When we caught wind of a team of women known for racing in jean shorts and having a blast doing it, we had to find out more. The teammates sat down and answered a few of our questions, including, “how the heck do you wear jean shorts and race?!”
Cyclocross Magazine: Tell me about the basic background of Jortz
Team Jortz: In summer 2012, three friends, Sam, Caitlin and Katie, were on a ladies group ride from San Francisco to Santa Cruz and suddenly found themselves out in the wind, off the front, pace-lining like mad and having the time of their lives because not only had they found excellent riding partners, but they also found that they liked being around each other, a lot.
Over post-ride beers, they gushed over their beautiful ride, how awesome it was to find other ladies of matched speed and grit, as well as how much fun it would be to race together in the coming ’cross season! They were also shaking off the hangovers of bike teams that didn’t quite fit right and wanted to continue racing on teams but couldn’t find the right one. So they made their own.
CXM: What makes Jortz different from other teams?
TJ: It’s women-only: Team Jortz is for women and women only because we’re immensely inspired by our fellow female riders and racers, from the pros like Georgia Gould to the mom of two entering her first C’s race (or winning her millionth Elite race!). We truly believe that more women on the course means more women riding bikes and feeling empowered to be their best selves; on and off the bike.
We give each other nicknames, we make raunchy jokes, often dominate hecklers hill after races, give dollar handups out of our buttcheeks, and no handup goes unspoken for. But best of all, we race hard, play hard, and have fun … hard.
We also don’t wear our sponsors logo’s on our clothing. People think we’re crazy for not doing this! They ask how we get sponsors and what good are we if we don’t have logos plastered all over our backs. Fortunately we’ve partnered with some amazing sponsors who believe in us, the Jortz way and how we’re going to change the status quo of ’cross racing. Shaana Rahman of Rahman Law in San Francisco was one of our very first sponsors and biggest supporters. She, like us, believes in empowering women, not taking the BS that life serves up and making your own way. She is Jortz material, through and through!
The Spoke Cyclery, the official shop of Team Jortz has been making our bikes shift beautifully since day one, in no small part thanks to the early days support of shop owners Adam Shapiro and Timm Kennedy. A big ups to a true pioneer in womens cycling, Shelia Moon, essentially our ’cross mother, for also being one of the pioneer Jortz supporters.
Then there’s the un-uniform: Almost the antithesis of what a cyclocross race teams looks like, Team Jortz riders show up at start lines of ’cross races in cut-off jean shorts (read, Jortz), wool sweaters from thrift stores, lacy shammy shorts, tall socks.
CXM: Why jean shorts?!
TJ: Inspired by the homegrown ’cross dressing, ’cross racing style of the San Francisco Bay Area underground cyclocross scene, where people wear whatever they please, often found shredding in their work clothes or in dresses, and have so much fun doing it. We connected with that and wanted to bring that spirit to the more formal ‘cross races of the Bay Area. We thought, it would be so jarring and awaking for racers to see a group of women racing in cutoffs. And it was! People were totally caught off guard! And when that happens, it allows people to really take notice of what you’re doing, and hopefully wonder why you’re doing it.
Therein lies the secret sneaky purpose of Team Jortz: to wake people out of their gear-induced stupor. To let them know that you can have fun, be serious and ride fast on whatever bike you want, in whatever clothes you want. We chose cutoffs. We went with thrift store sweaters, because wool is the best activewear fabric you could ever hope to own. Plus, there is nothing more satisfying than beating a spandex-clad opponent in jortz and Goodwill gear.
CXM: How did you come up with the name?
TJ: Team Jortz wanted to come up with a name that signified our motto “Race Hard. Play Hard.” While we wanted to keep ourselves a legit racing team, we also wanted a name that would not allow us to take ourselves too seriously. If we are riding in jean shorts, why not glorify it as a motto? Plus it’s hilarious! Come to a Bay Area ’cross race and hear the hecklers chant JORTZ! JORTZ! JORTZ! It’s amazing!
CXM: How many women on it?
TJ: Right now, Team Jortz is comprised of seven ladies: Sam Bell, Caitlin Trahan, Vanessa Christie, Liza Hartlaub, Lena Zentgraf, Romany McNamara and Katie Styer. Super recently we had a chat about team size and agreed “quality over quantity.” We have all been on huge teams and felt like zebras in the crowd, only flashes of color, no individuality. We want this team to be different, ‘tight knit’ as Liza says, and grow as it makes sense, not get too big too fast. We would love to eventually be one of the biggest, best ’cross teams ever! But slow growth maintains the message and our sanity. And seriously, coordinating seven schedules is hard enough right now!
CXM: How many of you race ’cross?
TJ: We’re a CX team, we all do! The Jortz compete in A’s and B’s races, and pretty much all of us are involved in at least one other hobby, from bike polo, lacrosse, running, Xterra’s, alleycat racing, road racing and mountain biking: we compete and have fun in so many different ways. But the dirt always brings us back together.
CXM: Best team results?
TJ: The Jortz definition of “best” include getting some action on the course during the race, on the podium after the race, being the first to start the dollah/beer/donut handup on hecklers hill for the races that follow ours, and ultimately, having fun.
But real talk? Here’s 2012 in numbers:
- # of Jortz riders: 5
- # of Jortz entries in 14 cyclocross races: 39
- # of top ten finishes: 26
- # of podium finishes: 14
Other notable notes:
Last year, Sam won her first B’s race, and also graced the cover of Issue #17 of Cyclocross Magazine in 2011 (photo taken at the now dead Golden Gate Park BASP cross race)
Obviously, we are super proud of these accomplishments and numbers and hope to be even more winning next year! A Team Jortz podium sweep would seriously bring tears to our eyes!
CXM: Team philosophy?
TJ: Race hard, play hard. Always heckle.
CXM: Plans for 2013?
TJ: We hope to race three full series in the Bay Area: the Bay Area Super Prestige, the Central Cali Coast Cross Races (CCCX) and the Surf City series down in Santa Cruz. We’re also aiming to experience one of the famed Cross Crusade races in Oregon and hopefully to New England to race amongst them cold blooded East Coasters. And dude, the Single Speed Cyclocross Worlds Championships are being held in Philly this year! Do people KNOW about the Bilenky Junkyard Cross race held every year in Philly!?!!? Do they know potentially awesome SSCXWC’s will be this coming year?!?!
Also, we started the team around August of last year so it’s going to be fun to get a solid year in where we can make an effort to train together and provide as much knowledge about training and trail riding to other like minded ladies. We’re really looking forward to a “Jortzacation,” our team training camp in Tahoe this June where we’ll camp and shred in the mountains for a week and get hella technical! Hello downhill!
We hope to grow the team by two more members and get a few more sponsors to help us reach our goals of inspiring as many women as possible! We would love to meet more grassroots women’s teams around the country too: there’s Ladies Auxiliary up north, Les Petites Victoires from Chicago has an awesome ’cross contingent and Ladies First out of New England! But we know there are more ladies-only teams out there! We want to meet them all!
CXM: Plans for expansion beyond the Bay Area?
TJ: We’re into growing slow and with intention, so not at this time. But we always hope we are inspiring other women to follow our lead and start their own team!
CXM: Will you guys ever host a race or clinic?
Funny you should ask! We’ve got a few events planned for this year:
- Bombshell/ Shanghai Omnium Race Omnium: 2013: six alleycats total, with points to be won at each race, including bonus points for racing in jortz. 4/2013
- Leading a Women’s Ride with Rahman Law (one of our first year sponsors) visiting sweet spots in SF that are best discovered by bike, as well as make it easier to navigate parts of San Francisco that are notoriously difficult and daunting to new cyclists. June TBC
- Sponsoring the Ladies Only alleycat event at the annual Quake City Rumble fundraiser weekend for the San Francisco Bike Messenger Association! 6/29
- Also, last year, we hosted weekly ladies training rides and plan to start it up again this year. We try to hold them in San Francsco and the East Bay because we think everyone should get a chance to train on their home turf.
CXM: How can one join the team or find out more?
TJ: We maintain a blog that we have too much fun writing, were we talk about what jortz do when not shredding, events we’re planning and general shenanigans.
We try to keep it current so that people can use it as a place to find information about racing ’cross in the Bay Area. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to look or who to ask, especially when there are so few other ladies. We try to help women who are interested find the right info they’re looking for, in cyberland and in real life!
If you want to join our ranks or come on a ride, just holler! Also, we’re only looking for a few more rad ladies to join the Jortz squad for this coming season, so come correct and be prepared to wear jortz. None of that jeggings $hit.
These answers were a collaborative effort by Team Jortz: Vanessa Christie, Katie Styer, Sam Bell, Caitlin Trahan, Liza Hartlaub, Romany McNamara and Lena Zentgraf.