Women’s Professional Cycling continues to struggle to get the press coverage (especially TV) that it needs to maintain sponsor interest. With that struggle come the financial difficulties of delivering all that a team needs to keep its riders and their kit up and running at race after race. So when a press release landed to announce that the Stan’s-Kenda Women’s Elite Team was heading into its seventh year, and that all of the 2016 sponsors had re-signed for 2017, we were keen to hear more. We admit that – perhaps because they’re a US based team – we’d not previously heard of them, but clearly the sponsors are seeing some benefit of the association. So what does supporting this team mean for these sponsors? Supported by such stability, what is the team hoping to deliver? And why should us cycling fans care about this kind of thing?
“Our mission has always been to advance women’s cycling while also racing at the highest level,” said Stan’s/Kenda Women’s Elite Team Co-Manager Jennifer Smith. “We are rider owned and operated and represent a powerful combination of professionalism and passion for cycling.”
Fellow Co-Manager Sarah Kaufmann said, “We are proud of the longevity of our team and the loyalty we have fostered among our partners and sponsors. Our team aims to brightens the future of the sport we love.”
With five returning riders, the team continues to focus on cross country and endurance mountain bike racing, along with coaching, mentoring and bringing new riders into the sport. That sounds like all the right noises to us – a love of the sport, as well as a focus on results.
What do the sponsors say?
“As part of our ongoing commitment to women’s cycling, we’re proud to support the dedication and hard work of the Stan’s/Kenda Women’s Elite Team,” said Kenny Wehn, Sponsorship Coordinator at Stan’s NoTubes. “We appreciate the role that they play in the cycling community.”
“At BikeFlights.com, we’re proud to support teams like the Stan’s/Kenda Women’s Elite Team. We love that they understand how important it is to encourage more women and girls to ride bikes. The world would be a healthier and happier place if more people went outside and rode their bikes more often” – Sue George, BikeFlights.com Director of Communications
“Altra has supported women’s athletics since day one with all of our women’s shoes built around the unique differences of woman’s foot, which we call Fit4Her. These amazing ladies all use road and trail running for cross training. So coming back for our second year as the ‘off the bike’ shoe sponsor made perfect sense.” – Chris Jones, Altra Brand Manager
“One program that we have been working very diligently on is our gOgirl Program. This mentoring program focuses on empowering young girls to lead a healthy lifestyle and learn important life skills, with a large emphasis on mountain biking in the summer. We love the idea of a women’s team and what it stands for; we also feel that the team provides a great platform for our gOgirls Program participants to aspire to as they work through the ‘uphills and downhills’ of life. We look forward to continuing to partner with the team and their endeavours.”
– Sarah Stubbe, Griggs Orthopedics Practice Manager / Performance Services
Again, what comes across in the sponsors’ statements is an appreciation of participation and supporting women and girls to be active, rather than an obsessive pursuit of golds. It’s a great message for companies to get behind, and one that we’re sure chimes with many riders – not just the competitive ones.
Who are the riders?
The team includes returning riders Alexis Skarda, Vicki Barclay, Nina Baum, Smith and Kaufmann. Original team founder and former racer Shannon Gibson serves as Equipment Liaison while Myles Overstreet handles team mechanic duties.
Alexis Skarda was hired as a development rider for 2016, in what would become a breakout season for her. She earned podium finishes at several Pro XCT races, including third place at the Chile Challenge Angel Fire. She also placed second at the Grand Junction Off Road and won both the Iron Horse Classic and the Rumble at 18 Road. With her sights set on making the 2017 World Championship team and competing in several World Cups, Skarda hopes to continue her upward trajectory through the elite ranks.
Jennifer Smith comes off 2016 success in Leadville, where she won both the Leadville MTB Stage Race and finished third at the Leadville 100. She also was second at the Gunnison Growler and made the podium at both the Carson City off Road and in the overall Epic Rides series.
Sarah Kaufmann captained a team of three junior women to the win in the open women’s category at the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. She was the GC winner at the Vietnam Victory Challenge Stage Race, winning all three stages.
Vicki Barclay won two stages at her hometown race the Trans-Sylvania Epic. She placed fifth at the Kenda Cup East Gnar Weasels race and won three rounds of the Mid Atlantic Super Series.
What are they racing and riding?
The Stan’s-Kenda women will ride Cannondale Scalpels and F-SIs, including the new women’s specific Scalpel with 27.5” Stan’s NoTubes Valor and Crest MK3 wheels. All 2016 sponsors have recommitted their support including Stan’s NoTubes, Cannondale, Kenda, Griggs Orthopedics, Magura, GU Energy Labs, fi:zi’k, Verge Sport, POC, ESI Grips, Crankbrothers, ZOIC, DeFeet, BikeFlights.com and Altra shoes.
We asked for a closer look at the Jennifer Smith’s race bike, a Cannondale Scalpel women’s medium 27.5. This women’s specific bike is not sold by Cannondale in the UK, but is available in the US. The bike pictured is her 2016 race bike, with the teams’s 2017 bikes arriving shortly. However, that frame is the 2017 version – perhaps Cannondale wanted their new models testing and racing before they hit the stores. She’ll be swapping up from the SRAM XX1 drivetrain to SRAM Eagle for the year ahead. Other components and kit are:
- Cannondale Lefty 2.0
- Stan’s Valor carbon wheels
- Kenda Turnbull Canyon
- Crankbrothers Candy pedals
- Crankbrothers carbon seatpost and handlebar
- Magura MT8 brakes
- ESI grips
- fi:zi’k Donna Arione saddle
- King titanium cage
- GU nutrition/hydration
- Victory Circle Graphix name sticker
- Backcountry Research tube strap
Smith has made a few tweaks to get the bike perfect for her: she runs a pretty wide bar (740mm) for her shoulder width for more stability, a pretty short stem (60mm) to ensure quick handling, and a 180mm rotor front brake for extra stopping power.
Why is all this important?
Sure, you might not follow the XC race scene in the US, so you might not be all that interested in the team roster, or the races that they’ll be at. But if you’ve got this far, you’ve read about a number of companies who are supporting cycling – and certainly for us there were some new names in there. You might now think that those companies care about some of the same things that you do – and maybe that will help you choose between them and another company next time you’re choosing a service, or maybe it won’t. But either way those companies have just got themselves a little bit of brand visibility that they wouldn’t previously have had. All of us who care about cycling, competitive or not, should be just a little bit grateful to companies like these sponsors for supporting a sport and a team that aren’t going to get them the big bucks TV coverage of, say, Red Bull Rampage. In these days of social media and instant statistics, stories like this one, as well as likes, shares and follows on a team or rider’s feed, can make all the difference when it comes to getting and keeping sponsors. So click on a few links, follow a few riders, and you too can help support women’s cycling.