Gavin Hoover is a Tokyo Olympian with USA Cycling who won the UCI’s new Track Champions League series, which had rounds in Mallorca, Lithuania, and London. He has been sharing his experiences here in A Racer’s View.
I reached out to Justin and Cory Williams the day after the Olympics. I didn’t really know what I wanted out of my cycling career immediately after achieving a goal I’d been single mindedly focused on for the last five years, but I knew I wanted to be somewhere I could have fun.
I made it pretty clear to them that I was either going to be at L39ION, or I wouldn’t be on a team. Reaching the Olympics required giving away so much of myself, every day was spoken for, eight people checked in on what I’d done and made adjustments hourly. It was the only way to actually be able to compete at an event like the Olympics, but no part of me wanted to continue cycling in a way where I had to routinely give up complete autonomy over my own life.
Luckily for me, I grew up racing and riding in Southern California with Justin and Cory. I’ve known them since I was 14 or 15. They’d regularly do training sessions at the track while I was coming up through the junior categories. So I just happened to have an “in” with the hottest team in cycling, coming off an Olympic Games. It still took a lot of pushing, and some of the results I put up on the track while we were going back and forth definitely helped. But when Cory called me to finalize a contract it felt like coming home.
Walking into team camp immediately confirmed that I’d made the right choice, and been lucky enough to have them see what I could bring. Cycling environments, or any elite sport environment, are typically not the most welcoming. You’re normally in competition with the people around you, for roster spots, race days and a contract next year. It makes it a hard place to be an authentic version of yourself, you’re always keeping something close to your chest.
I was meeting most of the guys on the team for the first time, but everyone was extremely welcoming. You could feel the genuine enthusiasm for the sport and an understanding that everyone involved knew what the negatives of cycling can be and wanted this environment to be different, along the mission that L39ION is bringing to American cycling. It’s been a welcome change of pace for me.
The team chilling at a coffee stop on the first ride of camp, an easier day dedicated to riding with team partners and sponsors.
Team photographer/manager/general everyman Kit Karzen wearing eight different hats, including getting everyone organized for the ride.
Cory Williams masked up and chains on before a ride.
Sam Boardman and Lance Haidet chatting before one of the bigger training days.
Justin and Cory Williams relaxing in the room.
Team photoshoots meant we had a barber come in and give everyone a trim in the hotel room.
Justin Williams throwing a football to his brother in between media appointments.
Kit Karzen in his makeshift portrait studio erected in one of the hotel rooms.
Sean McElroy rolling off after a stop on one of the bigger training days.
The team out training in the Santa Monica mountains.
Justin Williams behind the scenes with Zipp for the wheel brand’s YouTube series, “Making you Faster.” It’s cool to have partners that are genuinely excited about the team they’re working with and actively want to engage with you.
Justin Williams steals a moment between different video shoots as we prepare to ride.
Sam Boardman and Hunter Grove staying warm in the team van before a local evening crit practice.
Alexis Ryan makes adjustments to her bike while everyone lounges around waiting for the day to get started. With nearly 20 riders this year, the small logistics add up.
Cory and CJ Williams.