having a 'cross to bear

richard sachs cyclocross team

as the final stage in reviewing the particularly fine steel sven pathfinder, i fitted a set of limus cyclocross tyres to the wheelsmiths and headed out into the hinterlands. this was in the vain hope that there would not be any sign of a peripatetic audience ready and waiting for a lengthy period of humour at my expense. the results of this review will be made known in the fullness of time, but in the interim, the partial downside to my cyclocross (mis)adventures revolved around the enforced choice of cassette sprockets.

the pathfinder features a single front chainring on which i have yet to count the number of teeth, but i think i'm right in saying that it features a few more than i'd like when matching it with an 11/26 cassette. in short, this setup was not particularly ideal for cyclocross; at least, not for my version of cyclocross. therefore, though padding about bridgend woods served only to encourage a tad more huffing and puffing than to which i'm keen to admit, when i ventured onto the grassy dunes at uiskentuie, it was patently clear that all was going to end in tears unless i headed back to the safety of tarmac.

richard sachs cyclocross team

it was at this point that another member of the sunday peloton rolled alongside, serving only to once again increase my huffing and puffing, while scrabbling to keep up with a chap on a road-bike while yours truly trudged on 33mm knobblies. it subsequently transpired, during an ensuing lunchtime conversation, that, while my velocipedinal colleague had spent at least a minimal amount of time attempting to comprehend and enjoy cyclocross, so far, he'd failed.

i have now made it a personal objective to prove to him just how wrong he is.

because i, on the other hand, eagerly await those sunday afternoons when i can trawl the internet in the frequently vain search for watchable coverage of any cyclocross event that hasn't been geo-restricted. before 'cross reached its current level of uk popularity, there was often an embarrassment of riches to be found across belgian and dutch internet broadcasting. oddly, as more of us have become smitten, the legend across those tiny web portals declaring that the broadcast can not be viewed in my country has become ever more frequent.

richard sachs cyclocross team

but it's not just europe that fulfils its need for mud, glorious mud; cyclocross in north america parallels that of their eastern brethren, opening on the east coast this weekend at rochester new york. and that is the beginning of the season for the richard sachs cyclocross team, the upshot of a long-lived obsession with the sport by the man who builds those exquisite steel frames. however, far from grabbing one of those iconic frames and deciding to have a dirty weekend, undertaking a full season of 'cross takes a smidgeon more than obsession and goodwill.

the richard sachs cyclocross team features four riders for the 2017/18 season: dan chabanov, brittlee bowman, sam o'keefe and mr sachs himself. support for the team comes from the lovely debs and mechanic dan langois. and what can surely be seen as the ultimate faith in richard's means of competing, the sponsors' names decorating both bikes and kit have remained as before, but with one notable exception; activity sports purveyors withings were taken over by nokia digital health, so it is their name that now features as sponsor.

richard sachs cyclocross team

with the new company seemingly keen to continue their association with the rs 'cross team, i asked nokia's mark prince if cyclocross still featured highly in their sponsorship programme?

"As the RSC team sponsor, the product focus will be on our range of health products that automatically measure and track key vitals such as blood pressure, body composition, and temperature. Gaining knowledge and understanding of key vitals is important for everyone, and can be particularly meaningful for competitive athletes. It's great to have RSC get our name in front of the 'cross community, and we hope that our products help the team succeed on the course as well."

on the basis of mark's answer, it's reasonably clear why nokia would remain keen to continue their partnership with a team that competes in the singular manner that dan, brittlee, sam and richard undertake each year. but to ask the $1,000 question, has this partnership fulfilled or exceeded his expectations?

richard sachs cyclocross team

"We're confident that the team will continue to exceed expectations for the new season. We're still in #crossiscoming mode here in North America, so it's a little early to say just how high is up. However, we are proud that the team agreed to carry the Nokia banner and eager to see the team's new kit for the 2017 season."

in which case, are nokia as obsessed with cyclocross as the rest of us? "Yes. It's fair to say that the global Nokia family is a very enthusiastic group."

but nokia are not the only folks with their logo where it matters. in a more collaborative venture, a few years past, richard sachs opted to revamp the look of his bicycles, dispensing with his almost trademark red with white detailing in favour of a softer, more orangey shade that i believe might be referred to as saffron. this, combined with cream lettering and idiosyncratic application of the rs logo, was left to the expertise of yorklyn, delaware's house industries, ostensibly a digital typeface foundry, but with a particularly admirable and funky design ethos.

richard sachs cyclocross team

this redesign extended in later seasons to providing a different colour for each rider's frame, ranging from a to-die-for green edition through gold, blue and black. for the current season, it looks as though gold may be the preferred colour. there's little doubt that the type foundry are still heavily involved, so i asked house industries' rich roat what it is that keeps the house name on on those beautiful steel frames?

"Our relationship with Richard Sachs and the team goes much deeper than a logo on a top tube, cyclocross, or bikes in general. It is a relationship fueled by trust and mutual respect, two things that are very hard to quantify in terms of money or return on investment. We take a back seat to the core supporters whose logos are on the front of the top tube - quite literally. Our logo goes on the seat tube, as it does on every Richard Sachs bicycle. That's a privilege and placement that we do not take lightly."

though cycle sport may be less afflicted by purely commercial mores than many others, rich's testament to their involvement with the richard sachs team speaks volumes. this can be nailed, at least in part, to richard's own philosophy. sat on a shelf in debbie's café is a framed letterpress poster produced by the aforementioned house industries in which emphasis is placed on representing the team sponsors to the best of their collective ability. does richard think this is why his sponsors are eager to resign each year?

richard sachs cyclocross team

"Yes. We give good brand. I'm confident that all who align with us get their investment back in spades. And every single sponsor and industry supplier we have makes something I'd pay 100% bust-out retail for. That's how much I like what we have and use, and would support it."

however, cyclocross can be seen as the province of the privateer, the individual who casually arrives with his/her bicycle stowed in the back of a station-wagon, changing in the passenger seat and hammering round the course with scarcely a care in the world. but, while i've no doubt that still happens, for a concerted 'cross season, does richard figure it would be possible to undertake it without commercial sponsors?

"The UCI C1 and C2 events that we do? Hmm... It would take a small fortune to do all of this independently and without a support system similar to the one we have in place. America is a large continent, and the traveling alone consumes a major part of the budget."

richard sachs cyclocross team

as one with no competitive thoughts, either with cycling in general or cyclocross in particular, my life is gratifyingly free from the constituent parts enforced by any sort of race programme. however, on the basis that the scenario of a respectful queue of sponsors knocking on mr sachs' front door is highly unlikely, does the search for and connection with existing and potential sponsors take up a large chunk of his non-framebuilding time?

"No. There's a connection made at the front end, with each sponsor and after the commitment is made, I email periodically to ensure we're connecting all the dots as planned. But really, it doesn't consume a large block of time."

i'm sure that richard's experience of the above differs substantially from many of the larger teams, both in north america and in continental europe, but from personal experience, i would think that can be traced back to his desire to 'give good brand'. you only have to meet the man to realise just how true this is. but based on his own experience in such matters, is there any one aspect of cyclocross that he thinks would encourage more potential sponsors to view the sport more favourably?

richard sachs cyclocross team

"There's an arena aspect to the niche. Everything that happens almost happens within view. There's the fact that all events are one hour or less. There's the autumn and early winter too - the best time to be outside and take in the entertainment factor that 'cross delivers. The discipline is a perfect sidebar to the larger bicycle racing narrative that many know from the Tour and other more mainstream races."

no matter where you live, #crossiscoming. in view of richard's lengthy involvement with the sport and the continued faith shown both by his riders and sponsors, the richard sachs cyclocross team has already succeeded before a single tyre has become clogged with mud. and as long as that remains the case, all is well with the (cyclocross) world.

richard sachs | house industries | nokia health

all photos ©richard sachs.

monday 11 september 2017

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................