I have made the decision to change my team affiliation for 2011, and will be riding with a local club. If you look at the right-hand column of my blog page you will see that the link to Velo Bella has been replaced by a link to something called Team Slow.
Team Slow began as a focus group of like-minded friends who simply love to ride bikes and who all got into racing this past year. Their premise:
--Racing should be accessible to anyone who wants to try it, and that it's more fun to do it in a group of supportive, fun-loving friends than to do it alone.
--Racing shouldn't only be about being fast and beating everyone else; otherwise only the fastest people would be welcome at races. Team Slow recognizes that some of the hardest and most profound racing we do is against ourselves, and so every time we finish the challenge of a race, we've succeeded, we've won in a sense. Team Slow wants to celebrate those victories along with the actual placings in a given race.
--Racing is only one kind of bicycle riding, and bicycle riding should be accessible to anyone who's able to do it, regardless of their present level of experience, ability or fitness. Team Slow will hold regular non-racing, social rides as well.
And -- in an unusual move for a racing club -- they recognize that racing is, in and of itself, an inherently indulgent activity. To counter that, Team Slow aims to find ways to spotlight the good work of select non-profits while they race, perhaps through adding logos of those organizations to the team jersey and/or raising money for them.
In short, this sounds like my kinda focus group. I've hung with them at a few races this past year and every single one of them I've met so far is simply a lovely human being. I like them.
This winter the focus group has become an official team, with OBRA dues, and jerseys and sponsors in the works and all of it. And they invited me to join them as a member. That's right -- they asked me. Then, to ease off the pressure, they said that if I decided not to join they would still invite me to be a groupie -- to hang out with them, enjoy the shelter of their tent at colder races, and they'd wave the pom-poms and cheer for me and stuff. Obviously, this is a decision that is NOT based on my results as a racer; but simply because, well, they like me.
I met yesterday morning with Kristin, a friend from my singlespeed short-track adventures who's also a Team Slow member, and another attractive thing is that they want to run their club democratically (you know, as in -- gulp -- consensus-based decision making). So now I was really intrigued.
After bouncing this idea off Sweetie's brain, sleeping on it and otherwise weighing my options, which included my reasons for racing, my current association with Velo Bella (a national syndicate with only a handful of members scattered throughout the Pacific NW), and my desire to have a nice buncha folks to ride and race with in my area without upsetting the balance between racing and The Rest Of My Life, I took the plunge and said yes.
I'll keep one VB jersey, a lovely souvenir of all that I've learned and done while racing as a Bella, and something fun to wear on group rides. But since the rules state that you can't race in the kit of a USAC- registered team after you've left, I will be finding homes for almost everything else in the drawer. Except maybe the socks. (Seriously. Eeww.)
I'm surprisingly comfortable with how this is going down. And maybe that's the point. Racing shouldn't be a chore, but fun. I am pleased to have found others in my area who feel the same way.