October 20, 2015 (Waterloo, Wisconsin) – Pedal caught up with Red Truck-Garneau CX Team rider Craig Richey of Vancouver, B.C. to learn more about his role on the new squad. The new squad features some of Canada’s top CX talent, including Michael van den Ham, Natasha Elliott, and mountain bike superstar, Raphael Gagne. Red Trek-Garneau CX is touted as Canada’s first professionally run cyclocross team – read about the team launch here.
How did the idea for the team come about, and how did it all come together?
Craig Richey: Last year Michael van den Ham and myself raced cyclocross for Trek Red Truck and we both went top 10 at some big US weekends like CXLA as well as having solid rides at Nationals. This created some hype around a “Canadian” CX team. A lot of the Canadian cross riders have been talking about the dream of creating a top Canadian team – now just seemed like the best time to do it.
The Trek Red Truck road team and their partners that sponsor Michael and I were willing to expand support for the cross program after seeing the success from last year. There was a natural synergy with Garneau which has been the helmet and clothing sponsor for the TRT program for the last three years and the new Steeple-X Carbon is an absolute rocket ship. Easton Cycling as of this fall is now distributing dealer direct in Canada and supporting this team in a good fit with their increased commitment to Canada. Then Michael and I cherry picked some key cyclocross product sponsors whose products we love and really wanted to work with such as CrankBrothers, Vittoria, Lambert, Gorp Bars, Rumble and Mad Alchemy.
What are the team’s goals for the season?
CR: The main goal is to be Canada’s first professionally run cyclocross team with a strong presence in North America. We want to generate strong returns for our sponsors and the best way to achieve that is to be nice approachable people that can put up some big results. Of course we want to win Nationals as well.
We’ve seen some very talented Canadian cyclo-cross racers in recent years, but the cyclo-cross scene overall in Canada hasn’t really taken off the way it has, for example, in the U.S.
Where do you see Canadian cyclo-cross headed?
CR: All of the regional series across the country continue to hit record turnouts every year so Canadian cyclocross is growing. What we lack is a National Series or calendar of UCI races in Canada that promotes the cross-pollination of Canadian talent from the different regions. The Canada Cup UCI mountain-bike circuit has really elevated the level of Canadian mountain biking and without something similar for cross across the country, Canadian cyclocross and its riders will struggle to reach top levels internationally.
Does a Canadian pro team like Red Truck-Garneau have a role to play in advancing cyclo-cross in Canada?
CR: Red Truck-Garneau p/b Easton Cycling is not a pro team per se. It is a well-supported and well-run program but the riders are not paid a salary. The team definitely has a role to play in advancing cyclocross in Canada. It is the first team to really unite top riders from across the country and give Canadian fans a team to follow and cheer for at the big races as well as a squad for young riders to aspire to. Hopefully RTG is a solid step towards proving a Canadian Pro Cyclocross team is possible and can generate positive returns for the business involved.
How has your season gone so far?
CR: It started with a trip to China for Qiansen Trophy Cyclocross races in August where I was riding very well and finished 7th in the first race before getting sick and having to settle for 13th in the second race. CrossVegas went fairly well and I have generally been pretty happy with my season. I have mixed in a fair number of local races which have large fields and winning generates good publicity for the Red Truck – Garneau team.
You had an interesting experience recently at the Trek CXC Cup in Wisconsin with your equipment not arriving on time. Tell us what happened and who helped you out so you were able to race.
CR: Yes unfortunately my bike didn’t arrive with me on United Airlines and I received information that it would not arrive before the race on Saturday which was an all-important C1 competition. I had to refocus on my main goal of the weekend which was Nationals preparation and I could do that on any bike. So I focused on the positive that I would at least be able to race. Thanks to my host housing, race organizer Renee Callaway and SRAM neutral support I was able to track down a bike. Riding a heavy loaner bike for the first time at a major race is never ideal but I still got in some good training, a reasonable result and felt I showed some good resilience.
Despite the equipment problem on Saturday you were able to put together a couple nice rides in high quality fields. Were you happy with your weekend overall?
CR: If everything had gone right on Saturday, my own bike etc., I feel I could have put together a really solid result but you have to play the cards you are dealt. Sunday I was riding in the top five for most of the race before fading on the last couple laps, so I was a little frustrated with my finishing strength both days. However, overall I’m pretty happy with how I’ve been riding at two weeks out to Nationals.
Talk about the Winnipeg CX Nationals – are you confident for a good result?
CR: Pretty confident I guess, but I’m trying to downplay any personal expectations, as I have often hyped up Nationals in the past only to have poor performances on the day. It is just a single race on a single day and anything can happen. I have the team, equipment and legs to ride well so that is about all anyone can ask for.
What are the team’s plans after Nationals?
CR: We will continue to race a mix of UCI races in the U.S. and local races through November when Raph will stop to prep for the 2016 MTB season and Michael will head to Europe for a major World Cup cyclocross campaign. Natasha and myself will continue with the US Pro CX circuit into December and then make a call on a possible team reunion at World Championships.
Thanks for your time and all best?