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Sitting In with Team Brain and Spine!

August 10, 2012

Cycling clubs and teams are one of the many nuances that can confound the new and experienced rider alike. How do you find a club or a team? What the difference between a club and a team? Do I have to race? Can I race multiple disciplines on the same team? USA Cycling defines clubs as umbrella organizations, which can have any number of teams under it. Clubs in good standing with USA Cycling must, among other things, host a USA Cycling permitted event open to non-club members and can run kit with more than the club name and manufacturer on it—in other words have jerseys that sport any number of team sponsors. And of course, different teams and clubs have different requirements themselves. It is enough to make your head spin.

Definitions and requirements from governing bodies aside, there are a good number of reasons to become a part of a local cycling club. And one of the best and most welcoming around Central Texas is Team Brain and Spine Cycling.

The benefits of joining a club are numerous, and Brain & Spine is no different in that regard. Of course the most important benefit is meeting and riding with others with similar interests and abilities. After all, camaraderie is a main function of any club and a cycling club is no different there. But teams like Brain & Spine also offer benefits to their members through the club’s annual sponsorships from local businesses, including Bicycle Sport Shop in the case of Brain & Spine, based on a given member’s service to the club as well as on their performance in local races and service to the cycling community at large.

Team Brain & Spine, with guests, at their recent Jester King Brewery Ride. Photo courtesy of Team Brain & Spine.

What does set Brain & Spine apart is the size of their organization, the number and size of race events they host, and the breadth of riders on the team—from recreational roadies to masters cyclocross racers to Cat 1 mountain bikers. What unifies them all is a love of bikes and riding.

I’ve sat in on some rides with Brain & Spine out of the shop’s Parmer location, and have chatted up some racers at the Driveway and at last season’s cyclocross races, and everyone with Brain & Spine has been warm and welcoming every time—even though they’ve chased down every breakaway I was in. Recently I had the good fortune to sit down with James Ezell, Brain & Spine’s club president/team director and James Sides, the team’s historian, and they filled me in on some of the group’s history, purpose, and events.

How long has the team been around and how long have you both been on the team?

James Ezell (JE): I was on the team when it was REI in 2003-2005, took some time off, and rejoined in 2007.

James Sides (JS): I’ve been on the team since it’s inception in 2001 when it was started by Robert Ford.

So you’ve both been with it since basically the beginning. Amazing. How many people are currently on the team?

JE: There are approximately 70 people with about 20% of the team being women riders and racers.

Are there any junior members?

JE: Currently we don’t have any junior riders, but we have had a number of them in the past. Juniors are obviously important to growing the sport and we welcome any junior rider looking to gain experience from our membership.

Seems that every race I show up to, be it a mountain bike race, a criterium, a road race, or a cyclocross race, there is a Brain & Spine contingent there. How many members of your group race?

JS: Not everyone races of course, but there is a strong sense of “team.” New members have to be recommended and sponsored by an existing team member. When it comes to racing, we have a philosophy that our racers do their talking with their wheels. If someone is willing to do that and is committed to the team then it’s likely they’ll become valued teammates.

JE: At one time or another, just about everybody races. It’s not a requirement though. For those that do race, sometimes life happens and that prevents people from actively racing, but they are always our teammates just like the folks that never or rarely race.

Larry Blanchard wins the men’s road race at La Vuelta de Acadiana Road Race! Photo courtesy of Team Brian & Spine.

Do more folks ride road or mountain, or is it evenly split?

JE: We have about ten active MTB racers. Lots of us ride mountain bikes though and more team members are likely to race as we expand the number of race events that we put on.

Speaking of events, how did the races you’ve put on so far this year, Walburg and Cranktastic Dirt Fest, go from your perspective?

JE: The Walburg Classic was a huge success for us this year. We had the largest one-day preregistered event ever in the history of TXBRA. We aim to make it even better next year with more sponsors and more activities. The Cranktastic Dirt Fest met its goals and was our first ever mountain bike race. As more people start racing for us on the dirt in TMBRA (ed. Texas Mountain Bike Racing Association) competitions, we hope to build on it. We do have a few more surprises in store and we also have a big event planned for the Cyclocross Scuffle, our annual cross race in Richard Moya Park.

JS: Ten years of promoting the Walburg Classic and a cyclocross race and we’ve seen some great stuff and it seems that each event gets better every year. Every kind of rider from local pros to first-time racers come out each year and this year was no different. 2012 has been great so far.

What do members do in terms of supporting team?

JE: Our entire team comes together to host the Walburg Classic every February. Apart from enjoying bikes, it’s the only other requirement for being on the team. We have many service opportunities to make the team a stronger unit and the biking community more fun for everyone. We try to host a few special rides throughout the year, such as our recent ride that began and ended at Jester King Brewery, complete with beer sampling and a picnic lunch. In addition to Walburg, our members help out Bicycle Sport Shop on their hosted rides from their shop locations, their charity rides, and special events.

What are some of the things you remember most, or think most fondly of, in terms of your team/what you’ve seen or taken part in?

JE: What I enjoy most is being part of such a tremendous group of people. We come from all walks of life to participate in a sport we love.

2012 women’s Cat 3 TTT champs, Brain & Spine! Photo courtesy of Team Brian & Spine.

Seems that Brain & Spine is not only at every race, but also performing well at most events. How have recent results looked for you all?

JS: There have been nearly too many to count TMBRA and TXBRA state cup champions as well as individual state champions across nearly every cycling discipline—road, criterium, cross country MTB, cyclocross, time trial—in nearly every category and age group. It’s been really fun to be a part of it, and this year has been just as great.

JE: Absolutely. We’ve had a strong year thus far and are really excited for things like the state road race and the Fall MTB events. 2011 was a very strong year with a number of top finishes at numerous events and some impressive Texas Cup standings for our members.

2011 Texas Cup Cyclocross – Winners:

2nd Masters 60+ – John Collins

1st Novice Men – Jorge Martinez

1st Single Speed – Rolando Roman

2011 Texas Cup Road – State Cup – Winners:

1st Amateur Women – Nadia Barrera

3rd Expert Men – Jason Bentley

2011 Texas Cup Road – Central Region – Winners:

2nd Amateur Women – Kelly Martinez

2nd Elite Men – CJ Hebert

1st Elite Women – Jenny Park

2nd Elite Women – Rheannon Cunningham

2nd Masters 40+ – James Murff

Folks that are looking to find out more information about Team Brain and Spine are encouraged to come out and ride with them. Brian & Spine leads road rides from the Parmer store every Sunday with many members also doing the Saturday Parmer store ride, an advanced hill ride from the Lamar store early Tuesday mornings, a Wednesday evening MTB ride at Walnut Creek, and they help with the beginner road ride from the Research store on Wednesdays as well. Information for all of those rides can be found here, and of course you can also find out about Team Brain and Spine through their website, Facebook page, and their Twitter feed.

Great riding with you Brain & Spine!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Lane permalink
    August 10, 2012 5:43 pm

    I joined the team back in 2005 (-ish…?) when it was REI. I can’t say enough about what a great club and team it is. The people were extraordinarily warm and welcoming, and as a novice (and somewhat older) racer, they were willing to teach me a great deal through individual assistance and also events like their occasional “bump drills” exercises. The thing I enjoyed most was just riding with these guys–always a very special experience. Unfortunately, after several deaths in my family, I found that my fitness had fallen off and decided to postpone competition for a while in order to pursue local cycling advocacy. I hope to one day get back to it, though, and B&S is one of the reasons.

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