In 2015, the Aventon Factory Team had a RHC victory with Colin Strickland winning RHC Milano No.6. Less than a year later, it was Tristan Uhl who was very close to winning another RHC for the team in Barcelona where he fought for the victory until the finish line, beaten in a sprint-a-deux by Colin Strickland, who was riding for Allez-Allez Specialized. Besides this 2nd place for Tristan, other highlights in the 2016 season were a 3rd place in the Short Line Crit by Tristan. The wins of Gretchen Stumhofer in the Red Bull Last Stand, wherein Sammi Runnels got a third spot and the victory in the Short Line Crit, and of course the popium of Gretchen in RHC Milano no.7. Victories in Europe were achieved by David Santos who won the National Moutarde Crit No.4 where local hero Olivier Leroy achieved a 2nd place. So, one can say that despite no RHC was won, the season was a successful one for the Aventon Factory Team. For 2017, the aims cannot be lowered as all strong riders stay in the team. We had a chat with the team manager, Sean Burke, to talk about last season and what the plans are for the team this year.
Text: Brian Megens
The Aventon factory team entered the fixed gear racing scene in 2015. When Sean Burke was asked by the owner of Aventon, When Zang, to set-up a competitive fixed gear team to represent the brand in the big crits in the US and Europe. Sean, an American cycling coach, saw it as an exciting opportunity as “the traditional cycling scene in the USA almost tries to do everything to pull the fun out of it, so I was up for something new and different. I have to admit that the traveling part was really appealing and enough to get me on board. That the whole community turned out to be so awesome was a major bonus which I didn’t know at the time.”
Sean started to build the team late 2014 by approaching some local riders from San Diego, LA and during the 2015 season other riders were picked up. One of those was Colin Strickland who gave the team a RHC win, Milano No.6, in their debut year showcasing that the Aventon Factory team already belonged to the best teams in the world. Another was David Santos who, like Olivier Leroy, was always competing in the front. In the 2016 season a RHC victory was missed although Tristan Uhl came very close. “When Tristan bridged the gap to Colin in such a short time period, I was convinced that he would bring the win home. I mean Tristan and Colin had these sprint-a-deux several times in local road races and almost always it was Tristan who beat Colin. So, when Colin won the sprint it was a disappointment at first but that did not take long as what Tristan achieved in that race is amazing and promises a lot for future races.”
Other good results for the team in the RHC series came from Gretchen Stumhofer who got a third place in the, following race director David Trimble, best women’s race in the history of the RHC. Sean: “She was in a break-away with two Italians who started to talk to each other quite a bit in the last rounds, Gretchen had no clue what was being said but the Italians played well as they took the first two spots of the podium.” Besides the RHC, the team also participated in several other crits from which the win of David Santos in the National Moutarde Crit No.4 wherein he went solo for two thirds of the race, and of course the win of Gretchen in the Red Bull Last Stand are the most impressive ones.
For this year, the team can count on the same core as in the 2016 team with newcomers Isaac Howe, Joaquin Najar, and Eleonore Saraiva. Isaac Howe is new to the fixed gear crit scene and brings 7 years of UCI Continental road experience with him. Looking at last year’s results, a RHC win is most expected from Tristan and Gretchen. In the men’s, Tristan was the only rider in the peloton last year that was of serious threat to Colin Strickland in a break-away. However, with proven strong French riders Olivier Leroy and Eleonore Saraiva, and the Americans David Santos and Sammi Runnels, the first RHC win seems just a matter of time and can be for anyone in the team. Furthermore, they have another rider, Chris Tolley, that can surprise. “From all our riders last year, Chris surprised me the most as I had no expectations of him, but he has shown so much potential. However, because of his BMX background, he isn’t afraid of taking risks. Sometimes his balls are just too big and he gets himself into trouble.
I never forget the RHC Milano qualifications wherein Chris crashed, he then took the bike and shoes of David Santos, we switched the transponders and Chris still managed to qualify for the finals. If he learns to dosage taking risks he can be up there too.” Next to that good results can be expected from Esther Walker, Kym Perfetto, and Nissy Cobb.
Although for the upcoming year his team will be stronger, Sean realises that the competition will be too changing the competition and the whole scene every year. “It will be hard for some individual riders as they wouldn’t be able to keep up.” For the long-term Sean believes the scene needs more money to attract a bigger crowd in order to become a fully recognized and accepted sport. For the short-term, the Aventon Factory team wants to get that RHC win that it didn’t manage to achieve last year, with a stronger team and competition this can be seen as a hard but realistic goal.