Local bike racers like racing community, competition
Greg Hall got into bike racing 25 years ago as a way to lose weight. He stuck with it because he loves Austin's cycling community.
'It's the team aspect of it,' says Hall, 51, who works as a programmer for the Austin Water Utility. 'I have so many friends through the sport.'
Now a Cat 3 intermediate racer, Hall still rides with the team that he started with, Violet Crown Sports Association. He rides an Austin-made Crumpton cycle that weighs just 16 pounds.
Racing in a peloton can be nerve-wracking, he says, because of the close quarters. 'But it's actually safer than training, because there's rules that govern the competition.'
Hall sometimes places in the Driveway Series races, but says prizes are minor motivation. The best reward, he says, is watching new people get into the sport and find success.
'That's what the series does, you get to progress and get better,' Hall says.
He encourages anyone who likes cycling to head to the Driveway on a Thursday night to watch. 'It's exciting, it's free for spectators - pull up a chair and watch people go by,' he says. 'It just takes a few questions to get a feel for what's going on, the team aspects and why they're ringing a bell in the middle of the race.'
Hall says he'll retire from competitive bike racing after this season. He's not giving up biking altogether, though. He's just shifting to a more recreational focus. 'More touring events, where you don't feel guilty for stopping,' he says.
Looking for a way to while away the time while he studied international business at St. Edward's University, Colton Jarisch tried a triathlon.
When he turned in a bike split 8 minutes faster than anyone else in his age group, folks took notice. Someone suggested he try racing bikes.
Fast forward three years. Jarisch now rides for Toyota Cycling Team Presented By Gulf Coast Cycling Association. 'I am a really competitive person and it's a great way to keep me out of trouble,' he says.
During his first year of racing, Jarisch, 22, moved from a category 5 to a category 2 rider. He's since become a category 1 rider who competes in national level races and regularly places among the top five finishers at the Driveway.
'It's an absolute rush to be going 30-plus miles an hour in a group inches away from other riders. I like to race super aggressively and put everything I have into every race,' he says.
Jarisch crashed at the state championship in Fort Worth last year. According to his bike computer, he was traveling 38 mph when he wiped out. 'Some people say it's like jumping out of a car in your underwear,' he says.
He races an Alchemy Bicycle and is coached by Adam Mills of Source Endurance.
His advice? 'Have fun with it, especially your first year. Don't look at it as a job.'
Kate Sherwin spent three years as a professional bike racer with Team Victory Brewing, competing in fields of up to 100 women to test her mettle.
Among her major accomplishments? Making the top 20 in the Olympic Trials in 2004 and finishing the 2005 Montreal World Cup. She also won a National Race Calendar Event, a stage of the 2004 La Vuelta de Bisbe, and came in fourth at the 2006 International Tour de Toona, a seven-day stage race.
'I like that there's a lot of tactics involved in racing well, so it's very engaging to me as a sport on that level,' says Sherwin, 30. 'It's sort of like a chess game.'
These days, Sherwin sticks mainly to the regional scene, riding with the Austin Flyers Women's Cycling team and racing the Driveway Series. She's part of a small but potent women's bike racing scene that includes several national-caliber riders. She loves the camaraderie, and the fact that it's an individual as well as a team sport.
Part of her mission with the Austin Flyers is to encourage other women to ride.
'I think there's a perception that it's really dangerous and that you have to be really fit to do these races,' she says. 'When people go out on group rides, the guys like to hammer, so a new woman might get dropped and think there's no way she could be a bike racer. In reality, though, when she races bikes she's going to be racing with a lot of new bike racers. The packs are a lot smaller, maybe 10 or 15 women. It's not really that hard.'
Her most important advice to new female racers is to stay calm in the field. 'Give yourself some space from other riders if you're not comfortable riding closely, and have fun. Go out there with the idea that you're going to get a hard workout in, and see what happens.'
When John Trujillo moved to Austin 10 years ago, he didn't have a car. By necessity, he used a bicycle and buses to get around.
Soon, he realized he could get everywhere he needed to go on two wheels. 'I started liking the idea of being able to see more, and I was curious what my limits were for getting places by bike,' he says.
Trujillo, 27, still doesn't own a car. Now biking isn't something he does just to get places - it's also how he supports himself and how he has fun.
Trujillo lives downtown, works as a bike messenger (he's ridden as far as Cedar Park for a delivery job) and races bikes on weekends. When he needs a ride, friends oblige.
'Most people are like "Oh my God, how do you get by without a car?" I'm like, "If you only knew how far it's taken me,"' he says.
Trujillo got into racing after another cyclist recognized his talent and suggested he join a hard-core weekly training ride dubbed the Sweetish Hill Bakery Ride.
'I had no idea what I was doing,' he says. Trujillo had a cheap bike and no proper cycling gear. He wore running shorts and a soccer jersey from Goodwill Industries. At first, he'd get dropped by the lead riders in the group. Eventually, though, he built up his fitness level and could stick with some of the city's fastest cyclists.
Now Trujillo rides for Team Austinbikes. He's an aggressive, category 1 racer who says he hits speeds of 27 or 28 mph on his Orbea.
A fast road racer makes for speedy document delivery. Last year, Trujillo and a business partner started their own bike messenger company, Beat the Clock Bike Messengers. He also practices yoga.