In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes. -Andy Warhol
A couple of weeks ago, we received an email from our friend and former pro cyclist Michael Engleman. He was putting together a pro women's composite team for the Colorado Classic and wanted to know if we might have socks to match their Team Affinity kits. If so might we be interested in supplying the team?
Upon inquiring Michael wrote, “First response I got back from the ladies, across the board, when they saw the kit was how will we find socks to match?!!!!’”
As luck (and timing) would have it, our three new limited edition sock models had just arrived from Italy the week prior and one of them – the Red Racer - appeared to be a near perfect match.
“Michael,” I wrote, “I do have one that might match and would look pretty fast and race-y. It’s in fact, called Red Racer. It’s a tall sock though and the ladies need to be down with tall socks. Unwashed it measures 7” though it could be shrunk down to 6” with a good wash & dry. We don’t even have photos yet as they literally just arrived so am sending this pdf. We haven’t even had time to take them for our own shake-out spin. The red on the sock is probably a perfect match to the red of the kit. If you like the sock, that’s a big YES from me.“
Three days later Michael wrote, “The ladies of Team Affinity LOVE the red socks!!! Let’s do this!”
For us, this was a nice opportunity to get some exposure. We were far from green when it came to sponsorship and exposure having worked with brands whose backsides were famous for their bizarre phonetic spelling of the word physique, a word when plastered across your ass suggested you were somehow of a certain cycling pedigree – even if you were only a Cat 4.
This wasn’t that. But still it felt even bigger because it was MINT. It was our thing, our little sock brand built upon the foundation of donating a buck to NICA for every pair sold.
A few days later, Engleman’s roster showed up and it looked something like this:
Mia Kilburg USA (pro cyclist/2018 Olympic Speedskating Bronze Medalist)
Leigh Ann Ganzar USA (2018 Pro Crit Champ)
Olivia Cummins USA (just turned 15 yo)
Rachel Langdon GB (superstar in the making)
Jessica Bonilla Mex (Mexico National Track Team member)
Interesting roster, yes. We’d seen Mia skating her way to a bronze medal over the winter and we knew that Leigh Ann had just captured some stars and bars, but the reality was, it didn’t matter who was racing, we wanted credibility. We wanted to be in the peloton. We needed to be legitimized.
Ten days later, the Red Racer was delivered to the team. We threw the new Da Vino into the mix also, hoping the ladies might want to switch out their socks, don something minty fresh. Within several hours of the socks arriving, images began to arrive from the team. One of the ladies on the original roster, Pip Sutton, was out with an injury, unable to race and was doing media and sponsorship outreach duty. And she was nailing it.
Suddenly, everything mattered even more. It mattered because it mattered to them. This was a composite team, pieced together by one of the former Coors Light Team members, who once raced alongside the likes of Phinney, Keifel and Knickman – to name but a few. It was pretty clear from the start that it mattered to Engleman. Every email I’d ever received from him resonated passion. With him behind them, I could only assume that such passion would be either shared by simulation or would be, simply, contagious.
Quickly, it was clear, Team Affinity wasn’t just there to race but were there to show up for those who’d invested, even for someone as little as us – literally the smallest level of investment that one could make. And then it mattered even more to us - and yes, it mattered WHO raced.
It’s unbelievable what transpires when people have an affinity for another – when they have some sort of relationship, when people show up for the other. Things that didn’t matter yesterday mattered today. It mattered that Pip Sutton came all the way from Australia even though she couldn’t race due to injury, ready to plug into a media and sponsor outreach role. It mattered that 15 year-old Olivia Cummins (15 years old and racing with the pros!) didn’t make the Stage 1 time-cut. It mattered that Rachel Langdon finished 5th that same day, and it mattered that Leigh Ann Ganzar rounded out the top ten for the Stage 2 Time Trial.
But it really mattered that these women lined up for Saturday’s Stage 3 on a mission. It wasn’t the victory they’d envisioned but they made themselves known in every points sprint and in our minds, came up big with the Most Aggressive jersey. Leigh Ann Ganzar and Team Affinity – YOU ARE OUR VERY FIRST 15 MINUTES OF FAME and you are now Chapter 1 of our history. We couldn’t be more stoked. Thanks for making it matter.