Meet Anna and Lisa, riders and leaders of our partners over at STKD Racing Squad.
STKD races in the category 3 designation of criterium racing. Schwinn has partnered with them to help amplify their mission of providing mentors, advocacy, and inclusivity within the industry, and an elevated team racing experience to women in cycling. (Oh, and we threw in some custom Fastback carbon road bikes for the whole team.)
We sat down with Anna and Lisa of the STKD squad to learn more about how they got involved in crit racing, what the squad’s biggest strength is, and what their tips are for people who are looking to get started.
Hey Anna and Lisa! Tell us a bit about yourselves and your involvement with STKD Racing squad.
Anna: Anna is the Owner & Manager of STKD Racing Squad and is a true crit racing junkie. She first discovered the sport through the world of triathlons (back in 2016) and hasn’t looked back since. She is a champion of inclusivity, equality, and aims to break barriers, push industry norms, and challenge the status quo. When not riding or racing bikes, Anna uses her creative superpowers to drum up new business as a Business Development Executive at Slalom.
Lisa: Lisa is a project manager and has been road racing since 2016. She loves nothing more than animating a race with sneak attacks and throwing down for a sprint finish. Lisa accidentally ended up in charge of a bike racing team in 2018 and is now happily putting that energy towards STKD. Lisa Co-Manages STKD Racing Squad and is committed to breaking down barriers to growth in Women’s Cycling.
What does the name “STKD” mean and how did you come up with it?
Anna: Contrary to some of the really great acronyms we've heard people come up with, STKD (pronounced "stoked") is short for the word "stoked." Since one of our key racing concepts is to "choose our watts wisely," we wanted to distill the word to its most short form without losing the integrity of what it means. The word and concept "stoked" aligns to our mission around creating energy and space for women to dream big, push industry boundaries, and ultimately help bridge the gap between amateaur and pro cycling.
Can you describe what crit racing is and how it works?
Anna: According to Merriam-Webster, a criterium (crit for short) is: “a bicycle race of a specified number of laps on a closed course over public roads closed to normal traffic.”
But really, crit racing is so much more. Crit races are timed events that last between 30-90 minutes (depending on competition category) and speeds vary based on weather conditions, course elements, prize money, and competition levels. The winner of a crit race is the first rider who crosses the finish line at the end of a race without having been “lapped.”
For more info on what crit racing is and how to get started, visit Anna's long-form Schwinn blog post all about crit racing!
How did you first get involved in crit racing as an adult?
Anna: The truth is, there isn’t really one simple answer to that question. Rather, it was a serendipitous course of events that led me to the sport followed by the ongoing support and encouragement I receive from my friends, family, coach, and community that keeps me going and allows me to dream bigger. I'd like to take credit for finding this lovely sport, but in all honesty, the sport found me.
Lisa: I started bike racing at all because there was a local event put on by women, for women, and I wanted to help my community out by proving "if you build it, they will come." Much to my surprise, it turned out I love racing. I did a whole season of cyclocross which I was sure was "my thing" and then decided to do the first crit of the year to prove that "I don't like crits" and oh boy was I wrong. I did one race and was instantly hooked. Turns out crits were my thing after all.
What has your experience been like as women in the crit racing world?
Anna: Encouraging. Disappointing. Enthusiastic. Frustrating. Empowering. Exhausting. Fulfilling. <-- All words that accurately describe my roller-coaster of an experience and emotions as a woman in the world of crit racing. Some people who know me might say I'm mildly obsessed with crit racing, and to be fair, that's probably a fair assessment. I want every woman who wants to be here to have equitable opportunities to show up, push their own boundaries / dreams / goals, and experience the magic of racing bikes. I'm incredibly grateful and humbled to continuously get the opportunity to learn and grow through this sport, take action for things and areas that need improvement, and to pass my knowledge and support on to other women. From my first crit to now, it's been a wild ride, and one I'm still thrilled to be on. We've got a lot of space and room to grow, but I'm here for the long-haul.
Lisa: Frustrating, but also brilliant. I've loved the experience of pushing myself to my max and seeing what my body can do. I've loved learning how to feel the pulse of a race and when to make a go for it. I've loved the relationships I've formed in the community and truly believe we've got one of the best cycling scenes in the US right here in the Chicago area.
However, there are times when it is exhausting to be fighting the same battles over and over again with promoters. I've led more than one letter writing campaign to get equal access to prize money and race fields as men are granted. I've had the same discussions about creating welcoming environments multiple times to be told that the reason there isn't equity for women is some variation of "women just don't care about cycling". It can be truly exhausting, but I'm so energized by the ways that narrative seems to be changing. My goal is to make sure that every woman who enters the sport after me has an even more positive experience in it.
What is STKD Racing Squad’s biggest strength?
Our greatest strength is how deeply we believe in our riders. We believe that given the right tools, we can do amazing things. From excellent mentorship from current and past pros to having a home base and deep squad of talent, we're all working towards the same goal of getting the best possible outcome for each individual rider and the team. We show up in force, race smart, and make things happen. Even when our plans aren't working, we're still learning. Each lesson learned ends with a stronger rider who's then able to elevate future races, riders, teams, and our entire sport.
How do you train for race season?
Training for race season is a bit of an art and a science, and an on-going process. In the months leading up to our first race day, we spend a lot of time biking inside on our trainers building our "base miles." These "base miles" serve as the foundation to our season and are extremely important building blocks. As we start approaching race day, we'll start incorporating more specific workouts that improve our overall fitness. Since you can't be in peak shape all season, a lot of us also work with our coaches to strategically plan for which races we want to designate as "A, B, or C." This helps us plan around our goals for the season and ensures we're tapering training accordingly. Most of us train with a coach for at least 3 months prior to race season and for the duration of the race season. During the build up to a "peak," that might mean 15 hours a week (or more) of riding. The "off season" is usually spent doing fun outdoor miles and some serious lifting in the gym. Finding the right magical balance for you is much easier with a professional on your side.
What is your favorite thing about the custom frame Schwinn road bikes the team has received for this year’s race season?
Anna: Besides the smooth ride, my favorite thing about rocking our Schwinn Fastback bikes are the rad custom colors. It's been a dream come true partnering with Schwinn on this dream, and I'm thrilled to see what kind of a ripple effect this opportunity will have on women's racing and in our community in the months and years to come.
Lisa: This bike really, truly fits me! I'm 5'2" and it's much harder to do that than you might think. I've been putting it through its paces and it handles like a champ, even on some of Chicago's potholed roads, plus with that paint job I can't help but feel really super strong and super fast. Most of all, nothing feels more awesome than outsprinting someone as they yell, "Was that a Schwinn?!?!?"
What are your goals for STKD Squad this year?
Anna: First and foremost, we're looking forward to getting back to racing and safely toeing the line with our friends and community. Like other sports, most (if not all) of our races were cancelled due to the pandemic last year. This season will be a success if we show up, be kind, race hard, and repeat.
What is your advice for people who are interested in getting involved in crit racing or who want to learn more about it?
Anna: A great place to start is by tapping into your local group riding / racing scene. A really great place to try this is by showing up to spectate a local race. If you can, try to talk to someone who has just finished a race. I know I can be hyper focused while I'm still warming up to race, but I'll talk your ear off if you'll let me after I've finished for the day. You can also tap into your local community by word of mouth, through a local bike shop, or by searching online forums (even social media). While some groups may have specific riding requirements, beginner groups will typically offer up important basic safety tips, bike handling clinics, and hands-on drafting practice—all skills you’ll need for your first crit race!
Another benefit to tapping into local groups means you won’t be alone on race day (whoot whoot!) and they’ll likely be able to point you in the direction of some good, local beginner races.
Once you’ve found a race or two you’d like to enter (or you’re simply looking to find more local races near you), you’ll want to snag either a one-day or annual race license from USA Cycling and then register for the specific race through BikeReg.com. Not all races will fall under the above resources, but both are great places to start.
The last few pieces of advice we'll leave you with are 1. Relax 2. Race hard 3. Repeat (!!!)
To keep up with what STKD Racing Squad is doing both on and off the bike, follow them on Instagram @stkd_racing_squad and be sure to check out the team photographer at @snowymoutainphotography.
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