Being Pro: Colin Strickland

2019 Dirty Kanza Champion

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Team: Meteor X Giordana X Allied

Hometown: Austin, Texas

Age: 33

From the fixed-gear Red Hook crit races to back-to-back wins at Gravel Worlds, you’ve had success competing in multiple disciplines that are complete opposites. What kind of cycling background makes that possible?

I would describe myself simply as a bicycle enthusiast. I love all bikes, and if there were enough hours in the day, I would compete in every discipline. But unfortunately, if you want to compete at a high level, you must pick one or maybe two disciplines to focus on, and hone your skill set and physiology for success. 

I got my start in cycling in high school when I decided not to get a car, and instead commuted everywhere by bicycle in my hometown of Austin. Six years before competing in my first race, I started racking up base miles, and I enjoyed riding fast. 

I really got into building and riding fixies when the fixed-gear fad came along. I loved the simplicity and the feeling of connectedness to the bike. It’s a two-way feedback system. Unlike freehub bikes where you just input power, fixies talk back.

Fast-forward to 2015 and I was road racing for Elbowz Racing on the NRC calendar and entered the Red Hook Crit Milano season closer. The event combined my dormant fixie skill set with my newly acquired road fitness and tactics, and it just clicked. 

When you’re not riding, you’re managing your new team. What made you start the team, and how has it progressed since 2017? 

I started my own program largely because I realized that I want creative and artistic control over the team. As I always say, good bike racing is a form of show business, and the aesthetic and the vibe of the team are a way to express what you are about in life, besides a willingness to suffer. European-style road racing has always dominated the scene, but it has limped along, more as charity and vanity projects than as an actual successful business. Professional riders (men and women) rarely make a living wage, and this is anything but a career path.

By trimming all the fat from our team structure, we’re just left with a few riders and some amazing equipment. I am obsessed with gear and tech, so I get huge satisfaction from knowing I am riding the best stuff out there.

What does the cancellation of the 2019 Red Hook Crit series mean to the team? 

My race program owes its existence entirely to the Red Hook Crit series and to (race founder) Dave Trimble specifically. The Red Hook Crit has been a unique experiment that combined bike racing with pop culture in ways that no other event has. It has been the ultimate way to experience Europe, and to build friendships and connections with enthusiastic people from all over the world. Thankfully, I was able to make my mark on the RHC series, and now I am focusing on leaving my mark on the evolving nebulous realm that is adventure, road and gravel racing. 

Luckily, this does not have a huge impact on Meteor X Giordana X Allied, since we have already shifted our primary focus to getting creative and fast on gravel bikes. Time will tell if we can carve out a niche of relevance in that space. 

What are your racing plans for 2019? Are there any races you are targeting?

For 2019, our three-man squad will continue to focus on fun events. These include gravel and adventure races, but we will also be hitting some USA crits where possible, and we’re not opposed to a few one-day road races by any means. I personally am targeting the DK 200, because I believe it suits my physiology very well, and I’ve never raced it. I’m banking on some serious beginner’s luck.

What are your thoughts on WorldTour teams like EF-Cannondale sending their riders to races like Dirty Kanza?

I think it’s fantastic! The higher caliber of racers and teams brings more attention and more coverage, which is good for everyone. My only concern regarding the increased attention is teams sending large rosters out to these events. A big part of what makes gravel events so compelling is that a lone ranger like Ted King or a small program like mine can rock up and let their legs do the talking. We’re not out here chasing a big payout at the finish line; we’re here for other reasons. If teams of 8 or 10 riders start showing up and controlling the race, I think a bit of the essence of what we’re doing will be lost. I welcome the competition, but I personally think that capping teams at four riders will help preserve the vibe of these races. Again, it’s show business. Controlled racing is just not as entertaining as Wild West shootouts.

Photo: Danny Munson

Any kudos you’d like to give out?

Kudos to Ted King for pioneering the new discipline while always staying classy, humble and nice as a warm spring day. We are almost the same age, but he’s been a super role model. 

Rebecca Rusch for not only racing, but organizing her own race event for all of us to enjoy. Also, Phil Gaimon, who is another nice human and a guy who is dedicated to making people smile while entertaining them with his suffering.

And most of all, kudos to all the awesome, hardworking pioneers of grass-roots gravel event production for putting in the hard work long before the registrations started selling out. 

Without them, we’re just a bunch of roadie burnouts that got lost out in the sticks on their cross bikes.

But especially David Trimble, who is an original gangster of “We’re doing this race my way because I said so.”

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