Richard Sachs Gets ‘Cross

Richard1

Mr. Atmo

It’s been a little while since we last spoke to Richard and with ‘Cross Nats just around the corner, it seemed a fine time to catch up about all things ‘cross.

RKP: Richard, you’ve been racing on the road since Sean Kelly was a junior, yet you turned to cyclocross relatively recently and quickly became a big convert. What brought this about?

RS: I don’t think “recently” is accurate. I was at the World’s in London’s Crystal Palace in 1973 when Eric De Vlaeminck won his seventh title and also witnessed the first-ever USA team compete in what was the amateur event earlier in the day. I was hooked then!

RKP: You’ve been legendary in New England for sponsoring racers over the years. How many years have you supported a team of some sort?

RS: As a sponsor, I started doing a ‘cross thing in the middle 1990s as part of the NECSA Junior Development program that I was a bicycle supplier to. The success of that spawned some relationships that took my commercial and benevolent interests to the next level by 1998 or so. I was having more fun in the ‘cross environment than I can recall ever having on the road. The people, the venues, the racing, the time of the year—all of it drew me in and I have never left!

For the record, the Richard Sachs Cyclocross Team as presently known it began 12 years ago. On the road side, the sponsorship program that launched all of this in the early 1980s ended by 2003.

PookumsMatt “Pookums” Kraus

RKP: You’ve sponsored some big names in cyclocross including Jonathan Page and Adam Myerson. How is it that you came to sponsor such accomplished athletes as these and others?

RS: I have never recruited a rider. Both of these cats you name approached me. In 1999 if I recall the chronology correctly, Jonathan called from the airport on his way to spend the several months in Germany. His was a comeback of sorts since he was away one full season focusing on off-road with the Diamondback team. He had no ride for 1999 and took a chance to call me. I said “yes” after thinking about it for a day or so. We Fedexed him a box with two frames, kits, and whatever we had to offer. I first saw him later that year when he arrived home for the Natz in KC, the winter storm event that no one will ever forget, due to the conditions.

Adam’s was a different story and his began in 1996. He approached me at the Tour of Somerville regarding a ‘cross sponsorship. It was a privateer thing, separate from what I was doing with NECSA. The liaison was a complete success from the start. Adam was the consummate pro and marketer. He knew at an early age what the sponsor-racer relationship entailed and gave more than good value for all involved. After two seasons sponsoring Adam alone, we rolled his situation into the NECSA fold for another season or so.

For the record, Adam was our team’s and our brand’s first-ever National Champion (Collegiate Men) and Jonathan, three years after he first signed with us, became our fifth or sixth Stars and Stripes winner with a superb ride at Napa.

Josh

Josh Dillon

RKP: You’re a one-man shop and pay another guy (Joe Bell) to actually paint your frames. Your wait list will outlast the Obama administration and you aren’t taking new orders. Why persist in sponsoring racers if it isn’t really going to contribute to your bottom line? Is this your version of tithing?

RS: I started a team sponsorship program in 1983 and haven’t taken a break from the sport since. At the front end, I sponsored because I was once sponsored. It’s as simple as that. Through all the years, all of the riders, all the sponsors who have helped along the way and have ultimately moved on, one constant is that I continue to support a team because when I was a serious racer (on the road) I had the good fortune of receiving support. There’s no reason to think about it more deeply than that atmo.

RKP: Let’s take a moment to talk about your team’s resume. Would you please refresh my memory of all the big wins and epic performances riders have delivered aboard your frames?

RS: Regarding ‘cross, I am fond of summoning up the fact that we (not me, the team…) have won ten National Championships since 1997. Several were U23 events, some were Juniors, one was a Women’s 30-34 race, several were at the Collegiate level, and one was Page’s win in the Elite Men’s division. I am going by memory now, but I think RS ‘Cross Team riders have raced at the World Championships at least eight different times. Actually, with regard to wins and epic performances, these are and have always been the icing on the cake. My first, last, and in between laundry lists for the sport, the support, and for the riders involved are, 1) represent the sponsors superbly well, 2) do everything it takes in a four month period to make great memories so that, down the road, we all look at each venue, and every weekend and wish we could bottle it all and make it last forever, and 3) help our fellow team mates achieve as many personal racing goals as possible.

(For background read this: http://rscyclocross.blogspot.com/2009/09/19-september-2009-memo-to-richard-sachs.html).

RKP: But it doesn’t end there does it? Judging from your team newsletters, you have been delivering some spankings to the other old guys in New England. You’ve had a good season this year, no?

RS: Results-wise, this has been our deepest season yet. Personally, my goals for 2009 were to race well at all the venues that were priorities for the team. These include the UCI races, the USGP events, and the Verge Points series here in the northeast. I also want a top ten at the Natz in Bend. So far I have won five times—Grenogue, twice at the USGP in Trenton, and then another two times at the NACT races in Southampton, New York. In the Verge Points series I have hovered between third and fifth all season and the last two events are this weekend. On the national level, in the USA Cycling Men’s Masters Cyclocross Rankings, I recently fell from first to fourth in all riders between the ages of 30 and 99, but still have a decent lead in the 55-59 grouping in which I mostly compete. And what can I say about Pookums, a.k.a. Matt Kraus? He was second at the Natz in 2008 in the Masters 35-39 division and finally, after a good long career in the Elites, decided to focus on age-graded racing. Matt has won a bunch so far this fall and is on track for another high finish in Oregon. Dan Timmerman and Josh Dillon are also on their games this season and the long term results speak to that. They are leading the Verge Series in first and second overall, and Dan also is in fifth place in the USA Cycling’s standings for those Elite Men racing in events on the Cyclocross National Calendar. Dan has won at least four UCI events and between him and Josh, the pair has podiumed at least seven times. Will Dugan, reigning 2009 Collegiate National Champion, is also having another fine year with us with many top tens going back to early September. Will’s focus for ‘cross includes parsing out his efforts and using the Natz as the Golden Fleece for the season, after which he’ll start life as a pro roadie with Team Type One. His first training camp with them comes within ten days of the races in Bend next weekend!

Some Links:

http://crossresults.com/?n=results&sn=verge&series=V09+55%2BMen

https://www.usacycling.org/rankings/index.php?sex=M&state=&org=road&disc=cx&cat=MR&msj=mr&agemin=30&agemax=99

https://www.usacycling.org/rankings/index.php?sex=M&state=&org=road&disc=cx&cat=MR&msj=mr&agemin=55&agemax=59

http://crossresults.com/?n=results&sn=verge

http://www.usacycling.org/news/user/story.php?id=4550

Will

Will Dugan

RKP: From the photos I’ve seen, your team travels together pretty much, even parking together at the races. It’s a pretty tight-knit bunch it seems. How deliberate is this on your part?

RS: Yes, it’s all part of the plan. The deal is this: we’re a bunch of pals who race. We race hard and often, and our priorities have become the UCI level events. We travel well, stay together, share lots of mid-week emails and laughs, and live for the weekend. ‘Cross fukcing rules atmo, and all that. We’re more like an extended family, a troupe, a private club, a cabal—I could go on….

RKP: You parted ways some weeks back with upcoming talent Amy Dombroski. She says she left the team, but rider contracts normally require agreement from the sponsor as well. I was blown away that anyone would want to leave such a successful formation. Why did she leave?

RS: I initially heard from Amy in the summer of 2007 when she asked for a spot on the RS ‘Cross Team. We had a full roster by that point so I declined. She asked a second time this past May and I thought it could be a good fit, particularly because we had no representation in the women’s field. We went back and forth on how the program works, what the schedule includes, and she was on board with us by late June.

I maintain contact with the riders on the team electronically. Countless emails and phone conversations are exchanged with all members of the team leading up to September, and everyone is CC’d on everything. All know full well by the summer what the plan is for the fall. We are a fully sponsored, soup-to-nuts team and completely looked after by a host of industry suppliers. For the sake of transparency, I should mention here that Amy refused to use the wheels the rest of us were racing (as well as winning on) at all. After agonizing over this very difficult situation that began before ‘Cross Vegas and having to repeatedly address this issue for over a month, I gave Amy an ultimatum: She could either comply with the standards we have in writing and each agreed to way back in June, or all liaisons with my team and its support system would end immediately.

After exhaustive exchanges about stationary weight versus rolling weight, chats about commitment and integrity, and doing all I could to pacify the needs of the sponsorship program without actually going Jersey on one of my riders, I accepted a compromise from Amy. She asked me if I could buy some wheels (from the sponsor) that she deemed light enough to pass her smell test. I ordered two sets of these wheels, delivered them to her in time for USGP in Kentucky, and was happy to see that she podiumed there that weekend. As I routinely do, I spammed out all the pic links to my sponsors on Monday. Cole was ecstatic to hear the news. Finally, after over a month of excuses about the wheels and the brand, she (Amy) finally had a set of Cole wheels in her frame at a race. I’ll add here that, despite Amy’s assertion that her Cole wheels would make her uncompetitive, she had never even USED Cole wheels up until the USGP in Kentucky—or so I thought. I cannot tell you how disappointed I am that all of this revolves around a judgment call about some parts that were never ever pedaled.

But I digress. Upon spamming out the pics I zeroed in on an image or three and realized that these were not Cole wheels at all. After receiving the very wheels Amy asked me to get so that this unfortunate chapter would sink into the past, she took the stickers off the rims and applied them to whatever she was using all along. When I called her to the mat on this, she apologized and admitted to the deception. There’s more to it than I can write here, and all of it is tethered to what I consider a complete lack of respect for a system of support that works extremely well. I thought the ordeal, especially after all the excuses I had to make for her, and all the hand-holding that occurred—after all of this, the relabeling debacle was a major league slap in the face atmo. That’s when I decided to open a window and ask her to come in and fulfill the obligations we all made to each other in the summer, or leave through it.

Looking back on the situation, the issues, the arrogance, and the cavalier attitude that I was met with through every conversation I had with her regarding the wheels and related stuff—it was a very bad rider-sponsor relationship. I have to take blame and responsibility for some of it because I could have been more direct about the wheel thing as soon as I sensed there was a problem. I hoped it would right itself with some prodding, peer pressure, and some long race weekends where the team’s energy would somehow communicate that her choices and actions were wrong and counterproductive. That it lasted until mid October will always be on my conscience because I believed we had a good solid foundation of support and trust, and were well on the way to becoming friends in addition to being teammates. And I’ll further qualify that by adding that, in all of my years running a team, I have never had a bad rider-sponsor relationship.

RKP: Couldn’t re-decaling a set of wheels (or any other component) make you look bad to your sponsor, maybe even endanger your relationship with that sponsor?

RS: Without even getting into the ethics of it or what goes on in behind-the-scenes deals made in other levels of the sport, using any part or component that isn’t supplied by a team sponsor (all parts and suppliers being in place and fully committed by the early Summer before each season begins) is not allowed. Except for this 2009 situation, it has been not an issue that has reared its head in our midst. And, to make it worse than worse, to do a relabeling gig after all the meetings we had about brand loyalty, commitment, and integrity, reflects a character trait that I do not wish to associate with personally or professionally.

RKP: So are you saying Dombroski was willing to risk sponsorship of the entire team just to have what she believed would make the difference in winning?

RS: Yes.

RKP: Do you give your riders any latitude about what equipment they use or do you specify everything?

RS: I don’t have to. We are a fully supported and sponsored team with every single part supplied by a long term industry brand name. We race on SRAM drivetrains, Oval Concepts stems, ‘bars, and seat posts, Cane Creek headsets and cantis, Cole Wheels, Crank Brothers pedals, Selle San Marco saddles, Wippermann chains, Clement tires, wearing Verge kits, Rudy Project helmets and eyewear, and most of us using Northwave shoes.

RKP: Has anyone complained before?

RS: To me—only Amy

To others—only Amy as far as I know.

RKP: ‘Cross Nats are coming up. You will be facing riders that you haven’t raced against this season. Any guys out there have you concerned?

RS: Will, Josh, Dan, Matt, and myself have all been in fields this year that have the best from the categories we race within. We have at least five wins in UCI races, countless podiums and top tens, Matt has won several Masters 35+ events, and I have won five 55+ races All of us are in very good shape and extremely motivated. Atmo the Natz will be just another day at the office.

Richard4

RKP: Care to make any predictions about how your team members will go in their races?

RS: We’ll finish the season as we began it: representing all of our sponsors and suppliers in the best manner possible and continue giving good brand. We’ll use the last two weekends to crowd in many more memories that will carry us through the off-season months, and we’ll be there for each other another 20 days or so to ensure that we all get as close as possible to meeting our personal goals for ‘cross.

In-the-trenches images courtesy Anthony Skorochod, CyclingCaptured.com

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70 comments

  1. noel

    i love richard sachs. if i ever were to get a tattoo on my ass… it would say it. i wish i were good enough to race for him. pure class and style.

    nice to see all this in print.

    noel

  2. Christian

    Craig

    You don’t know enough about cycling. Whether you prefer steel bikes that last years, or featherweight carbon bikes that break if you fart on them wrong, to say his bikes are ugly clearly labels you as someone who’s just uninformed.

    Richard Sachs is everything that’s right about bikes. He is a consummate craftsman, a brilliant TM, and a hell of a rider. He has incredibly high standards, for himself, for the riders he sponsors, for the bikes he builds.

    It’s nice (if clueless) of you to stand up for Amy Dombrowski, but she really doesn’t have a leg to stand on in the dispute. She agreed to the terms, and then refused to honour those terms.

    Thanks for playing.

  3. Souleur

    no doubt, when I say & hear the name Richard Sachs, it is synonymous with ‘legend’

    Great interview, and his responses…every single one speak directly to his character, deeply held beliefs and legend status.

    Craig may not get it, thats true, not to craigs discredit, many don’t because it is counterintuitive & thats understandable. I have been there and done that too…until you ride a very good steel bike its hard to think such things can happen. Perhaps this will help, his bikes are heavier, substantially, and they still win consistently over the carbon lite stuff made in china. Its because of 2 things, geometry and a craftsmanship of perfection that has been hammered out over time. Yes, his bikes are that good.

    I have no tat’s, none, but if i were to get one like noel suggests, I would put the Sachs headbadge on my drive-side calf

  4. Jimbo

    Yo Craig, I guess you don’t get put your blood, sweat, and tears into something that doesn’t result in a return on the dollar and is pretty damn unselfish. The man represents sponsors professionally, helps both up and coming and established racers compete with top level equipment, and somehow finds the time to be a competitive racer.

    The bikes aren’t heavy (maybe 1 lb more than some carbon frame that won’t last but a few years), and beauty is in they eye of the beholder.

  5. zen

    Regardless of amy’s ethics (or the lack thereof, apparently), I think richard may have been a bit _too_ forthcoming in this interview. Probably a “she refused to live up the sponsorship obligation of her contract” would have sufficed. I appreciate and commend richards ethical stance, but a bit more professionalism with regards to the details would have painted this interview in a better light, rather than the bitch session it turned out to be.

  6. mark

    Hey, Patrick, let’s go back to having the full article available on RSS. I realize you’re probably trying to bump your site traffic, but I’m much more likely to read if I can get the whole thing in my reader.

    Thanks.

  7. shorelocal

    RS is an icon in ‘cross. His and his team’s dedication and love of the sport is intoxicating. I get excited just reading about their racing … I wish the ‘cross season wasn’t already coming to a close. Good luck in Oregon all!!

  8. Paul

    “You don’t know enough about cycling”

    “clearly” “consummate” “brilliant” “incredibly” “nice” “leg to stand on” “Thanks for playing.”

  9. Sophrosune

    Look guys, you don’t have to denigrate carbon fiber frames to elevate steel frames. Unless you buy a very poor carbon frame there’s no reason to expect it to last a shorter amount of time than a steel bike. Okay if you crash it seriously the damage COULD be more serious than that of a steel bike. But all of this stuff about how when you break a CF bike that’s it–it’s just not true, carbon bikes can be repaired. If you want to praise steel because of its “road feel” or the “craftsmanship” or whatever floats your boat about steel, can you manage to do it without trashing carbon fiber bikes. It’s really getting wearisome.

  10. zen

    I’m a big proponent of carbon frames, I own two. I also own three steel frames and a titanium frame. I race my Scott CR1 on the road exclusively, but my ‘cross bike is an older handmade bontrager (pre-trek). I don’t expect my CR1 to ever wear out, but if I ever crashed it and an inspection revealed damage even _suggesting_ a repair is needed, I would throw it away. I would never trust a repaired carbon frame. I wouldn’t be against racing a carbon frame in ‘cross, but I crash too much (in ‘cross, not on the road) to make that type of investment.

    My other race ready road frames are a Merlin Road and a Kellogg (spectrum cycles) Columbus SLX. The Scott _really_ has it all over the other two as far as response and race ‘manners’. It isn’t an insignificant difference, it’s rather striking. But if I crashed it, it’s going in the trash.

  11. pete

    i applaud sachs for hanging dombroski here. whats the point of doing an interview unless you’re going to speak your mind, and call it as, at least you, the interviewee, see it. The sport and the media both dance around too many ethical issues, as we all know, and to get the truth, at least from the perspective of the guy who’s busting his nuts to make this work, deserves to be treated better than he was from someone half Richard’s age. Sponsorship in our sport is hard to come by, and is not meant to be taken lightly. Like him or not, to cross RS like she did is BS.

  12. Larry T.

    No bicycle ever won a race. ATHLETES win bike races using bicycles. I have a tough time believing anyone who wins on a Sachs machine could not have won the same race riding a bike made by someone else as bike racing (thankfully) is not Formula 1. Anyone building lugged steel bikes is a hero in my opinion, Richard Sachs might be the coolest guy doing it in the US, besides the fact he’s out there racing one of his creations instead of sitting around admiring it while it hangs on the wall. I don’t think he cares much if Craig thinks his bikes are heavy, ugly, expensive and take a long time to get, his waiting list says there are plenty of folks who want one. I have a hard time believing Sachs is making any more than a bare living doing this – it’s got to be a labor of love. I admire that.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Everyone: Thanks for the passionate comments. Ordinarily I might be inclined to ask folks to go a little easier on each other, but in this instance I think Craig’s lack of respect for an individual opened him up to some piling on. I would definitely prefer, though, that things remain utterly civil here.

      Regarding the steel vs. carbon debate, I see that as a lot like debating the merits of classical music vs. rock ‘n’ roll. There are gems in both. What would the world be without both Stairway to Heaven and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony? And what about Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier? The Beatles’ Revolver? Metallica’s Black Album? Stravinsky’s Firebird?

      Without diversity in beauty, it’s a boring, dim world.

  13. Craig

    I apologise for being a too breif in stating my impression.

    I understand that Mr. Sachs has built nice bikes for a long time, albeit using methods that are pretty much retrograde.

    I think his stated reasons for supporting athletes are admirable. However, I think that airing the dirty laundry of his team in public is completely unprofessional. There are other examples of his behaviour being a long way out of line, and Google is all that is needed to find these so I won’t go in to that. Strongly opinionated might be one way to describe him, monomaniacal is another. I think the incident with Ms. Dombroski highlights this.

    It seems to me like Mr. Sachs has moved into cyclo cross as his bikes would present a rider a considerable disadvantage on the road.

    It seems to me like Ms. Dombroski was desperate for a team, and Sachs needed a rider. It seems like neither was actually suitable for the other – Dombroski wanted better (lighter) equiptment, Sachs wanted someone to toe the team line to the letter, performance concerns aside. Dombroski has moved on. Sachs seems to be doing his all to vent his bitterness on the internet. To me, it comes across as little-man syndrome if ever I have seen it.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Oh, and Craig, the problem with your comment wasn’t your brevity, it was your lack of decorum.

      Regardless, I think it is understandable that Mr. Sachs would wish to protect his professional reputation after the things Dombroski said about the bikes, equipment and relationship.

      It’s fair to wonder how one judges as insufficient a piece of equipment that by all appearances seems competitive if that part has never been ridden.

      Finally, for those who wish to debate the frame weight issue anyway, bear in mind that Dombroski moved to an aluminum/carbon Primus Mootry. While the frame is likely somewhat lighter, it’s not like she moved to a sub-kilo carbon wonder, and the difference in frame weights in small (50cm or so) frames isn’t nearly as great as you see when dealing with large frames (58cm and up).

  14. fiji

    Thanks for publishing the details behind the AD wheel swap. She’s made it sound like she was a victim on other sites and I don’t doubt that RS is calling it like it is. With his eye for detail, I can’t believe that she thought that the decal switch would be successful. The whole move really lacks both professionalism and integrity on her part.

  15. Brian Ignatin

    Ironically, cyclocross is the one discipline where I believe that frame weight does indeed matter significantly. It is conducted on relatively slow speed courses, that are highly technical in nature, and require a lot of accelerations. Additionally, outside of mountain biking, it is the only discipline that requires the rider to shoulder, run with, or push the bike with regular frequency. Lighter makes all of this easier.

    This said, Larry T summed it up best; bikes don’t win races, athletes do. All bikes go the same speed without the rider… But when you take into consideration that the Sachs frames are heavier than what most top riders are using, which could be deemed a disadvantage, and his riders still place consistently, it speaks well for both the riders and the bikes.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      It’s hard to include every single detail that Richard and I discussed. I feel a need to clarify that Sachs’ frame was never the issue. I haven’t personally seen every comment Dombroski has made, so while it’s possible she complained about the weight of the steel frame in some of the interviews, that wasn’t the reason Sachs terminated her sponsorship. She was, after all, riding his frame. The issue was the fact that Dombroski wasn’t riding the Cole wheels she was supplied. Even after being supplied a top-of-the-line set of Coles she unpacked them only enough to peel the decals off. She then lied and claimed to be riding the Cole wheels. Richard says the wheels—which were supplied at considerable additional expense—have never been ridden. I should point out Sachs and other riders on his team have been able to win on Cole wheels. Further, even though she was ordered to return all her equipment he has only gotten back the one set of Cole wheels with the decals peeled. Sachs tells me she still has the bikes and all other equipment she was supplied.

  16. Craig

    Padraig – Fair call. I apologise for my lack of decorum.

    I am not particularly familiar with the North American cyclocross scene. From all accounts Mr. Sachs has made remarkably generous and long term commitments to the sponsorship of a team. In addition he is decent with a blow torch and some metal pipes. Personally I don’t get why you would wait 7+ years for what is allegedly a race frame (your competetive career would surely be over by them), nor do I get why you would fork out $5k+ for a frame to race on that seems, more than anything, a piece of nostalgia. Regardless, there are obviously more than enough people who do ‘get it’ to keep Mr. Sach’s work in high demand.

    Heavy, pretty (if you think that) and expensive are exactly the qualities I do not want in a racing frame. Whatever.

    That said, I think a distinction needs to be made between his professional achievements and his personal shortcomings. Openly publishing private email correspondence between himself and Ms. Dombroski and then having the gall to accuse her of unprofessionalism? Please. An interview is an interview, and I understand that he is a site sponsor, but I am sure he has something more to say than whinging about a sponsorship that didn’t work out.

  17. Paul

    A net result of this is that someone like me, into bikes but not a racer, learned about Cole wheels for the first time in the context of a rider being kicked off a team for not using them.

  18. Touriste-Routier

    Craig,

    Sach’s customers are typically people who appreciate the nuances of a handmade custom frame. They are folks who are willing to pay the price and wait the time in order to have the work of a true master. He makes more than “race” frames. While his frames used to be coveted by racers, as the marketplace has evolved, I suspect his audience has shifted more towards people who appreciate performance bikes, but don’t necessarily compete on the road.

  19. matty o.

    While all of this is very interesting, I’m curious about the motivation behind discussing the Dombroski incident so openly. I’m not going to judge it as professional or not professional. But does Sachs think that his name needs to be cleared in order to not dissuade future sponsors? Or does he think that Amy D’s (arguably) poor behavior needs to be publicized? I would have a hard time believing the former; the latter strikes me as troublesome, if not outright vindictive. It would be nice for everyone to put this behind them.

    That said… it’s been awesome seeing the Sachs team crush it at east coast cross races this year. I drool over those frames.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Matty: Probably a fair question in these cynical times. This all started when I dropped Richard a note to ask if he’d like to do a ‘cross-oriented interview and BTW why was someone leaving his team? No one is going to make tons of money racing ‘cross, so riding for a team that fits my definition of cool (which may not be the same as everyone else’s) seems like a gig that I’d never leave unless asked to. I was surprised when Sachs revealed how mad he was that she was continually bashing him in the media. I asked him if he’d like to try to set the record straight. My impression is, if she’d left and kept her mouth shut and returned the equipment, the interview would have been a little shorter. I know how I’d feel if someone I fired gave multiple interviews saying she quit because I gave her shit equipment. We all have our breaking point.

      For the record: The advertiser relationship I have with Richard is a reasonable cause for some concern. I’m dependent on advertisers to have the ability to devote part of my day to RKP. It’s fair to wonder if I’d give Richard a soapbox just to keep him happy. I can say I won’t do that. Richard is a personal friend, but he doesn’t need me to do what he does. The same can’t be said for me; I do need the advertisers, as previously mentioned. Nonetheless, my first allegiance is to publishing information I believe to be true.

  20. Da Robot

    I don’t know any of the players in this little square dance, but Sachs strikes me as a guy with a pretty air tight system that depends on keeping sponsors happy. He’s been at it a long time, and he’s built a name around it. He’s probably got to underline for his sponsors the lengths he’s going to go to to preserve that rep, otherwise, he ends up doing a whole ton of business on his own dime.

    Honestly, in an attempt not to judge either Sachs or Dombrowski, it seems as though this is an elite team manager with a big ego and some set ideas clashing with an elite athlete with a big ego and some set ideas, i.e. par for the course.

  21. neguy

    Who was right or wrong is not my place to say and I’m not going to pretend it is. However, this is not the first instance of a problem with Richard and one of his riders regarding equipment use. Josh Thornton was asked to leave NECSA as a junior for wishing to use his GT national team time trial frame in the nationals time trial instead of his standard Richard Sachs road frame.

  22. cwcushman

    Kind of related, in the past some pros have used gear re-branded with their sponsors logos. An example of this would be time trial bikes. In those situations, do the sponsors give permission? Or do those riders have enough star power to get away with it?


    1. Author
      Padraig

      As I understand it, that was the basis for Dombroski peeling the decals off the Coles. While I can’t speak to every instance in which re-badged frames were ridden, I know the particulars of several instances and in each case the sponsor was asked ahead of time and signed off on the re-badged bikes. In several instances, such as when Lance Armstrong first joined Postal, Trek didn’t make a TT frame. While people typically point to the Litespeed he rode, in fact Armstrong’s first Trek-badged TT bike was an aluminum one made for him by Gian Simonetti in SoCal. Simonetti knew Eddie B. and Lance met the builder through him.

      Certainly, some riders have the star power to demand certain equipment, but it is hard to make that case when you are being supplied with top-quality components and you’re not exactly a star.

  23. IntheKnow

    Dick Sach as he shall now be known- Publishes what he wants you to see regarding the Dombroski situation. The wheels were not the real issue. The fact that she is 107lbs wringing wet and the bike she had at Cross Vegas weighed 20 lbs. was the primary issue. The wheels became the issue to end the contract. I think it was wrong of ole’ Dick Sach to publish her personal emails to him on his website- it was unproffesional and in bad taste- ATMO Steal is real…. HEAVY

  24. Touriste-Routier

    IntheKnow, regardless of whether Sach’s public disclosures about Dombroski’s behavior is appropriate (or vice-versa), it is more than reasonable to assume Dombroski knew that Sach’s makes his frames from steel, long before she joined the team. Unless there was an agreement in place that specified something different, she should have no valid complaints regarding the frames she received.

    She finished 9th at CrossVegas; almost 3.5 minutes behind the winner on a dry, hard packed, fast course. 2nd place was 59 seconds behind the winner. She wasn’t in the 2 other mini chasing groups at the finish (who were 1 and 2 minutes ahead of her at the line). Her problem wasn’t the weight of her bike; she was outclassed that night.

  25. IntheKnow

    Have ypu seen her results since she has been racing a bike that is 6.lbs lighter. I know steel builders who can build a tiny cx bike that does not weigh 20lbs. So how come Dick’s did?

  26. rich_mutt

    i don’t see what the problem is. if you are a sponsored rider, and you don’t used the sponsored equipment, you should have to forfeit your sponsorship. it’s pretty simple. imho, rs did nothing other than state facts. what ever other riders in the pro peleton have done in the past have done have no bearing on this situation.

    i find it rather hard to believe that the rs cross bike, in amy’s smaller size (50 tt?), weighs 20 lbs with carbon tubulars. granted a sachs has lugs, but 20 lbs? that’s an exaggeration.

    small man’s syndrome? if he was taller and did the same thing, what would you call it? maybe what amy did was called small woman’s syndrome? i dunno…

    btw, i prefer the white album.

  27. rich_mutt

    her results improved from dropping .6 of a pound off of her bike? that’s less than a handful of mud. are you seriously pointing to that as a reason why her results are improving? maybe i should swap out my aluminum stem and seat post for a carbon one if that’s all it takes.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      To everyone, and especially Intheknow: I expect comments here to be respectful and show some class. You can debate all you want, but I do expect what you write to be polite. If you can’t manage some civility, I start deleting and blocking. I won’t tolerate the comments here degenerating into third-grade name-calling. The debates here have been too intelligently passionate to allow that.

  28. probikewrench

    Can’t say that I’ve never been part of taping over decals or utilizing a heat gun (hair dryer in a cheap motel room) to remove decals (for top-ten Grand Tour riders), so as not to offend team sponsors. It happens… In most cases, sponsors aren’t thrilled if there is photo evidence of an obvious breach-of-contract, but it happens nonetheless.

    Interesting interview. I see merit on both sides of the argument for clearing the air.
    What seemed to have happened to Ms. Dombroski was very much the same situation, but on a much smaller team, where her actions regarding riding sponsors’ equipment had already been addressed. Richard dealt with that, according to the information I got from this interview, the only way he could… dissolution of the rider/sponsor agreement.

    Because of the negative press he has received/will receive from Dombroski leaving the team (for whatever reason she may state), he had to do what he had to do. It’s not personal… it’s business. After patting her on the back for riding the COLE wheels, it turned out she wasn’t riding them after all. Do you think COLE noticed that she wasn’t on their wheels? With a small team like Sachs’, it’s about pleasing and retaining the sponsors.

    Good conversation coming out of this interview… at least the civil conversation. Keep up the good work.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Probikewrench: Thanks for joining the conversation. Knowing some of the riders/teams you’ve worked with, I’m curious to know what sorts of components you saw changed out and the reasons non-sponsor equipment was being used. Was it fit-related or just personal preference, or something else entirely?

      Just curious about your experience. No need to mention any names. We know where the bodies are buried.

      As a side note to all, I’m truly amazed that this issue ever arose. The practice of putting re-labeling really began with steel frames and the issues at stake were fit and handling, and sometimes stiffness, as in the case of Dario Pegoretti building frames for Miguel Indurain. Pinarello did much to foster the practice, in part, because they used so many contract builders even for production bikes. I’ve seen some tape on shoes for race day and the odd non-sponsor saddle, but those are two issues more related to fit than preference and there has seemed to be a fair amount of tolerance for that.

  29. zen

    > rich_mutt says:
    > i find it rather hard to believe that the rs cross bike, in amy’s
    > smaller size (50 tt?), weighs 20 lbs with carbon tubulars. granted
    > a sachs has lugs, but 20 lbs? that’s an exaggeration.

    I agree. A well built steel frame like sachs won’t be much more than a pound heavier than a top-of-the-line carbon frame, if that. Given the same components, the whole bike therefore isn’t going to weigh 20 pounds, and a one pound difference in the bike weight won’t explain her finishing 3 minutes behind the leaders at vegas.

    FWIW – my ten-year-old 56CM bontrager CX hand made frame with a steelman fork and mavic classics SSC clincher wheels weighs 21 pounds. I could drop 3-4 pounds off the bike on the wheel set and tires, and things like a carbon fork, seatpost, and lightweight saddle.

  30. TJH

    IntheKnow while I may be on the fence re: RS’s venting and what purpose it served, one thing I AM clear on is this…She called him fro sponsorship, not the other way around.

  31. probikewrench

    The “Top Ten Grand Tour rider” instance was a domestic stage race back in 2005. The particular part in question was a disc wheel that supposedly tested faster in the wind tunnel. The rider was (and still is) exceptional at time trialing and requested it on his bike. It was kind of a hurried switch, so myself and the team mechanic at the time (who shall also remain nameless), scrounged around my hotel room and found a hair dryer, mounted to the wall in the bathroom, to take the “offending” logos off the wheel prior to the next morning’s TT.

    I’ve put electrical tape over things, too. At the USPRO Time Trial in 2006, I was following a friend of mine who was racing for a small US team at the time. He had very little team support, as he was the only one on his team racing the TT (everyone was conserving their energy for the Road Race the following day), so I was obliged to serve as his mechanic in the follow car behind him.

    Because he was on a small team with a limited budget, he wasn’t provided with the high-end equipment that some top-tier US riders got. He had been provided a disc wheel, but borrowed a front wheel that was a non-sponsor wheel. I spent a few minutes before the TT taping over the competing sponsor’s logos, primarily not to offend the team’s current sponsor, even though it was public knowledge that the sponsor was not renewing for the following season.

    The two situations were both performance related, but were definitely different cases. One was purely out of rider preference, probably just to boost the rider’s confidence and to make him feel better about himself mentally (I suspect Ms. Dombroski had the same issue). The other was out of necessity, due to inadequate supply of proper equipment. In both cases, decals were removed or covered up, as not to offend the sponsors. Neither one was an ideal situation, but I suppose covering/removing the sponsors’ logos was the best possible thing to do in those instances, simply to maintain those sponsor/business relationships for the future.

    Thanks for welcoming me to the conversation. I’m trying to visit the actual RKP site more, rather than just read through a blog reader. I’ve weeded out the blogs that I don’t follow very closely to conserve some time. Now I’ve got more time to work on my own blog and contribute to conversations like this, as well.

  32. Andrew

    I agree with zen’s first comment – while Sachs’ team and sponsorship program are clearly well-developed, the fact that this has dragged on for over a month – and will continue with this latest salvo – shows a lack of professionalism nearly equal to Dombroski’s.

    How much is this really going to help Cole – the wheels that a rider was kicked off a team for refusing to ride – not to mention ancillary damage to all the other companies listed on those skinsuits? What is Sachs’ goal here- to show himself as the stern taskmaster when it comes to sponsor relations? I certainly haven’t heard him play up any of the positive aspects of the Cole wheels.

  33. Rono

    RS’s statements here are warranted given his supplier relationship with COLE wheels and AD’s negative comments toward his bikes elsewhere in the media. By way of comparison: how many of us have jobs with contracts stipulating non-disclosure agreements or gag orders upon termination? In many other work situations with more stringent contracts, AD’s comments would mean lawsuit city and RS could easily sue her for everything she’s worth.

    I’d bet RS is privately much more pissed off about this situation than his public face would suggest, yet he deserves to be commended for clearly explaining his position and not resorting to trash talk like AD or certain people in this discussion. What I like most is knowing that while we’re all in here chatting away ad nauseam, RS himself is out there racing, training, or building bikes. How many miles did YOU ride today?

  34. Edski

    As a former motorcycle racer who had sponsors, my experience is it is absolutely necessary for a sponsored racer to run the sponsors equipment. Sponsors pay for the exposure. The rider is paid or supplied with product to give them the exposure. As they say in NASCAR-win on Sunday, sell on Monday.
    BTW, My wife currently has a 49cm frameset made of steel which weighs 2 lbs, 6 oz. They can be light and naysayers need to ride a quality steel frame before talking smack.

  35. Fat Chance

    Great interview- and the comments almost stole the show.

    This interview is really relavent because Amy made an issue out of weight inthe media through her interviews/bike reviews on VN and CN- which led me to believe it was the Sachs frame as the issue. That is daming to a bike sponosr to have an athlete that you sponosr bag on your stuff-not that it will hurt RS’s sales but it hurts his public perception of making beautiful racing bikes. Now knowing it was a question of wheels, I have a new found lack of respect for Amy. She should have come out and said that it was the wheels and not made it seem like it was the frame. That was very poor behaviour on her part.

    RS has every right to voice his portion of the story since CN and VN both got Amys side with a photo shoot on her new Primus.

    Thanks Padraig for the great interview and providing the other side of the story.

  36. Henry

    It’s a no win situation for Sachs.

    The best thing for Cole and the other sponsors would be for all this to go away. It’s not the kind of publicity they were paying for, especially as it revolves around a conflict suggesting the equipment was ‘inferior’. At the same time Sachs feels obligated to set the record straight, but every time he talks about it he keeps this in the news which is probably worse for the team and sponsors then getting your side of the story out even if Sachs was 100% right in everything he did.

  37. JohnHemlock

    “In the end, it culminated with me re-decaling a non-sponsor item, with the sponsor sticker,” Dombroski confessed. “To Richard’s credit, he did not feel I was truly representing the sponsor if I was not using the equipment. Perhaps this loyalty is something we should all learn from.”

    End of story, methinks.

  38. tone

    Maybe she didn’t like the way he talked to her…..not the kind of thing you can say publicly. I read the email exchange and if someone spoke to me in that tone I’d push back too. God only knows how the phone conversations sounded. Boss is not ruler….and money is not everything.
    Simply sounded more like she’s prefer to be sponsorless than put up with something???? No one is that stupid…so I’ll have to guess there is more to the story from her perspective.
    But hell it’s all speculations right.

  39. Rich

    the rider and none sponsored component issue used to drive me crazy. There are few exceptions which were made due to injury related problems. But not using the sponsors kit compromises it for all. Look at Sven Njis he’s had some iffy products to use, heavy wheels etc (obviously not the bike) and its never stopped him being very fast. Speed for many riders is in the mind and not in the legs.

  40. tone

    I don’t get how people can’t understand the proportion thing. Women use a smaller basketball and are different than men both weight and strength. She weighs nothing. Maybe your idea of ALL is more exclusive than you realize. Sometimes exceptions are made to be inclusive and allow for differences……and if you are unwilling to see the necessity of her issues, by being able to think and realize she’s not a boy and to stop comparing her to and treating her like one. Then I believe she did the correct thing for herself both mentally and for the legs. Maybe the means were not perfect though when it’s your livelihood and time is more important than trying to enlighten someone who’s not getting it. Then I have room for misbehavior – Greater good.
    Of course it could have played out better and it’s a hit to the sponsors and the athlete. But these are real issues that need to be examined more closely, and with greater care. Both side were right and both sides were wrong.

  41. Viper

    There are several elements at work here.

    Firstly, Richard Sachs is a sponsor of this website, true? If this is the case, as it appears, it’s another prime example of Mr. Sachs’ opinions, ideas and overly-inflated ego having the pulpit and the pew to spew his words, which, when the fix is in, become Gospel according the the Book of Cronyisn. In summary, Mr. Sachs, in his metro-New York fashion, uses passive-aggressive techniques, honed decades ago, to chip away, sweetly smear and snidely insult a former member of his team, Ms. Amy Dombroski.

    There is talk that Mr. Sachs broke a rule of common, internet decency and posted personal emails pertaining to Ms. Dombroski; Sachs ought to do the thing he does (fairly) well and that’s simply make bikes. Since his frame building career is near it’s end, he’d do well to pretend he’s a noob frame builder, set aside his unbalanced ego for a reality check and understand that without a girl in a bikini using binoculars to radio-in his opponent’s poker cards, he’s just another fat cat sitting poolside, losing his reputation, his money while getting sunburned. Gentlemen’s rules, Goldfinger.

    The ‘interview’ begins with the name of a Cycling God, Sean Kelly. “Richard, you’ve been racing on the road since Sean Kelly was a junior, yet you turned to cyclocross relatively recently and quickly became a big convert. What brought this about?” and this has not been addressed. Who, what, why, where, when and if should Richard Sachs’ name ever, ever, ever be mentioned in the same sentence as Sean Kelly? Christ. Sean Kelly? I mean all of us watched Neil Armstrong land on the moon, but that along with all the tea in China should never associate our names with NASA, even if we work for Spacely Space Sprockets as engineers; Mr. Sachs, I served with Sean Kelly, knew Sean Kelly, Sean Kelly was a friend of mine and you sir are no Sean Kelly.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-7gpgXNWYI

    But carry on. It’s what you do. It’s who you are. It’s not about the bike. It’s not even about your bike atmo. It’s about the ego, arrogance attempting to fill-in the missing spokes on one man’s wheel.

    To the ‘interviewer’ and Mr. Sachs, let’s all agree on this…Ms. Dombroski’s cycling career shows more promise than Sachs’ ever did. I tip my Giro Atmos off to Ms. Dombrowski, a young lady whose watts and promising future in the sport of cycling will have many no-chain days, great output and strong results, whereas Mr. Sachs will be tied, chained to his computer and small crony-loving circle. Congrats to Ms. Dombrowski and to Sachs, who would make a fine Ebenezer Scrooge, we know this Golden Rule to be true…at Christmas (and Hanukkah) we get what we deserve:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfIWCiX21qg

    Merry Christmas,
    Viper

  42. tone

    Let’s just put it this way.

    If Dan weighs 140lbs and his Team Sachs is 19.22lbs = 13.37% of his body weight

    If Amy’s Team Sachs is the estimated 18.72lbs (pedraigs estimate) and she weighs 107lbs = 17.50% of her body weight

    Amy’s Team Schlamm p/b Clement and Primus Mootry is 15.17lbs which is 14.18% of her body weight….putting her in the same range as Dan is on his Team Sachs.

    Amy’s Team Sachs = 17.50% of her body weight
    Amy’s Team Schlamm p/b Clement and Primus Mootry = 14.18% of her body weight
    Dan’s Team Sachs = 13.73% of his body weight

    These are the numbers.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Everyone: Let’s try to keep our eye on the ball. Even if Dombroski gained a 3.32% advantage over her previous bike, that gain has zero bearing on the controversy. She told the media—after she was fired for using non-sponsor equipment—that she had an issue with her Sachs’ weight and attempted to portray the separation as a choice on her part. This was a fabrication.

      Using a sponsor’s equipment is a pretty cut-and-dried issue. All the numbers I’ve seen (including some independent testing) say Zipp wheels are faster than the competing Bontrager model, and yet Armstrong—a rider not much liked among commenters here—ran Bontrager wheels the whole season. If Armstrong can get it right when the dollars at stake are much, much larger, a cyclocross racer ought to be able to get it right.

      I’ve been accused of bias in regard to the above post. It’s true that Richard is an advertiser. It is also true that Richard is an old friend. That said, my first allegiance is to accuracy and truth. RKP is not a mouthpiece for any commercial entity, except RKP.

  43. tone

    I was just giving the numbers that count if your gonna talk weight….and I believe you brought it up. I agree in most cases weight is not a big issue though exceptions come along and in Dombroski’s case this seeming nuance is relevant.

    Remember this is her livelihood and she was willing to go sponsorless. I have argued it’s in the tone and a lack of listening comprehension. You and everyone can keep comparing her to male athletes, until you turn blue in the face…and I will tell you that is the very problem. I’m guessing she tried to plead her case in all the ways Sachs did his…..and in the end didn’t have time to enlighten someone who wasn’t getting it, only to have her season gone. She’s not going to be under 23 forever….. Exceptions are sometimes made to be inclusive. Frustration from lack of being heard causes stress, and stress is the number one enemy of a riders fitness. Did she handle this situation perfectly and the ‘right’ way probably not……Correct thing for her mind and legs – yes I think so.

    As I said before: they were both right and they were both wrong.
    If it’s so important to say she was fired – well ok whatever.

  44. Adam

    I really don’t care about this issue, but she didn’t have a ride for the year and she contacted him. He gave her a leg up and his bikes were good enough when the alternative was not having a ride at all.

  45. rich_mutt

    on the weight issue, i only brought it up because a previous poster went on and on about how her sachs cx bike, in size 50, weighed over 20 lbs. i’m sure that she feels those 3 lbs when she has to carry her bike. there’s no disputing that.

  46. tone

    “Really don’t care” is what I’m betting was the reaction = she did the correct thing for her mind and legs – hell career and livelihood.

    Adam – do you expect Dan could be competitive at the national level or the world class level with a bike that weights 24.79lbs? Maybe, but why do that…it’s like running a marathon with the wrong size shoes.

    Also…she was willing to go sponsorless AFTER riding Team Sachs and being in it’s program. This speaks volumes more to me than her approaching the team before she 100% knew the deal.

    I think it’s great that Team Sachs sponsors and provides a home for many racers. But in this case it looks like a bad fit for more reasons than just one.

    Lastly, I don’t believe that you really don’t care and if you really don’t then you are no competitor.

  47. dacrizzow

    my local paper ran an article a few years ago on lance and his bike and training, etc. a note on his wheelset claimed they were ZIPPs but he had bontrager decals on them. i don’t know if this is actually true or not but i can’t imagine many local journalists really caring what this could mean to many cyclists so i choose to believe it’s true. incidentally it was the first i had heard of zipps. i was still under the impression that mavics were the holy grail.

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