Featured Interview with Kelly Barrientes, Team Manager of Wolfpack p/b Hyperthreads

Wolfpack p/b hyperthreads Photo credit:   Michael Johnson

Wolfpack p/b hyperthreads Photo credit:  Michael Johnson

If you live in the Austin area or have traveled to a recent Spring Classic race in Texas, there's a good chance you've come across these fast racers in green and black aka the women of Wolfpack. They have kicked off road season with a bang, recently stepping up to multiple podiums in the Pace Bend and Lago Vista road races. What also makes us proud as sponsors is what they continue to do for women's cycling. Created in the Fall of 2014, Wolfpack has developed into a solid 8 women elite squad and 10 women club team out of Austin, Texas. Giving back to the sport, this team sets a great example for any women looking to get into cycling or starting a team. We interview Wolfpack Team Manager, Kelly Barrientes to learn more on what Wolfpack is all about.

kelly Barrientes, wolfpack team manager Photo credit:  Michael Johnson


Cantu Cycling Wheels [CW]:  Kelly, thank you for taking the time for this interview. To begin, what sort of sporting background did you have growing up?

Kelly Barrientes [KB]:  I was a jack of all trades and a master of none! I loved competing, and was lucky to go to a very small school where I could be involved in any sport I wanted. I ran track (very slowly), played basketball, ran cross country, and played volleyball. 

CW: When did you take up cycling and what got you into it?

KB:  I was an aerobics coordinator for LA Fitness and my cycle instructor quit and I had to start teaching the class. I had only taken one cycling class in my life and had HATED it. The teacher was playing show tunes and it was torture. Once I started teaching the class, I fell in love. About a year later one of my friends told me to quit being a poser and ride out on the road. One Sunday we went on a 20 mile ride and the next day I bought my first road bike. Three months later I started racing!

CW:  When and how did the team Athlete Architecture/Wolfpack get its start?

KB:  I had been on a women’s only team based in Ft. Worth that was going to merge with a men’s team. I was living in Austin and felt very strongly that I wanted to be part of a women’s only team, so I called up my coach (Chris Toriggino with Athlete Architecture) and asked him if I could start my own team and wear his kit. It was super late to start a team (November 2014), but I managed to convince the girls to join me on this new adventure and never looked back!

CW:  What does the roll team manager entail? What do you enjoy about the team dynamics?

KB:  I’m basically the team mom! I handle securing sponsorships and maintaining sponsor relations, team finances, selecting team members, coordinating our major races outside of Texas, support at races, basically doing what I can to make the girls lives easier so they have the freedom to train, show up, and crush at races! I couldn’t be happier with the group I have. The girls work so incredibly well together. It’s a well oiled machine. I’ve been lucky to have kept the same girls I started with and have hand picked the ones I’ve added over the years with a focus on personality and how they would gel with the other teammates. I genuinely love each and every girl on this team, and it makes my job so much easier!

CW:  What are some challenges you’ve come across when creating a team?

KB:  I would say the biggest challenge for me is finding time to do it all. I’m a mom of two boys, a wife, and work a full time job, so finding time to manage the team and make it look relatively easy has required many late nights and lots of tears lol. My poor husband. I’m also actually super introverted and tend to stay very much to myself. It has been very difficult at times to open myself up and assume that PR role that being a manager entails. I have grown immensely the past year and couldn’t/wouldn’t do it if it weren’t for the support of my family and the girls.

CW:  What inspires you throughout the journey as a team manager?

KB:  Seeing the girls race together is such an inspiration. I believe in them and know together they can accomplish anything. There is nothing like seeing them kitted up, rocking the wolf logo, knowing they believe in this dream of mine as much as I do.

CW:  We’re extremely impressed by the commitment of each rider on the team. Tell us a little bit of about how your riders are able to balance a work and racing schedule.

KB:  These girls are amazing. They will get up at 5 in the morning to train for a few hours before heading off to their jobs or school. A lot of times they’ll incorporate their commute into their training plan. They’ve been super motivated this season, in part due to the USA Crits series the team is involved in.

CW:  Can you give us a quick overview on some of the big races you’ll be traveling to this year?

KB:  So many exciting things are in store! One of the biggest races on our schedule is Joe Martin Stage Race in April. This is a UCI race, so many of the pro teams will be battling it out on the hills in Fayetteville, Arkansas. We are also going to be one of the 10 D1 teams to race in the USA Crits Series.

CW:  Congratulations on being a part of USA Crits! Can you tell us more about the series and #racefororange?

KB:  Thank you!!! We are so excited about being a part of this incredible program. We will be one of 10 “D1” teams participating in this series. This is USA Crits 11th year and what they do is kind of piggy back on to some very well established criterium races all over the country, such as Athens Twilight, Oklahoma City Pro Am, and Gateway Cup. We will be competing against 9 other teams for a part of the $50,000 purse for the women alone. What sets this series apart is the ability for our friends, family and supporters to watch us via live stream for each of these races. Look for the link to subscribe so you can watch us toe the line and compete for the leader’s jersey!

CW:  What are some team goals you have this year that you can share?

KB:  Mainly to continue to gel and show our competitors we aren’t here to just show up, we’re here to race. 

CW:  Off the bike, your team gives back to the cycling community through hosting bike maintenance and racer clinics to rides. Tell us more about that and how important it is.

KB:  We have been super lucky to have partnered with Bicycle Sport Shop here in Austin for this season. They are well known for their support of the Austin cycling community and especially for women cyclists. I remember when I first started riding I was completely clueless about how to take care of my bike, what to do when I got a flat, how to ride, how to race. It was overwhelming, and had I not had a few great friends to guide me along the way (and a stubborn ‘I can do anything’ attitude) I would have been lost in the shuffle and my bike would have collected dust in my garage. It’s very much a male dominated sport. A lot of times women racers can appear unapproachable to beginner female cyclists. What I have loved about hosting these clinics with Bicycle Sport Shop is:
They have locations all over Austin. We aren’t just limited to women in the downtown area! We can reach those who live north of Mopac and 183, and even in the suburbs of Cedar Park, Round Rock, and Leander!
We all have things to learn. After racing and riding for 8 years, I have learned something new at every maintenance/race clinic we’ve held.
This whole process has been so empowering to these women. I have received many messages from the participants saying how much more comfortable they feel taking care of their bike and how motivated they are to ride harder, ride longer, and ride smarter.

CW:  Where do you want to see women's cycling progress a year from now?

KB:  My dream is to have at least twice as many women out there riding their bikes! I would LOVE to see more women “opt outside”, more women’s events, more competitive women’s only teams. I get so excited when I see these women’s teams popping up on the scene. 

CW:  What has been the best advice you’ve been given?

KB:  “Walk as if.” If you want something, assume it’s yours and claim it. 

CW:  If someone was interested in starting a team, what are some important factors to take into consideration?

KB:  Personalities are number one. Having people that you could ride with for 100 miles and still want to hang out with for some grub afterwards is key. Also, set a precedence for your team. A lot of racers out there have the mentality of “what can you give me?” Turn that around and have the racers focus on how they can give back to their sponsors. We wouldn’t be where we are without their support.

CW:  Where can people follow you and the team?
Watch us race at http://usacrits.tv/
Follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WolfpackRacingATX/
Instagram @teamwolfpackracing
Twitter @atxwolfpack
Website (coming soon!!!) atxwolfpack.com

Thank you for your time! We look forward to cheering you on and wish you and the team the best of luck this season!

Photo credit:  Michael Johnson

The 2017 Dirty Kanza 200

This past June, I completed my first Dirty Kanza 200, riding a custom set of Cantu Wheels built by my husband John and my trusty steel frame bike "Bumblebee" built by our friend, Hans Schneider. Here is my story...

riding through the jagged, sharp gravel of the flint hills. Photo:  matt Fowler/Gravel guru

**Article by Venny Wilmeth, first published in the Texas Racing Post. Video and Newspaper Article to follow.

The wonder and reward of the Dirty Kanza belongs to anyone who goes looking for it. Somewhere between a bustling start and the finish of a 200 mile race, limits are either made or broken. The Dirty Kanza is just as much a personal conquest as it is the Super Bowl of gravel events.

I first caught the gravel bug at Gravel Worlds in August of 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. 150 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing. There was a buzz in the air about the Dirty Kanza. 200 miles? I’m good. Who is crazy enough to ride 200 miles? I can’t ride 200 miles.

I laugh because five months later I proved myself wrong and signed up in January. There came the nerves clicking the ‘Register’ button. Luckily no hesitation because it sold out in less than an hour. One click and my journey to Kanza had begun. My husband was not so lucky. His category sold out within 13 minutes! He would settle for next year and be my one man support crew for this year’s journey.

The Dirty Kanza (DK200) celebrated its 12th anniversary and has grown to more than 2,000 participants. The town of Emporia, Kansas becomes a holy grail for any gravel rider. This is what happens when a the community is engaged and involved. The entire experience is not possible without them and it’s one of the reasons, if not the main one, why people come back for more.

The Dirty Kanza 200 is 206 mile course with roughly 9,000 feet of climbing. You are self-supported and self-navigated riding through remote and rugged regions given any weather conditions. No support is allowed along the course. There are three check-points where you can refuel and replenish with your support crew.

12 weeks of training, lots of mental preparation, hundreds of solo miles ridden (what I call character building miles), many miles with friends, and dozens of articles and videos later. The big day had finally arrived.

My first goal was to finish. I thought 16 hours was good, well safe, goal time averaging roughly around 13 mph. A bigger goal was to complete the Race the Sun challenge and finish before the sunset at 8:42 pm.

The start to an amazing day

I can’t think about the start without getting the chills. With a 6 a.m. start, riders start filling Commercial Street beginning at 5 a.m. in the morning. The broadway lights of the Historic Granada Theater serve as a beacon to the start line. We take a moment to celebrate the weather, because shockingly enough rain and thunderstorms had crawled along the forecast up until the day previous. What a break! Dawn is breaking, smiles, and sighs. “5 minutes to the start!” My stomach drops. I feel a sense of accomplishment just getting to this place. The countdown begins 5…4...3…2…1 “Let’s roll!”

This was the first of many cloud nine moments throughout the day. Around 2,200 riders rolled down Commercial Street escorted by police for the neutral start. Friends, family, and locals lined the streets cheering us on as we headed out of town to the gravel roads. The pros were up front leading the pack. I was about 40 seconds back playing it safe, knowing I would have to save my matches for later. The first section of gravel roads were hard packed. Everyone quickly organized themselves into one of the two pace lines that the road allowed room for. Trying to get around riders was tricky with looser gravel surrounding us. I trusted my skills and moved safely up when I had the opportunity.

winding gravel through the flint hills. photo:  Matt fowler/gravel guru

After mile ten I was opened up to a new country, the Flint Hills of Kansas. Open range, rugged, and rolling hills as far as the horizon. At the top of the climbs you could see the most stunning views of the sunrise, hazy blues mixed in with the peachy glows. Pinch me. I couldn’t be mesmerized too long. The Flints Hills is also infamous for flats. Given that the Native Americans used flint rock for arrowheads, one cannot be too zealous bombing down the fast, gnarly descents. I remember our friend saying, “Respect the descents and watch your line.” There were some drop offs where you couldn’t see the steepness of the slope until right before you came upon it. Large sharp edged chunks of rock awaited for you at the top, the bottom, and sometimes in between. At the bottom, several riders would be pulled over fixing flats. Respectfully, I descended.

Around mile 30 we were coming out of the Flint Hills and ranching region to more familiar fast gravel roads. I felt good and eventually joined onto a pace line. We averaged about a 20 mph hot pace into the first checkpoint in Madsion - mile 48. A welcoming crowd awaited us at Madision High School. My husband, John, quickly escorted me to the van to refuel. My face was all covered in dry Kansas dust. I splashed water on myself, drank a can of coconut juice, and restocked rice cakes and gels while John checked my bike and re-lubed my chain. After a quick bite, I was off.

staying hydrated and riding with a good group through the first leg. photo:  matt fowler/Gravel guru

refueling at checkpoint 1 in madison

56 miles to the next check point in Eureka. Three miles after leaving Madision, I feel like I’m missing something. I reach a hand behind and slap my back. Nothing there. “I forgot my CamelBak!” I decided not to turn around and make the best out my two water bottles I had. I start riding with a small group of 4 and the guy up front starts talking about Texaco Hill. He points off to the distance. “See that tiny tower, we’ve got a hard four mile climb ahead of us.” If it was one thing I felt good about, it was climbing. I had trained for this and felt prepared with a 46/36 chainring paired with an 11-28 cassette. I climbed a higher cadence than most and mixed in some out of saddle riding while staying in good rhythm. I survived Texaco Hill with energy to spare. Another tough climb was Teter Hill. It was long and steep, some people had to get off and walk their bike up. Ten miles from the Eureka awaited one last kicker. This one was a rough and steep, two-punch climb. I climbed around the bend and my head tilted up to see the top of another arduous climb. People were hiking their bikes left and right. I could here grunts of determination behind me. The last five feet to the crest, I begin inching my way forward using every part of my body to keep the pedals turning over. A group was cheering us on at the top. Once over the climb I quickly recovered and started tackling down the rollers that lay before me. They were nothing compared to the previous climbs. I soon found myself working in a fast pace line with 6 other friendly faces. We encouraged each other and communicated as we rolled into Eureka. Coming into checkpoint 2 (mile 104) we parted our ways to our support crew. I hoped to see them again.

Leaving the checkpoint, I didn’t forget my CamelBak this time. John helped me replenish with Pedialyte and it worked well. I was never extremely thirsty or hungry. After 104 miles, I was in good shape. Going into the third leg (miles 104-162) I was optimistic at first, but it became a slow drag and my mental energy went south. The third leg has been describe as some of the following descriptions: the dark place, where you’re mentally trying to climb out of the hole, dying a million deaths, and fighting demons. Fortunately, I had that little voice in my head. “Forward progress.” After all it was demoralizing to look down and see my speed under 10 mph. I thought about all my friends and family that were cheering for me back at home. I thought about how my husband was not going to let me quit. We were in this together. Quit wasn’t in our vocabulary for this journey, but it grazed my mind. My hopes to beat the sun were diminishing. “I just want to finish.” There were not many trains or pacelines created. Everyone seemed to be in their own solitary confinement, fighting cramps, overcoming mechanicals, or fixing their fourth flat. It was a long 58 miles.

trying to recover at the last checkpoint in Madison.

I came out of that hole once the town of Madison was in sight. The last and final checkpoint! Recovering from a demoralizing 3rd leg of the course, John looked at me, “You can do this, you can still beat the sun.” I had just under 3.5 hours to cover the last 45 miles, seems reasonable, but after 162 miles anything can happen. I was physically and mentally beat. Then suddenly a spark. Two guys pass me and we start pushing each other. We start working together to stay on pace, a small pain train was then created of 6 riders with one goal in mind, Race the Sun. The uplifting camaraderie of the gravel culture was in full force. It was suspenseful and hurtful, to watch the sun creep closer to the horizon while putting everything I had into each pedal stroke. Our pain train dwindled down to two riders, me and Steve. This was Steve’s fifth Dirty Kanza 200 on a fat bike. This would be his first time to beat the sun. Eight miles out and we’re making good time. Don't flat. Don't flat. Don't flat. Four miles out, the sun is just above the horizon. I was overcome with emotions seeing the town of Emporia.

steve cannon full speed ahead!

“We're going to do this!” I thought. I got goosebumps passing under the iconic I-35 tunnel coming onto the Emporia State University campus. That's when I could hear the loud speakers and crowd from downtown. I forgot about the pain, I was on cloud nine once again. One more hill then we winded through campus. The main street of Emporia was electric in the air. We approached the finishing chute down Commercial Street, lined with family, friends, and the fans roaring with pride, cowbells and high fives left and right. That feeling I will never forget. We beat the sun. I gave my husband a big dirty hug after crossing the finish line. I had finished my first Dirty Kanza 200. And yes, I plan on coming back next year for another unforgettable experience.

DONE!

covered in kansas dirt from head to toe. not ashamed.

It took about a day or so for it to sink  what I had accomplished. 

It took about a day or so for it to sink  what I had accomplished. 

Bumblebee post dk