Monday, December 20, 2010

Rookie of the Year

Joy at one of the first Waffle Crosses at Wheelworks in Belmont. Also pictured are Starr and Andy Huff

I can still remember a conversation I had with SBZ last winter about developing the women's side of the team for Hup New England. I jokingly would refer to her as DS of Hup Feminine. It was obvious to me that something had to be done as we only had two women on the team for as long as I had been on Hup. Two fantastic women mind you but still we needed to put some focus on that side of the team. The two of them, Meg and Kerry were and still are two of my greatest mentors. They keep me focused, keep my head from spinning off my body and are always a great sounding board for anything Hup related. Last year at 24 hrs of Great Glen Kerry singlehandedly saved our 4-person expert team from cracking to pieces at about 2 a.m. She was a huge part of why we had such a great race. But I digress. Back to that ride with SBZ. A bunch of us met in Lexington for a long ride in January. It was maybe 20 degrees, there was black ice on the tarmac and we rode a slow easy pace. It lent itself to conversation. You had to do something to take your mind of the pain of frozen hands and feet. During that ride I asked a lot of questions about how we could foster a team that would be inclusive to strong women riders. She pretty much told me everything I needed to know. It didn't hurt that DJ Robert's good friend Jenn joined the team around that time as well. She brought so much to our squadra at that time it wasn't even funny. I owe, Meg, Kerry, Jenn and SBZ a lot. We would not be the team we are right now without them.
Joy at the bottom of the "chute" at Loon. Loon was a cross baptism by fire for lots of people and Joy had such a great attitude about it. We pre-rode that chute like ten times. It was nuts.

Last year I created a "Rookie of the Year" award on this blog. You would never know it from my horrible writing ability but I come from a magazine background. As much as the last ten years of being a Rock Star stay-at-home dad have fried more brain cells than I care to count I can not resist falling back on some of my publishing habits when blogging. Awards and end of year recaps are the bread and butter of the magazine business. What I look for in the Rookie of the Year award is equal parts a rider who improved the most over the span of the season and a new Hupster who has embraced what we do 100% or in cx vernacular "gets it." Joy Stark gets it. There was no doubt in my mind she is the Rookie of Year for Hup New England. She has contributed so much to our Band of Brothers and Sisters this year its not even funny.
Gloucester aka New England Worlds was a tipping point for women's cross in New England! 100 women lined up to race the 3/4 category! That is not a trend that is a paradigm shift! Pictured from L-R: Joy, Michele and Jenn

Picking Joy as Rookie of the Year wasn't easy by any means. We have so many new talented and awesome riders both male and female this year. The team is just on a roll right now! I am so proud of what Hup New England has become in a few short years. But what Joy accomplished in four months is nothing short of amazing. I remember the first time I met her at one of the first Waffle Cross rides at Wheelworks in Belmont. She seemed really nice but kind of quite. I think one of the funniest things we talked about was the death of the cupcake and that macaroons would be the next big thing. Hilarious. The fact that she did Battenkill the day before this ride and was able to function spoke volumes to how tough she is. I could barely walk for days after the last time I did Battenkill let alone do a 60 k mixte ride on cross bikes. Waffle Cross did so much for cross this season. It was a way for all of us to get together during the off-season and keep cross on the membrane.
My personal favorite Hupcake of the entire season! The gourmet hostess cupcake at Noho! Yes there was a cream filling..

It didn't take too many rides with Joy for me to realize she would be great on Hup. Jenn got to know her pretty well over the summer from road racing as well and it just made sense and she joined Hup in September. At the first race of the season in Bedford it became very apparent my services as Hupcake baker would no longer be needed. Joy showed up with a cupcake carrying case and a dozen of the finest cupcakes known to man- or womankind. The Hup tailgater v.2.0 started that day and I have to say those Hupcakes and the ones she cooked all season long took our tailgating/hupcake game to an entirely different level. The fact that Meg gave Joy the nod over Hannah as baker of best Hupcake speaks volumes. So certainly the voting was somewhat swayed by her cupcake creating prowess but that is really only 1/3 of the story. Joy brought so much to Hup this year.
Death of a Molly Cameron SSC FMB by ninja stars at died a warrior's death. Not to worry we gave it a Viking funeral

Joy has also become the default Hup House of Style. Yash Katsumi's departure to the UK as an International Man of Mystery left a HUGE void in Hup New England. Yash still has so much style its not even funny. With his departure I feared we would lose all our style. They were big sidis to fill but Joy filled them. Joy pretty much singlehandedly brought Blanco back from the vault. Yash championed Blanco. He always looked fantastic in it. When he left a lot of us were just too self conscious to wear it. But Joy rocked it all season long. Her style is beyond words. She has elevated our game to the point that even I, a man with the least style on the planet, rocked Blanco once this season! Granted I wore it at Ice Weasels and my attempt at high style was lost on the crowd to Mike Wissell's cross strip tease but what are you gonna do? Hard to compete with a man disrobing every lap at a cross race. The point is Joy really is the acting Hup House of Style right now and for that I personally am so thankful.
Joy at the Harpoon double barriers/beer zone at Ice Weasels showing off some mad cx skillz. So much in this picture just captures how far she has come in one season. There are pros who don't do the planks like this. For bonus points what am I referring to? And I take no credit she learned this at Adam and Al's camp

Ok all those things are great and make for a terrific teammate and embody a lot of what Hup is all and fun. Hup has never been about winning cross races. Teams that get so focused on winning are usually made up of a bunch of people you would not want to hang around with. Type A and fun don't usually mix. But Hup is a racing team. No doubt about it. We are not a club. We may race road, mtb and do "epic" rides but we are first and last a cross racing team. So racing matters. To me and to Hup its not only that you race its HOW you race. Class, honor, toughness, aggressiveness, with style. Those are the things that matter to us. We will not tolerate tantrums, whining, poor sportsmanship etc. Not saying you can't lose it once in a while but when it defines you you probably aren't Hup material.
Bringing Blanco back! Joy is the newly appointed Hup House of Style. No doubt about it.

When I think back on Joy's season a couple of stories stand out as far as Joy's racing. She is a natural athlete. Obviously. She has a background as a very successful collegiate athlete. She competed in Head of the Charles in the middle of cross season. She also completed an MBA program and has a real job all during cx season. Did I mention she did 21 cross races this season? That is dedication. I didn't really get it until I read a story in SI about rowing recently. The culture and training are mind boggling. It explains a lot. Rowers are wayyy tougher than bike racers. Trust me. One story that just sums up her mental toughness and one of the reasons why she is Rookie of the Year is what happened on Day 2 at Noho. Ironically it was also her "worst" race of the season. Joy had a great season as a cat 4. At Verge races in the 3/4 race she would be in the mix with the 3s. She got faster each and every race. She had a great Day 1 at Noho. Day 2 the course had some features that caused fits for a lot of categories. There is that picture from the masters 35+ race that sadly we cannot "unsee." It was a 180 turn pretty early in the lap with a "hump" that you had to negotiate it was pretty much a run in traffic but some tried to ride it.
On the top step of the podium at Velocross.

Joy got caught up in a big crash in this section. Bodies, bikes etc were flying and tangled. After the scrum when she got her bike back the brand new rear FMB looked like it had been the victim of a shark attack. Her bike was now Fubar. She was about 1/4 mile to the pit. Did Joy have a meltdown throw the bike over the tape and sulk off? I know a lot of people who just lit $150 of the nicest french cross rubber on fire who would have lost their shit. The twitter wars that would have ensued would have been the thing of Legend. Again one more thing we can learn from the women less drama.

So none of that happened. And her reason why it didn't happen which she told me later that day made me so proud. She told me she didn't want to lose it and get mad because of how it would reflect on Hup United. You know what? That statement right there is the essence of who we are. That is how a PRO would conduct themselves. Respect your teammates and yourself and be a good sportsperson. So yeah some bad shit went down but she dusted the bike off, put it on her shoulder and started running. She ran through the upper wooded section and all the way to the pit. She went in and got a new wheel and went back out. She finished 63rd out of 74 and you know what in my mind that result is probably the one I am most proud of for all of Hup all season long. Race with class, be tough both mentally and physically, don't get sucked into drama or anger etc. That is how we roll.

At the end of the season after working so hard she got her win at Velocross! That win was awesome. She had great rides at Putney, Lowell, and Ice Weasels. She ended up ranked 4th in the cat 4 women in the Nation! And again its the improvement and how she got there that make it so sweet. Its great to win races but that isn't how you build a team. I still remember standing at the top of the chute looking down the greasy off cambers at Loon with her and talking about the lines and how to do it. She was scared but she wasn't "scared" if you know what I mean. She had a smile on her face at the end of that race even though it was an extremely challenging course. We are so lucky to have her on Hup. Congrats Joy on a great season.


  1. arm inside saddle on the carry. what's the prize?

  2. I am gonna come up with something special for that catch! That was exactly what I was talking about!

  3. Great Post!

    When are we going to see a real HUP NE website?

    I would love to see who is still on it and bios.