On a warm Monterey morning, three JETCycling junior riders; Milliegoat Tanner (15), Laurel Rathbun (16), Marta Morris (15) lined up to compete in this year’s Sea Otter Classic Junior Female Road Race. The fourth team member, Claire Van Ekdom was unable to make the trip. Rathbun finished 5th in a field full of talented 17-18 year old riders. We made our way to the finish to chat with Team Director, Jet Tanner. JETCycling was headed to Italy and we wanted to learn more.
“JETCycling has been involved in junior cycling for five years now,” stated Tanner. “This is the first year we are doing something for young women. It’s quite exciting. We believe there is a gap between junior cycling and elite cycling. We want to get the girls experience in international and national cycling races on a higher elite level.”
“You have these great, accomplished women like Kristin Armstrong (Exergy TWENTY12), who have been paving the way for everyone,” continued Tanner. “We need some depth. I think our talent pool is shallow. Who is developing behind Coryn Rivera (Exergy TWENTY12) and Alexis Ryan (TIBCO/To The Top)? I think we need to start something for the next group. 17-18 year olds have opportunities with the bigger pro teams. I am very excited about what TIBCO/To The Top and Linda Jackson are doing. Exergy TWENTY12 with Nicola Cranmer have has been doing great things. I want to take on the 15-16 year old riders. I believe this group of young women needs to be given experience. This year we have four girls. Next year I would love to carry a squad of ten. With funding and sponsorship we can really develop junior women. USA Cycling is hoping that we are successful and moving in a positive direction.”
The Italian connection comes from a former professional cyclist. Davide Cerutti raced in Italy 15 years ago and wanted to provide JETCycling with his expertise and contacts.
Cerutti commented, “My experience racing in Europe was amazing. Luckily I still have lots of friends in cycling. We Italians love to help each other. I want to give these girls the very best. I want to give them a great experience in Italy. There is no problem for our team to race in Italy. The Italian Cycling Federation was very excited to help a young American women’s team race. We are racing in Italy once this year but plan on making two trips next year. I will continue to help JETCycling.”
“Davide hooked us up with an Italian junior women’s development team, Team Valcar. They have 25 young women on their team. They are a fully supported team. Team Valcar will be meeting us when we arrive in Italy and be our ambassadors. The Italian junior riders are extremely excited about meeting and racing with our junior riders. The Italian Cycling Federation has also been incredibly supportive. They have offered to pay our racing fees, to feed us, and pay for transportation in Italy to the races. I was blown away by the generosity of the Italian Cycling Federation.” Tanner explained.
“We leave for Italy on July 24th and return on August 7th. I discovered that Sundays are the only days they let 15-16 year old women race. The races have anywhere between 150 to 200 riders per race. One race is a road race and the other a criterium. I hear the road race will have cobbles and tiny street sections. Let’s send them out there. If we fail and fall on our face…so be it. We know now what we need to do to compete.”
The team and traveling family members plan doing day trips in between the racing. “I want them to experience the country.”
The cycling culture is part of Italy. In last year’s Italian national championships there were over 200 riders competing in the 15-16 year old women category. The US Nationals had 23 riders finish.
“Can you imagine if we had 200 American junior women race?” Tanner pondered. “What would the market be…and what would the development be? It makes you stop and think. The purchasing power in the American household comes from women. Why aren’t we investing in women cycling? I keep hearing that it will never work, that we won’t get the sponsors, but we have a group that want to break down the barriers.”
JETCycling has great relationships with their sponsors. “Our sponsors are companies that believe in what we are doing. Some are going out of their way like Carbon Lite Racing, posting a JETCycling tab on their website. If anyone buys wheels, part of the profits goes to supporting our team! SeaSucker took my idea and built a product called the JETPack. It is these partnerships that mean so much to us. At Kinetic, they are passionate about what we are doing. Rudy Project has given us helmets and glasses for the team. K-Edge gave us chain keepers with our team logo. Hammer Nutrition, whatever we need to be successful. Clean Bottle gave us custom JETCycling logo on our bottles. Swiftwick has been awesome with socks and Northwave with shoes. DZ Nuts products are amazing. Primal Wear with kits for the girls and a national ad.”
“Our sponsors would love to see growth and development in women cycling. We are doing everything in a financial perspective to make that happen. It’s not cheap. It’s a challenge, but we want to create an opportunity for all junior development women,” said Tanner.