some of the automotive products GDX makes for the big three and others. GDX Automotive makes, among other things, automotive trim components such as molding, advanced design hoses, window applications and other components.
The 21 man team checked in and got their team issue of uniforms including the custom jerseys, skinsuits, shorts, vests, jackets, helmets and more. Sugoi is the manufacturer of the Bikesport/Lifetime Fitness/GDX Automotive/Ford Cycling Team uniforms for 2004 and also did a limited production run of multisport uniforms for the triathletes we support. Sugoi did a great job with these uniforms. After putting some miles in the new thermal welded, seamless padded shorts everyone on the team said they were the best shorts they’ve ridden in. That says a lot coming from guys with a lot of saddle time.
Following the team uniform issue Director John Rigdon took us into the auditorium at GDX Automotive for a PowerPoint presentation on the organizational structure of the team, the sponsors and information about each of them, the upcoming season’s race schedule and the coaching structure. The Bikesport/Lifetime Fitness/GDX Automotive/Ford Cycling Team has two coaches, one tasked with physical training and the other tasked with tactical development.
From start to finish it is a highly polished, highly professional organization made up of impressive athletes and staff.
When I left the meeting I felt something I haven’t felt for a long, long time: Enthusiasm for bicycle racing. In 1990 I was racing for a minor amateur team in Europe, Nike/Velo-News/Gatorade, which also served as the U.S. National Cycling Team in Belgium at certain events. I had a very serious crash, got up from the crash with a shopping list of serious injuries and thought, “Six more inches to the left and I would have been killed”. I hit a concrete telephone pole at over 35-mph on a descent during a race in Northern France.
That was it.
I’ve raced a couple times since them but it has never been the same. It wasn’t fun. I wasn’t excited. I went back to triathlons and never looked back at bicycle racing. Until Saturday. The Bikesport/Lifetime Fitness/GDX Automotive/Ford Cycling Team gives my business and me the chance to be back in racing in a different capacity, a new capacity. That is thrilling.
Being a sponsor of a team is a huge accomplishment to me. It is also a big responsibility. Not only does it require thousands of dollars it also takes a great deal of time on the part of all the many support personnel on Bikesport/Lifetime Fitness/GDX Automotive/Ford.
But for me, it is a tremendous source of pride and excitement. I wish my friend Michael R. Rabe were here to see this. He would have been impressed.
It’s interesting that once a project like this gets of the ground it begins to gather steam. Last week I met with a local real estate developer who approached us with a “marketing fund” that his organization was interested in using to sponsor an event here in Dearborn. He was asking about a bicycle race. I turned his card over to John Rigdon. The Ann Arbor Velo Club and Bikesport/Lifetime Fitness/GDX Automotive/Ford Cycling Team wants to host an event and they want to do it in Dearborn so this is a match made in heaven.
The organization of a cycling team is something deeply rooted in tradition and formality. It is amazing to see that structure born again, exactly as it is in Europe, right here in front of me.
A group of fit men stand tall in front of the camera. Sponsors circle and admire them. They strike the poses of professional sportsmen and the image of the team is captured. I never thought we would have this. It is a dream come true.
Cycling teams are put together to promote products and generate publicity. Those are the business reasons. But the sporting reasons are much more significant, much more important. It is an organization of sportsmen that agree to work together toward a common goal. That’s another amazing thing to see take shape.
I spoke briefly with almost every rider on the Bikesport/Lifetime Fitness/GDX Automotive/Ford Cycling Team, and each of them impressed me as gentlemen, sportsmen and fine athletes. These guys are ambassadors for the sport and for their sponsors. A better group of guys would be hard to find as a sponsor.
These are the guys we want flying the Bikesport flag on the road during 2004. On the way home from the meeting on Sunday I realized, the Home Team has already exceeded all of my expectations and they haven’t started a single race. I’m really looking forward to the season.