The 2019 cyclocross season opened with the merging of the area’s two premiere junior teams. RAD Racing and the Cycle University Junior Team have joined forces to become RAD Racing p/b Cycle U. The team accepts riders as young as the 1st grade.
The new organization is led by Team Director Erik Anderson (RAD) and Coaching Director Craig Undem (Cycle U). The headline goal of the new team is to foster healthier and happier junior athletes through bike racing. Craig’s goal is to build a junior team that expands on the success the Cycle U Junior program has had over the past decade:
“This merger gives us the talent, tools, and resources to be a major force in the Northwest cycling scene.”
Erik’s role is to manage the daily operations of the team so Craig can focus on coaching and fundraising efforts. Erik says he “enjoys being behind the scenes working on things.”
As Coaching Director, Craig’s role is to “coordinate coaching and fundraising for the entire team and attend races and workouts as the head coach. I run workouts both for our big “all team” and our elite Varsity riders (about 15 riders who are selected when they are ready to work out 2-3 times per week year around). I am at all local and regional cyclocross races supporting our riders and families, and will travel to national level races if we have a large enough group attending.”
Each program brings an array of talent and resources to the partnership, including national-caliber coaching and a storied history of rider development that has helped usher riders onto the National and world stages. RAD has an impressive list of National Champions and US World Championship Team Members that dates back to 2000.
43-year old Erik Anderson has been a competitor for 39 years.
“I started out racing roller skates and became an elite inline speed skater before graduating from high school in the early 90s.”
“Cycling was a great way for me to improve strength and endurance outside of the skating rink. I grew up in the small logging community of Hoquiam, WA. I spent countless hours riding my mountain bike on the logging roads and tagging along on the shop rides in Capitol Forest. My first bike races were mountain bike races in the early ’90s at Capitol Forest. I transitioned to road racing while I was in college in the mid 90s. About 10 years ago RAD founder Jim Brown got me into cyclocross. It was a fun change of pace. Before joining RAD Racing 6 years ago, Erik was the president of the Washington State Bicycle Association (WSBA).”
Erik is also an active race director who has been organizing events in the Pacific Northwest for more than 15 years. He currently manages 53Eleven events.
56-year old Craig Undem is a former professional cyclist whose love of bikes began in the early 1980s. He has spent his life focused on mastering cycling skills and teaching others. Craig has raced at the elite and world-class levels in road, mountain, and cyclocross.
After taking 21-year break from competition, Craig won the 2018 55-59 masters cyclocross USA national championships.
“Earlier in my career I won a mountain biking World Cup medal in 1994, and was a silver medalist in the US criterium in 1991.”
“I grew up cycling in Gig Harbor in the woods on trails on kid’s bikes. In college at UW I discovered the Burke Gilman Trail and I bought my first road bike from REI. After college I moved to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and started working at Moots, road racing, and I’ve been at it ever since–racing road, mountain, track and cross. I quit racing in 1997 and have been coaching since then at all levels. I am an elite level coach with USA Cycling.”
Erik thinks very highly of Craig: “I have always admired Craig’s coaching experience, his dedication to junior cycling, and his passion to see kids ride bikes. That passion will be the foundation on which we can continue to build the heritage of RAD Racing.”
I asked about how the merger fits with cyclocross season, and the team’s plans for 2020:
Erik said: “Cyclocross season is great because it brings everyone together. Everyone can do it. The main focus this season is merging our teams, focusing on the CX season through Nationals in Tacoma, and planning for the 2020 season.”
Craig added: “Since we merged right before ‘cross started, it makes sense for us to spend ‘cross season ramping up and organizing the team. We’ll get the new clothing done, build a sense of teamwork by training as a group every Thursday, and race every weekend until the Cyclocross National Championships in December (in Tacoma). In 2020 we will start a road racing program mostly focused on Tuesday nights at Pacific raceways, weekend races, as well as a mountain bike program for kids who prefer dirt.”
The Benefits of Cycling for Kids
We live at a time when most schools have de-emphasized the importance of daily physical exertion in favor of performance on tests. While a few schools do recognize the connection between physical activity and academic performance, they are the exceptions. Moreover, most people report negative childhood memories of PE classes. Kids and teens are lucky if they are able to establish a lifelong love for movement. Even in schools that do have physical education components, the main options are all ball sports. As we learned in our profiles of Conor Klupar and Max Zivin, competitive cycling is unknown to most kids. Programs like RAD and the Major Taylor Project provide a great alternative for juniors who don’t have an affinity for traditional K-12 school sports.
Erik expresses the benefits this way: “Endurance sports are a good way learn about life’s lessons. That was my experience skating, and I see that same experience happening with the juniors on our team. here are so many aspects the kids have to plan for–being on time, making sure their equipment is in good working orders, and doing their best. One of the concepts we emphasize is mastering things you can control. It’s great to see kids grow in this area, especially as they become young adults.”
Craig has a slightly more philosophical take: “Our goal is to create and foster good people, and good bike racers. Cycling teaches many life lessons: show up on time, be prepared, take care of your equipment, be kind, find a way to help your team, be focused, and have goals. Cycling is just a platform to teach these life lessons.”
What lies ahead for the new team?
Erik: “Creating fresh energy for juniors is primary goal of the program. Focusing on growing the local grassroots aspect of the team is a key focus. While the program focuses heavily on cyclocross, we also support road, mountain biking, and track depending on the discipline kids want to participate in. As team leaders our goal is to be flexible.”
Craig: “We intend to keep growing the team and support any young bike rider who wants to improve their cycling and try racing. I would like to grow our fundraising so we can support our elite juniors with travel and equipment, and for the rest of the team keep the experience fun, cool, and exciting. We want to foster a lifelong love of the bike.”