After a couple of seasons being bike, wheel and title sponsor to elite UK Men's road race teams, for 2014 I decided that I needed to take a fresh approach to Spin's involvement with the race scene.
Road racing is embedded in the very essence of Spin Industries because it's in my blood. Road racing, especially the hard-as-nails northern european Spring Classic variety is what really fuelled my imagination as a boy and ensured that cycling became the one true sport for me.
I remember well the fascination with which I discovered a book about road racing belonging to my father. It was full of grainy black-and-white photos which revealed page by page this epic, brutal and at the same time, most beautiful of sports. And in the stories that accompanied those magnificent images, a cast of characters so vast and exotic was assembled, brimming full with ordinary folks from humble backgrounds, transformed by nothing other than their own determination and inner steel into extraordinary heroes on the bike, with a fair few villains and cheeky chaps thrown in for good measure too. To me it felt like the entire experience of life itself condensed into the simple pursuit of racing a push bike.
So for Spin to step back from road racing and competition was never going to be a long term possibility. But I decided that simply providing our equipment to teams that other people put together and manage wasn't really worth our while. That's despite the TV appearances, some decent results, and the chance to support young up and coming talent.
The problem is that equipment sponsors rarely get a say in choosing the talent, and as a consequence riders owe their allegiance solely to the manager for putting them on the team. So we were never able to truly connect with our team riders personally, with a couple of notable exceptions, so these guys never became "our" riders and they never thought of us as their personal sponsors or technical partners. Instead we end up with a bunch of young men riding around on our bikes with no personal connection or interplay between us, them understanding nothing about why we make our bikes the way we do, and us knowing nothing about our riders' motivation and ambitions, where they've been and where they're headed.
It's business you see. But it's not good business. At least not for the equipment sponsor. It's not satisfying. It doesn't enhance our brand nor add much real value to what we do. And it's not what that younger version of me dreamt of, devouring that dog-eared book of road racing legends.
So for the future, for Spin Racing version 2.0, I decided the first step was to find talented riders and athletes that I personally really wanted to work with, and who, just as importantly wanted to work with Spin. No matter what team they're on, now and in the future, my aim was to forge long-term relationships that are designed to work equally well for both sides.
And that's what we've been slowly doing this year, building from scratch what we hope will be a really interesting but widely dispersed group of talent, from the youngest U10 racers, through all the youth and junior categories and up into the flourishing Elite Womens race scenes, both in the UK and on the Continent.
Over the next few blog entries I'd like to tell you something about each of our riders. And today I'd like to start by introducing you to Ben and to Lewis. They're the Askey Brothers. If you haven't heard of these Lichfield CCC boys before, then rest assured. This won't be the last.
I first came across the name Ben Askey when I started to take my own small boy cyclocross racing. He started off in the UK regional league Under 10 age category. As we'd wander round the muddy courses early on those winter mornings we simply kept hearing this name - it seemed to be on everyone's lips. Soon, my daughter would keep asking me: Dad, is that Ben Askey over there? Is that Ben Askey? My wife and I felt as if we were witness to the birth of a mini superstar. And it was something really quite cool to be a part of.
Why was that? Well, simply put, Ben won every round of the U10 league series. Usually in the lead from the first corner to the last and on across the finish line - solo. No one else in the photo!
My boy (along with everyone else's) didn't stand a chance. Sat around the kitchen table back at Spin HQ I asked him: how cool would it be if we had Ben Askey on our wheels? My boy may not be in Ben's league when it comes to racing, but he seems to be switched on in some other ways. His instant reply was simply: Do It!
Luckily for me on one soggy Sunday I met up with some of the top members of Ben's fan club: his grand parents and eventually, Mum & Dad Askey. It was then that I learnt that Ben had a big brother, Lewis, and that he was pretty quick too.
Michelle & Paul Askey are incredibly dedicated cycling parents and frankly I don't know how they manage to feed their boys' voracious appetites for racing bikes. But satisfy it they do. Their season runs January 1 through to December 31. The boys compete in CX, mountain bike, out on the road and on the boards in the velodrome, taking multiple regional and national series wins and titles along the way.
When you meet the Askeys it's easy to see the dedication and hard work they put into their boys' racing, whilst Lewis and Ben's never give in, never say die total racer's attitude simply says it all. So it is with really great pleasure that we are able to help out in the pursuit of their dreams. Both Ben and Lewis now Spin On These with custom Koppenberg race and training wheels. And the results keep stacking up, despite plenty of drama and incident-packed racing.
As we do more with Team Askey, we'll keep you up to date with their season and progress. Keep an eye on our twitter and instagram feeds (@SpinOnThese) for the latest news and photos. But for now, here's what the boys have to say about their aims for 2015.
Ben. First year competing in the two-year combined age range U12 category.
I aim to be the series winner in the West Midlands League Cyclocross series and my goal for the upcoming road season is top three at National Track and Circuit series in my first year in the U12 category.
Lewis. Racing in the U14 age category.
As under twelve I achieved national jerseys in track and circuit and got a silver in the cyclocross. As top year under fourteen in 2015 I am aiming to increase my National jerseys and be on the podium for track, circuit, cross and MTB and place in top three of National road series and the cyclocross trophy.
As of late 2014, both are well on their way to achieving these goals. Oh yes: the Askey Boys are Back in Town! And they Spin On These!