Letter from the Editor: Jessi Braverman on the CyclingTips Women’s Section
I’m excited and proud to announce that Jessi Braverman has accepted the position as editor of our women’s cycling section, or rather our sister site.
It was an enlightening experience going through the interview process and nearly all of the candidates we spoke with would have been outstanding for the position. However, with Jessi’s experience, fresh ideas, and level of competence, I’m confident we chose the right woman for the job. Not only will Jessi be responsible for the direction of our women’s cycling content, her skills will also enhance the rest of the site and the services we bring to you.
I asked Jessi to write a piece for us about how she got into cycling and the vision she has for our sister site.
Please join me in welcoming Jessi to the team. I hope you enjoy the journey as much as we will.
The flimsy purple tri-fold brochure sat on the counter of a cozy bakery in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. I had walked down the block to pick up cupcakes for a friend’s birthday. Grabbing the brochure on my way out was an afterthought. That decision I made eight years ago changed my life.
It was promotional material for Team in Training – an organisation that welcomes individuals of all ages and abilities to train for a century ride, marathon or triathlon. Participants fundraise for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society while they train for their target event.
I could have just as easily signed up for the marathon. I wish I could remember what made me choose the century ride. I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was a kid – and I didn’t own one at the time.
I dug up an old mountain bike from my parent’s garage. I bought a helmet. I showed up in a tee-shirt, running shorts and trainers. It never occurred to me that the group I would find assembled in the parking lot of a local high school would be decked out in lycra and pumping up the skinny tires on their lightweight road bikes. I hadn’t even known there was such a thing as road bikes.
I learned quickly.
By the end of the summer, I had racked up around 4,000 miles on the Specialized Roubaix Comp that I had bought from my local bike shop. I had a subscription to Bicycling Magazine and a special shelf in my pantry for my water bottles, drink mixes, bars and gels. My laundry basket contained more spandex than cotton. I had become acquainted with tegaderm following my first nasty crash from which I still sport a scar. My alarm was set early every Saturday and Sunday morning so I could make it out the door in time to drive from the city to the suburbs to meet my new training buddies.
In early August, I received an email from the Team in Training mailing list. A female cyclist was looking for host housing for a race that would be held in Downers Grove, Illinois later that month. Did I know anyone that could help? My parents live about 20 minutes away from the race venue, so I passed along the email to my dad and promptly forgot about it.
Several weeks later, my dad called me. “We’re hosting a professional women’s cycling team for the weekend,” he said. “You need to come meet these riders.” We made plans for me to join everybody for dinner the next day.
The professional female cyclists and their team director were part of a regional team that would eventually grow to be one of the strongest women’s programs in America. Over my mom’s homemade lasagna, they regaled me with tales of their sport and their lives.
I learned how they each stumbled into cycling. Brooke Miller started racing at the age of 26 while enrolled in her doctorate program. Stacy Marple was a gymnast turned diver turned backpacker turned Ironman triathlete turned cyclist. They were both there thanks to their team owner/manager Linda Jackson, who had given up her career as an investment banker to race bikes.
Linda won a bronze medal at the World Championships and competed in the 1996 Olympics before returning to the financial world. Following a decade away from the competitive side of the sport, she signed TIBCO up as a sponsor to her new team. Ten months later, Linda and two of her riders were eating dinner at my parents’ house on the eve of the USA Cycling Criterium National Championships warm-up race.
The stories they told, the passion they exuded and their genuinely welcoming nature captivated me.
I watched them race the next day in filthy weather. Brooke won. She let me tag along backstage to the award ceremony where she climbed to the top step of the podium and bent down for the race director to hang a medal around her neck. She would later sign the back of that medal and hand it over to me. I still have it. Even then, I knew it was the start of something.
As I stood in the pouring rain in an unassuming Chicago suburb watching the peloton snake around the mile-long figure eight course, I never would have guessed all the experiences I would have, places I would go and people I would met, all of which have shaped my personal and professional life in ways I would never could have imagined. All I knew was that the race unfolding in front of me was bursting with grit and grace and passion and promise – and I wanted in on it.
And in on it I have been ever since that day.
I want you to get in on it all, too.
My goal as editor of our soon to be launched CyclingTips sister site is to share with you the many, varied reasons there are to love cycling. With a team of people equally committed to creating a community excited by the women’s side of the sport, I plan to deliver content that appeals to a diverse group of readers. We plan to start small – with one or two stories features daily in addition to race coverage and reactive pieces – and grow over time.
We’re hard at work behind the scenes in preparation for the anticipated launch of the yet-to-be-named sister site sometime around the Australian National Championships (January 7-11, 2015). Ahead of our debut, we’re busy hiring key contributors, squaring away agreements with photographers and finalising the website design. We’re growing relationships with advertisers, solidifying our proposed content schedule and creating a handful of pieces that will feature on the site in its first few weeks.
In the eight years since I walked into a bakery and stumbled upon my passion, I have realised that having the bike as a common denominator makes quick friends amongst strangers. Cycling has provided me with a sense of community from the outset, and it is my sincere hope that this new space we build becomes another place in which we can learn, connect and share the bike love together.