Bear to the Bone
Bear Development Team, Part I
5 July 2011
This is the first in a multiple-part profile on the Bear Development Team. With the team competing at the USAC Amateur & Para-cycling Road National Championships, Stu Bone describes here the team’s beginnings and philosophy. The second article focuses on the team’s NorCal connection and synergy. Later, mentor Rob Evans and member’s Tim Aiken and Bryan Duke describe their involvement with the team; future articles follow next week.
Two years ago, Stu Bone put together the Bear Development Team with a group of youngsters from Santa Cruz. They were once referred to as “young studs” and “the future of NorCal racing.”
Once they were properly kitted out, the team impressed immediately with four State Championships, two silver medals at US MtB Nationals, and a bronze at US Road Nationals.
“How can I help?”
“When I started this team,” explained Bone, “I had little to no exposure to bicycle racing. First it was about having fun, treating each other well, let’s have an adventure.
“I work in private equity and a part of me get’s some satisfaction from that. I wanted to do something else not just about me but about other people. I also wanted to help and serve other people and bring meaning to my life.
“In the summer of 2011, I was riding group rides in Santa Cruz with Mack Kelly, Matt Schaupp, and Tobin Ortenblad. I could see they were winning, they were very committed, racing every weekend and training everyday, taking care of their equipment, and doing what needs to be done to become a bike racer.
“But they weren’t able to get to the bigger races like Mt Hood or Nationals. I could see there was a need for them. They deserved to be at big races. A part of the genesis of the team was my desire to help those three kids.
“Organically, because of the kind of people those guys are, and the nature of what we were doing, other folks were attracted to the program. I met a group of kids in Marin who knew us. Soon there were eight or nine kids and we had a roster.
“That was very organic. I didn’t say I want to start a development team. It was I found some kids, I like them, how can I help them.”
As with many development teams, Bear Dev also invests in its riders off and on the bike. There is a focus on enjoyment and personal growth “driven by values and goals” and the team’s mission statement.
“That mission has been it’s own reward,” continued Bone. “The nature of the kids on the roster, their goals, and how hard they work, winning has now become part of our mission.
“I wrote the mission statement and the [anti-doping] line was a big one for me. As a fan of the pro sport, I think the reason why guys dope is they don’t have any other choice.
“They can’t say ‘I graduated college and I can go get a job. I have other areas of my identity, apart from being a bike racer, and I can trust that’s enough. I don’t have to cheat to stay in this sport because I can’t do anything else.’
“This is versus somebody who says ‘I’m a bike racer but I’m also a good guy, smart, successful, and resourceful. I can go get a job, do something else.’ Whatever that is, part of bringing a culture into the sport, that helps people make the right decisions around doping, is to develop them in a way that it’s not just about the bike.
“[Team member] Bryan Duke is a freshman at Cal Poly, and we were talking about the challenges of racing at his level and being a full-time college student of engineering. We were working on strategies for doing both.
“As much as it doesn’t seem that’s about doping, it is about doping.
“The structure of this development team is providing equipment, travel, and support. That is compromised when people are caught doping. The attitude from within the sport looking out, amongst young people, is outright resentment for people using drugs.”
Bear Development provides an impressive level of support to the members of team at $4,000-$6,000 per year per rider. Riders receive a bike and kit without any obligation, on team members and their families, to support the team financially.
Bone and his partner Julia Violich raise money by reaching out to fellow lovers of bicycle-racing. Additional support arrives from Stu Bone’s network that includes equipment sponsors.
The Bear Development’s emphasis on team and family is providing much support for the riders to tackle bumps in the road as well as achieve their goals off and on the bike.
“As far as the spirit behind this development team,” continued Bone, “it’s wanting to create a culture on a team and in development that is well-rounded and holistic in its approach. About developing people as human beings and not just bike racers.
“We are looking for kid’s committed to the sport because we offer an exceptionally high level of support to our riders. Somebody joining our team has already shown their commitment to bicycle racing and that initial commitment comes from the rider and their family.
“We recognize we are one link in the development chain but the family is the first and strongest. In that chain, it begins with the family and shifts to us. Then hopefully we develop them into another program that does the same.”
A Few of My Favorite Things
“I don’t know if I call it an achievement but this is my favorite thing,” described Bone. “If you ask the guys, who were on our ‘brocamp’ road trip last summer, what they thought about it, listen to their answers, and listen to what it meant to them, that is my favorite thing.
“They all became much better friends with each other. We all had great adventures and traveled all over the place. We loaded up my trailer and went around California, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon just riding, racing, swimming, and fishing. We came good friends and supported each other.
“Some of these kids were very different people from who they are today. The experiences they’ve had with their team mates is a big part of those changes. One rider in particular would barely talk to me at first. Now he is outgoing, gregarious, and fun. His family has told me many times they are shocked by the changes they have seen.
“That’s the stuff that makes me happy,” said Bone, “and I am shocked by how much fun it is to watch them win.”
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