"My goal is to be part of the spark that pushes the sport"
January 16, 2020 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Justin Williams Is the Most Important Bike Racer You Don’t Know.
The 2018 USA Amateur Road and Crit champion says we need to move away from the 'boys club' of cycling to achieve greater inclusion and representation. After his stunning dual championships [What it took to win a Nationals championship ] in 2018, Williams [twitter, instagram] 'has created his own racing program without a professional road team' in CNCPT. Justin Williams Can’t Stop Winning Bike Races [including a repeat as USA Criterium national champ in 2019; What It Took To Win Crit Nationals Back-To-Back]
Now Williams is trying to reinvent a corner of the cycling world with a team of his own: Legion, a small, L.A.-based outfit that focuses on fast U.S. races, like Oklahoma’s Tulsa Tough, where Williams won two events in June. Williams serves as kind of Legion’s player-coach, and its roster is a diverse collection of speedsters, including Williams’s 26-year-old brother, Cory, the current California state criterium champ.

William's results page from Road Results

Justin Williams Says L.A. Is a Great City for Cyclists. There's a couple short clips of Legion's team here: Legion LA In The Draft ep. 1, Legion LA In The Draft ep 2 and some race commentary from NorCal Cycling: Avoiding Crashes and Going Inside the Legion Leadout - 2019 CBR Criterium P/1/2

The 2020 USA Criterium season is starting soon.
posted by the man of twists and turns (20 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
great post - looking forward to going through these links. also (criteriums) eponysterical
posted by exogenous at 8:05 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]

like Oklahoma’s Tulsa Tough, where Williams won two events in June.
2019 Tulsa Tough Pro Men Live w/ commentary, Williams in the red, white and blue jersey.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:11 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]

Criterium is about the only spectator sport that has had me in any way interested in what's going on (RIP the long-gone Kellogg's series in the UK). The tactics and stamina all mix for a fantastic show. I wish more cities were up for hosting them.
posted by scruss at 9:01 AM on January 16

In case people are skipping the links because they have an idea in their heads of what high performing cyclist look like: Justin is a gruff black dude (usually) with a scraggly beard.

Also, I watched him ride with a double espresso in both hands from the Intelligencia on Sunset, all the way to (at least) Santa Monica and La Brea at 8am without putting a foot down or putting a hand on the bars, stop lights and stop signs included. Damnest thing I ever saw.

I moved from LA to OC back in 2018, so I've been out of the scene. Him and the CNCPT dudes were beasts, and I was under the impression CNCPT was his team, but I guess not if he's started Legion.
posted by sideshow at 9:14 AM on January 16 [2 favorites]

Man, I miss crit racing.
posted by RakDaddy at 9:21 AM on January 16

“We’re going to wear Jordans. We listen to rap. We’re really loud at races. And we’re also going to be a part of the conversation. I’m full on rebel mode right now.”

This is so cool. I want to be friends with him. Thanks for this post! I haven't watched pro cycling in many years and am out of touch with the sport. Criterium is my favorite race to watch in person - it's so thrilling to hear the buzzzzz of all those wheels flying by you.
posted by misskaz at 9:21 AM on January 16 [2 favorites]

Super glad to see this on the Blue! I'm a rider -- I don't race, but i ride with racers -- and a big fan of the Williams brothers. Since I started following them and L3gionLA, a friend's son (Hunter Grove) joined the team, which makes it even more fun to follow them.
Also, I watched him ride with a double espresso in both hands from the Intelligencia on Sunset, all the way to (at least) Santa Monica and La Brea at 8am without putting a foot down or putting a hand on the bars, stop lights and stop signs included. Damnest thing I ever saw.
Hours and hours on the bike end up giving you insane bike-handling skills, which then enable this kind of party trick. I can't do that, but it definitely does weird people out when I trackstand at stoplights.
I wish more cities were up for hosting them.
There's a big crit here every spring (Houston Grand Crit), plus a series on a more technical course every Wednesday night for most of the summer. I just watch, despite the exhortations of my pals to take part.

Crits are INTENSE. I mean, it's kinda freaky to go 30+ MPH in a double paceline with people who are cooperating; doing it in a competitive situation would be TERRIFYING.
posted by uberchet at 9:43 AM on January 16

I have to confess to being quite excited that the Tour of Britain is coming to my town this year.
posted by biffa at 9:44 AM on January 16

I wish more cities were up for hosting them.

I totally agree, it's one of the only spectator-friendly forms of road cycling and it seems like it would be relatively low-impact to host since you only need limited street closures.
posted by ghharr at 9:48 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]

you only need limited street closures.
The all-summer series I mentioned in Houston is actually in a park. No street closures required!
posted by uberchet at 10:00 AM on January 16

Fantastic post! I'm a huge fan of the Williams brothers and it's been fun to watch them stir up the stuffy and very white world or cycling. His IG race videos are absolutely insane and his sprint is incredible. What he's doing for kids in S Central is inspiring. The fact that he's been able to make his own way without a UCI team points to where the future of the sport is headed.
posted by photoslob at 10:55 AM on January 16

There is (was?) a crit around here in a parking garage - which reminds me of this cat3memes post.

I have done a little racing here and there spread over many years. My first crit was in the rain (a collegiate race in Claremont). In one turn, my rear wheel slid out maybe half a foot but I kept the bike upright. The guy behind me made an audible gasp.

The last crit I did was at RFK stadium here in DC. I didn't contest the sprints from a combination of caution (my fellow cat 5 racers did not inspire confidence) and a feeling that I lacked the legs. But I did easily get back to the front after a few turns in each lap, feeling like a shark among minnows or the protagonist in A Piece of Steak. What a fun memory. After the race I saw then-mayor Andrian Fenty listed above me in the results. However, I was quite sure he wasn't in the race so I made an official protest and he was removed.
posted by exogenous at 12:57 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]

I watched him ride with a double espresso in both hands
Am alternately seeing this as two double espressos, or as the cup in one hand and the saucer in the other and a little spoon tucked into a helmet-strap.
posted by clew at 2:29 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]

I do wish people wouldn't do the no-hands thing around others who aren't in a bike race. Even the really skilled ones, since I've got no way of knowing they are, and it encourages the people who aren't similarly skilled or careful to try the same thing in the same places. Came within inches of being forced off a local bike path into oncoming auto traffic by someone riding no-hands last year, and it has definitely shifted how I view that particular stunt.
posted by asperity at 8:25 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]

Two things that learning to ride a road bike well in an sub & urban context taught me are that most people do not have much bike handling skills and are generally freaked out around other bikes, and that riding no hands forever with coffees in your hands requires you to pretend nobody else is around or that they'll get out of your way (I don't care how good you are). These two factoids do not work well in proximity to each other!
posted by rhizome at 11:21 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]

Well, let's definitely get word to Justin that MeFi thinks he shouldn't do that anymore.
posted by uberchet at 3:36 PM on January 17

Not to belabor uberchet's point, but I think it would be a good idea to consider carefully whether the absolute best and most vital response to a FPP about a black man making waves in professional cycling is to chastise him for being a bad influence by riding his bike no-handed.
posted by valrus at 5:20 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]

For my part, despite being a cyclist, I've never really paid attention to competitive cycling. Justin Williams might be the guy to change that, and from reading what he's saying in the Cycling Weekly article, I hope he succeeds in changing a lot of other things as well.
posted by valrus at 5:24 PM on January 17

I did look to see if there's a schedule for upcoming races!

And yeah, sorry for the slight derail there. It's just been really hard for me lately on my local paths and I've had to change my daily commute routes to go miles out of my way to avoid the white men (and it is all white men) who can't be bothered to put a hand on the bars when near other people.
posted by asperity at 8:52 AM on January 18

absolute best and most vital response

This is not the standard I use. I live in a bike messenger city and have never been impressed by alleycat culture. Don't get me wrong, riding no-hands in rush-hour traffic is an accomplishment and definitely demonstrates his bike handling skills, but I'm not going to recommend anybody try it in order to test their own. However, this is all based on hearsay about something I didn't witness, so I don't think it's possible to personalize it to this guy.
posted by rhizome at 12:19 PM on January 18

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