USA CRITS team profile: Texas Roadhouse, powerhouse jokesters
It’s an expression — a multifaceted verb that can be used in many different circumstance, such as “yacking it across to the breakaway.”
Or so says Simon Jones, who is providing clarification to the term he’s coined this week, to the amusement of his Texas Roadhouse teammates. As he does, the 18-year-old’s voice cracks and his teammates pounce. The jokes flow off their tongues with ease and there’s no shortage of laughter. Many of his teammates are married and have been on the domestic criterium scene for years. Jones, who’s still in high school, is an easy target. In addition to being a strong racer, it helps to have thick skin around this group.
Track racing in its DNA
Texas Roadhouse is a U.S. domestic elite team and one of the 19 D1 teams racing the 2018 USA CRITS series. For 2018, 19 teams (10 women’s teams, nine men’s) have bought-in to the USA CRITS series — all dubbed D1 Teams. (The D1 designation has no relation to the old UCI tier system, which called WorldTour teams D1 teams.)
TheTexas Roadhouse team’s owners, and many of its sponsors, are from Kentucky, and it’s reflected with a laid-back, southern vibe. The jokes come fast and furious with this squad, but it’s all in good fun.
Curtis Tolson, one of the team’s owners, started the squad in 1996 as a way for he and his buddies to race the masters track world championships together in Manchester, England. Tolson is no slouch on the track with 42 masters national titles to his name. He brought on Texas Roadhouse, a national chain of steakhouses, as a sponsor in 2004 and the squad developed over the years into a road team with an eye on criteriums. However, Tolson has led the squad back to its track roots in recent years.
Three members of the U.S. men’s team pursuit squad ride for Texas Roadhouse — Daniel Holloway, Colby Lange, and Daniel Summerhill.
Tolson explained that’s not by coincidence. The team scooped up Holloway a few years ago to reinvigorate its roster and return to its roots.
“We kind of wanted to re-energize the team around [Holloway] and make a push to give the Olympic track team a place to go on the road where they have the freedom to do whatever the national team wants them to do,” Tolson said.
This year also sees Danny Summerhill return to road racing after UnitedHealthcare released him in 2017 for an incident involving firing a gun on a training ride. Tolson said he vetted and talked with many people before signing Summerhill and believes the incident was a one-off and something Summerhill has learned from.
A band of brothers
Besides the track specialists and high school students, Texas Roadhouse consists of a bunch of guys who simply love racing their bikes. Many balance a job and training during the week before hitting the road and hanging out with the boys on the weekend. The camaraderie among the riders on Texas Roadhouse was evident during the recent four-race USA CRITS Speed Week events as they sat on lawn chairs, hours before their races, cracking jokes and poking fun at each other.
“I guess our recruiting strategy, for lack of a better word, has always been developing young riders before they turn pro and then giving them something to do after they’ve been a pro, but they still want to compete and they’re still pretty good,” Tolson said.
Texas Roadhouse is a change of pace for Jones, who’s from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He powered through the junior ranks and had the opportunity to race in Europe, but said the intensity of being a talented junior and traveling around burnt him out. This is his first year racing the pro criterium scene and he says he’s now able to simply enjoy racing his bike. The criterium is still very much serious racing, but outside of the race, he’s able to be more relaxed.
“I’ve been having probably more fun with these guys and more fun racing my bike than ever,” Jones said. “It’s pretty cool to be here racing all the crits. I think it’s a lot more fun than road racing. This has been the perfect half-step between going from really serious junior racing to pro racing. This is a good kind of middle ground for me and I’ve been loving it.”
Jones’ youthfulness has helped the team save a few bucks here and there. He recently introduced the guys to the $4 T-shirt section at Wal-Mart and they bought a bunch of extra-large kids T-shirts on one visit.
New tequila sponsor Herradura is a big hit among the riders, with Jones the de-facto designated driver since he’s not of legal drinking age. Jokes circulate of cases of tequila in the backseat of the team car, and handing out bottles of “water” to rivals during the race — until Tolson walks up.
Tolson had just finished the masters race, and despite being drained from the effort he quickly shut the jokes down. Despite having an alcohol sponsor with underage riders on the team, he made it clear the team is under strict guidelines on what they can and cannot bring to races. No cases in the back seat then.
On the racecourse, the squad jives well together, with everyone settling into their respective roles. For Kyle Perry that means going on the attack and chasing down breakaways; for Holloway that means sprinting for the win.
But don’t let the team’s laid-back attitude fool you — this is a team knows how to race at the front of the peloton. At Speed Week, Texas Roadhouse cleaned house. Holloway’s results were 1-5-5-8 for the four-race series, claiming the overall Speed Week title as well the CyclingTips Lap Leader jersey. Texas Roadhouse also went home with second in the team classification.
For Alex Mclaughlin, he enjoys bumping elbows during the races as Holloway’s bodyguard. During the final laps of a race with the sprint trains starting to form, Mclaughlin’s role is to sit behind Holloway and protect his wheel.
He puts it simply, “If there’s danger, I go in, and then there’s no more danger.”
2018 Texas Roadhouse team roster: Marco Aledia, Zach Carlson, Evan Clouse, John Croom, Daniel Holloway, Simon Jones, Sam Keiffer, Colby Lange, Jake Magee, Jordan Marhanka, Alex Mclaughlin, Kyle Perry, Matt Salpierto, Ryan Shean, Danny Summerhill.