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VN Podcast: Putting Arkansas on cycling’s map with Brendan Quirk

Brendan Quirk's rise — from Competitive Cyclist and Rapha to working with the Waltons and USA Cycling — tracks with the rise in importance of his home state for cycling.

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Arkansas has become a hotbed for American cycling for a few reasons, and Brendan Quirk is one of them.

Newly elected as USA Cycling’s chairman of the board, Quirk talks on the VeloNews Podcast about his career’s trajectory, and exactly how and why his home state of Arkansas is booming for cycling.

Quirk co-founded Competitive Cyclist in Little Rock, Arkansas, and grew it from a two-man bike shop into a major online player. After selling Competitive Cyclist to Backcountry.com, he became president of Rapha North America, helping grow that brand in the U.S., and then took the helm at Allied Cycle Works, which builds carbon bikes in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Arkansas, meanwhile, has become a major player in cycling, with millions of dollars invested in trails and cycling infrastructure, and brands like Rapha North America and Allied calling the state home. In a span of 12 months, the Natural State has hosted or will host major road, gravel, mountain bike, and cyclocross races — including the upcoming ’cross world championships where Walmart has signed on as title sponsor.

Which leads to another major connection point between Quirk, Arkansas, and cycling importance — the Walton family.

Tom and Steuart Walton, grandsons of Walmart founder Sam Walton, have made an impact in cycling via their investment in brands like Rapha and Allied, and through the Runway Group that they founded more than 10 years ago to develop Northwest Arkansas with a focus on healthy outdoor recreation. Quirk worked for the Runway Group for a few years as cycling program director.

Now, Quirk chairs the board of USA Cycling, steering the direction of the governing body of American bike racing.

In this podcast, Quirk talks about the importance of bike racing as a focal point, but also how he sees it as vital to make cycling accessible to as many people as possible.

But first, we check in with Sadhbh O’Shea about a French police-led study into drug use among Tour de France riders, and then we speak with Betsy Welch, who is just back from racing in and reporting on Big Sugar Gravel in Arkansas.