Former Superbike world champion Ben Spies has such a firm grip on the ins and outs of bike racing, one could not be faulted for thinking he was a seasoned professional.
The 29-year-old Texas native is still fairly new in the world of cycling, yet he is a Cat. 1 racer, and most notably, he started the successful Elbowz Racing team, which, in its rookie season in 2011, won more than 70 races.
Spies’ name will ring a bell to those familiar with motorcycle racing. He had every intention of setting a record or two in America, but his career as a motorcycle road racer went further than he could have ever imagined. Spies won the AMA Superbike national championship for in 2006, and successfully defended his title in 2007, and again in 2008. He then went on to win the world Superbike championship in 2009, which he describes as nothing more than “a big dream.”
Even with motorcycle racing at the forefront, Spies began cycling as a way to get in shape, beginning nearly a decade ago, as he came to the harsh reality that racers’ bodies do not get better with age. So with that, he started riding, realizing that not only did he love it, he was pretty good as well.
“The mixture of two wheels, and competitiveness, fueled my desire to race more and more,” Spies said.
Despite the difference in the physics and dynamics of bike racing and motorcycle racing, there are also similarities, in body position, and in the accompanying adrenaline rush.
Spies’ zeal for cycling quickly developed into pure passion — the very same passion seen on the motorcycle. Just ask Sean Estes, global public relations manager at Specialized. Estes worked in sports marketing for motorcycle racing at Easton-Bell Sports from 2006-2011, and reached out to Spies when he was at the pinnacle of his career. After starting with Specialized, Estes stayed in touch with Spies and became aware that he was, “always thinking about cycling, and wanted a new chapter in his life.”
Recognizing the enormous potential and admirable direction Spies sought after for Elbowz, Specialized hopped on board and set the team up with everything it needed to get the cranks turning.
The team took its name from Spies’ nickname, Elbowz, for his unprecedented “elbows out” riding style. (See more on Elbowz’s website.)
The appreciation Spies has for Estes and Specialized is immense — because it indicated support for the growth of the Elbowz team, and because it allowed the development squad to take off in a professional manner. While Elbowz is an amateur team, it is very important to Spies that the team keeps everything clean and organized.
“When we go to the races, I drill home with the guys that we are a ‘WorldTour amateur team,’” Spies said. “Insofar as the way we go about kit design, the look of the team, how we keep the pits … we just keep everything clean and professional. Even if it’s not a WorldTour team, we run it tight, because it goes a long way to set a good example at races.”
Elbowz Racing and the drive behind the team is an entirely other dimension of Ben Spies’ career and his involvement with cycling.
“I wanted to start a Continental team to give young riders a chance to race at the next level,” he said. The team isn’t reserved just for younger riders, though, which is part of the allure.
The 2014 roster is comprised of Spies and director Justin Reddell, as well as Justin Stanley, Colin Strickland, Tony Baca, Stefan Rothe, Michael Lalla, Adam Koble, and Jacob White. The team’s roster for North Star Grand Prix even featured cyclocross champion Jeremy Powers, guest riding with the squad.
In a short time, Elbowz has racked up some impressive results. In 2011 it was the second-ranked amateur team in the U.S, and second in the USACrits series team standings. The team took a stage win at the 2013 Joe Martin Stage Race, by newly crowned national road champion Eric Marcotte (now with SmartStop); 2014 has proven to be successful thus far, with a handful of podium finishes.
The development of Elbowz, and Spies’ involvement in the cycling community, goes beyond racing; in early June an exciting partnership was announced with Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to promote bicycle safety in 2015.
Spies told VeloNews “Through innovative methods and extensive exposure, the team [Elbowz] will be sharing a message of safety, the importance of helmets, and providing educational opportunities to the public.”
More information on the partnership between Elbowz Racing TxDOT will be available as the program progresses further.