Sticky Fingers: 2014 USA Cycling Women's Cycling Club of the Year


by Daryl Grissom

Sticky Fingers: USA Cycling Women’s Cycling Club of the Year
Team Sticky Fingers is defined by their shared passions: training together, racing together, advocating together, and as veteran racer Megan Jones explains, “laughter. Lots of laughter.” Though few in number, the team plays a big role in the Mid-Atlantic region. “”People often think we are a much larger team because we are present at every race … helping to support those who need it.” But they are, in fact, a group of only nine women. This small team, however, has a big heart and an even bigger outreach. Their team-oriented approach to advocacy for women’s cycling earned them the distinction of being named the USA Cycling’s 2014 Women’s Cycling Team of the Year.
Deirdre Mullaly, Team President and time trial specialist, attributes the team’s success and recent honors to one thing: advocacy. “Our main focus is to be constantly working towards getting more women into the sport of cycling and advocating for the broader women’s issues within the sport.” One might even say the team is founded on advocacy. Sponsored by Sticky Fingers Sweets and Eats, a vegan bakery cafe in Washington D.C. that focuses on bringing “memories of favorite treats to vegan reality,” Team Sticky Fingers actively supports animal-rights issues, especially animal rescue groups such as “Pinups for Pitbulls.”
Sponsor Relationships: A Bakery Café With A Humane Mission
The sponsor-relationship, according to Mullaly, is “really more of a mutually beneficial partnership. Beyond basic financial support, Doron Petersan [owner of Sticky Fingers Sweets and Eats and a member of the race team] provides great baked goods for charity events and several bike races. And in turn we all pitch in with any opportunities to advocate for humane treatment of animals.” She describes it as a “symbiotic relationship” between racers and a bakery, sharing a mutual love for animals. Petersan herself explains that her bakery café is a “mission-based business providing cakes, cookies, soups and sandwiches that are free from animal products. [They are] better for the environment, the animals, and everyone.” The ladies of Team Sticky Fingers take that mission to heart and help their sponsor promote this healthy lifestyle throughout the region.
The opportunities for advocacy, of course, present themselves throughout the year. The team is a staple at nearly every event in the Mid-Atlantic region. And with riders participating in everything from road races and time trials to endurance mountain biking and cyclocross, Mullaly says “people in our region think there are at least twenty of us.” But, no, the truth is that there are only nine of them and, according to Mullaly, they have no immediate plans to expand.
“One of the strengths of our team,” she says, “is that we genuinely like each other and enjoy riding, training, and racing with each other. We wouldn’t want to jeopardize that simply by recruiting a rider to the team because she’s super fast or great at crits.” That, in her words, would upset the dynamic family-atmosphere that these women spend their entire year, from training camps to cyclocross national championships, developing and building upon. Angela Parrota, one of the newer members of the team and an experienced long-distance cyclist, says that when she first “met the ladies of Sticky Fingers it was like putting on that perfect pair of gloves. It fit.” This team, as Mullaly puts it, “just has to stay small in order to keep having so much fun together!”
Womens’ Cycling Issues: Advocacy Means Outreach
When asked what it means to advocate for women’s cycling, the members agree that every rider can interpret it differently. But in the end it all comes down to simple outreach and positive interactions with the cycling community, both racers and recreational riders. Mullaly thinks “there are probably a lot of strong women out there who only ride recreationally because they have too much anxiety about the idea of racing. It can be a bit of a testosterone-fest sometimes.” She explains that it’s tough for some women to join regular group rides because they all they might see are the high-speeds and occasionally reckless tactics of more experienced racers.
That’s where Team Sticky Fingers comes in. The “team is a vehicle for sharing excitement in the broader community, encouraging other women to get out there and race,” adds Shauna Sweet, who focuses primarily on cyclocross. “The team actively reaches out to new riders when they see them at group rides” and Mullaly says they “let folks know how to join in.” Then they “teach them how to ride in a group.” Team Sticky Fingers, in other words, teaches what some consider to be a dying art: group ride etiquette.
“One thing we really enjoy doing,” Mullaly says, “is to get a group of women, especially those who are thinking about doing their first race, and to pre-ride an upcoming race course.” The team gathers on the course and starts out by riding it slowly, “talking a lot, laughing a lot and just getting comfortable,” Mullaly explains. “Then we start picking up the pace, maybe practicing some pace lines or trying different lines through some of the turns. Each time we do a section or speed it up, we talk about it afterwards and try to learn from each other how to do it better or more confidently.”
These education sessions, however, do not end on race day. Mullaly says the team always tries to help out the new riders in the peloton. “If we see someone or even a group of ladies starting to slip off the back of the group, one of our racers will just slip back there with them.” She says that she’s done this numerous times “just to give them the experience of racing and taking the laps at the fastest speed they can handle.” According to her that’s vital for bringing women into the sport at the regional level, “because it’s just not fun racing if you end up alone, off the back, in your first race just because you didn’t know how to corner smoothly.” With a Team Sticky Fingers rider acting as an ad hoc teammate, Mullaly says the new rider gets to enjoy the race, learn how to do it better, and then go home with new goals and aspirations in mind. And it’s that style of advocacy that makes them so popular in the Mid-Atlantic Region.
Race Promotion: Size Matters Not
When not putting on pre-rides or riding clinics, the team also co-promotes several races in the Mid-Atlantic region. Last year alone they supported a criterium, the “Ride Sally Ride,” a stage race, the “Tour of Page County,” and a cyclocross event, the “South Germantown CX.” Putting on these events, of course, also means racing them and using them as venues to push each other past perceived limits. “I never would have competed in a stage race, but I did because my teammates believed in me,” says Megan Jones, team member and Vice-Chair of the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee. Teammates, she ads, “said I could do it and sometimes that’s all you need.”
Indeed sometimes having a few friends in support saying it can be done is all it takes to get a racer to the next level of accomplishment. And for Team Sticky Fingers, they might be few in number, but they have no limits when it comes to helping others. The team pushes each other to race harder, pushes new riders to race smarter, and pushes the broader cycling community to race more equitably. They are USA Cycling’s Women’s Team of the Year and they are getting stronger every day.

This Article Updated March 5, 2015 @ 02:14 AM For more information contact: