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by Michael Better
June 1, 2018
Photography by Brian Vernor; Bear Cieri/USA CRITS
This is the second installment of our ongoing stories of the 19 teams racing the 2018 USA CRITS series that have committed 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.
In cycling, there are happiness watts, and then there are caffeine watts.
Happiness watts, quite simply, are generated by smiles. The happier, the faster. Caffeine watts — well, those are self-explanatory.
For some cyclists, happiness can also be found in a hot cup of coffee. The simple pleasure of stopping for the occasional mid-ride cappuccino and enjoying the company of those pedalling alongside you. A good dose of caffeine watts gets the heart beating for that end-of-ride boost.
Luckily for Meteor-Intelligentsia, happiness and caffeinated watts abound. In fact, the team’s title sponsors have caffeine in their DNA. Meteor is a café in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Intelligentsia is a Chicago-based coffee roaster.
The team’s happiness is infectious. There’s an intense camaraderie among the small squad of seven riders. From pre-race Instagram posts in the parking lot to podium photos after a job well done, the squad is filled with seven strong women who love racing their bikes.
These are much more than caffeinated bike racers. Nearly all of them have part-time jobs during the week that require a meticulous balancing of their life to fit in training, work, and family time. But with their sponsors’ products powering them, they have a lot left in the tank when it comes to race day. It’s no surprise that the team’s hashtag is #matchestoburn.
Kristen Arnold, on the attack at Athens Twilight. Photo: Bear Cieri/USACRITS.
BrittLee Bowman holds the title of general manager and racer on the Meteor-Intelligentsia squad, but she is much more than that. She’s a mentor.
Bowman has been around the block on the U.S. domestic racing scene. She’s raced track, cyclocross, and road racing. She’s also managed and directed cycling teams for the last six years. Her knowledge and involvement led her to become a staunch advocate for women’s racing. She’s created many lasting relationships in the industry through her work on promoting women’s cycling and for 2018, she used her connections to form the Meteor-Intelligentsia pro women’s squad.
The team has partnered with the JAM Fund for the 2018 season and will receive a series of grants throughout the season. The JAM Fund is a non-profit and was created in 2003 by four-time elite national cyclocross champion Jeremy Powers, Alec Donahue, and Mukunda Feldman. It helps young cyclists to achieve success both on and off the bike.
Bowman shows her team that winning is not everything.
“The effort you put in is not always shown by the results you get,” Bowman explained. “There’s only one person that wins a bike race, but there are more than 50 people there who prepared for it.”
Of course, the team wants to win and stand on the podium, but Bowman emphasized that the ultimate goal is representing the team’s sponsors in a positive manner on and off the bike.
Jess Mundy, on the move at Athens Twilight. Photo: Bear Cieri/USA CRITS
While the team is small, Bowman hand-picked all of the riders and assembled an array of personalities.
Bowman’s careful selecting of the riders puts an emphasis on a person’s character and not just their results or potential. The team has an international flair, too. Jessica Mundy is from South Australia and Kirstie James is from New Zealand.
There’s a refreshing, laid-back pre-race attitude among the members. But when the cleats clip in, it’s game on.
A recent roster change opened the door for more opportunities among the team. Harriet Owen’s sudden departure to rival program Hagens Berman-Supermint may be a disappointment on the surface, as she was the team’s top sprinter, the move opens a door for the team’s other sprinters to shine.
Mundy is one of those riders looking to fill the role of top sprinter. Hailing from Adelaide, which turns into a full-on cycling city every January with the Santos Tour Down Under, she got into cycling in primary school and progressed from the track to road racing.
The 23-year-old Aussie finished 24th in the national road championship in January before coming over to the States to race a robust USA CRITS calendar with Meteor-Intelligentsia. She also took home the overall U25 Best Young Rider classification for USA CRITS in 2016, beating out Skylar Schneider (Boels-Dolmans) and Tour of Flanders winner Coryn Rivera (Sunweb).
Cynthia Frazier is another rider looking to step up and grab her chance. Frazier entered the season in the role of a secondary sprinter but now looks to have more opportunities in the primary spot. While she didn’t find cycling until her senior year of college, that hasn’t stopped her from progressing through the ranks in no time at all.
2018 Meteor-Intelligentsia team roster: Kristen Arnold, BrittLee Bowman, Cynthia Frazier, Kristie James, Daphne Karagianis, Nicole Mertz, and Jessica Mundy.