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Women in Cycling

Joan Hanscom's Continued Impact On The Cycling Community

By: Victoria Shead  March 23, 2021

Joan Hanscom has made a career out of her love for cycling. Learn more about Joan's experiences and how she got to where she is today.

Joan Hanscom has a long history in the world of cycling. Joan has worked with the US Gran Prix of Cyclocross and the Cyclocross World Championship and was the former Vice President of Event Services with USA Cycling. Today, Joan is the new Executive Director of the Valley Preferred Cycling Center.

We got the opportunity to chat with Joan and ask her about how she got into cycling, what she finds unique about the cycling community, and what women inspire her!

How did you get into cycling?

[Joan]: I got my first bike when I was 4 years old. My mum was VERY over-protective in the beginning and would only let me ride it around the one block in front of our house – so I would do it for HOURS. One block. I ALWAYS pretended I was racing and I guess because I was generally by myself, in my head I was always winning. Then for many years ballet replaced bikes for me but I started back riding after college and doing duathlons. Very quickly I discovered that I’m not a very good runner but I was pretty good at the bike part. I got curious about racing and found a woman’s team in DC called Artemis racing – they were/are amazing and I fully blame Evelyn Egizi and Cheryl Osbourne for my career in bike racing. They taught us everything from how to ride in a group, to how to pin on numbers. I think if I hadn’t had the introduction to the sport that I had with them, I would probably not still be racing or working in racing. The way you get brought into the sport matters.

What do you find unique about the cycling community?

[Joan]: This is a hard one. I’ve moved around a lot so I’ve been fortunate to live in and be part of many different cycling communities – and they have a lot of similarities but are also so different. The Chicago racing scene is nothing like the Colorado scene. PA is different from both of them – even though we all play the same game. The big thing we all share is we just love bikes. Road bikes, gravel bikes, mountain bikes, track bikes, e-bikes, commuter bikes. We just dig the happiness machines and the freedom they offer and the great shared experiences they enable us to have.

We love to “suffer” but we love to have fun too. We have fun suffering maybe? If you listen to any cycling podcast (and trust me, I’ve listened to A LOT of them in COVID) the most fun ones to me are the ones where the racers/guests tell stories of their shared experiences at a race or out training or at a camp. I’m a fan of the Watts Occurring podcast with Geraint Thomas and Luke Rowe and it’s mostly just them telling racing stories – and their racing stories aren’t, at the heart of it, much different than the stories my friends tell each other. They just go faster and have bigger budgets – but the stories are remarkably similar and that is really fun to me. Relatable. And maybe that’s what is unique about our sport and our community– we can relate on some level to people playing the game at the highest level because it’s still the same game we play. Greg Lemond says it doesn’t get easier it just gets faster – or something along those lines – and I think that’s perhaps one of the things that is unique about the cycling community. I probably cannot relate to a pro football player telling stories with his teammates about the Super Bowl. But when a pro rider tells a story about how she and her teammates were out on a training ride suffering up big climbs in Europe I can relate - maybe I’m not climbing the same mountain at the same speeds but I can relate to riding with my teammates and suffering up Mt Lemon together at our camp. And a person who doesn’t race but rides also shares that experience of what it’s like to ride up a big hill and feel their legs burning. It’s the thing that makes us all the same at the heart of it.

How do your previous experiences contribute to your day-to-day work?

[Joan]: Oh wow. This is a hard one - because I have worked in this industry for a long time. I started working in bike racing in 2002 – so I have an almost embarrassingly long list of previous experiences at this point. I think the most important ways that past experience has influenced the work I do today is that I have worn all the hats. I’ve been the bike racing customer as a racer at other people’s events and I’ve promoted LOADS of races in many disciplines at this point – Road, CX, MTB, and Track. I’ve worked for brands that sponsor races. All of those things help you see your work from a lot of angles – and your balance. As a bike racer myself, I know what I appreciate when I go to a race; good registration process, safe course, good organization, clear communication, friendly, welcoming environment. I try to bring that perspective to the races I produce and make it a race experience that I would want. But I also try to think about the things that keep races going, like keeping sponsors happy, keeping fans happy. Understanding the value of their support and making sure I deliver a value on that. I also think it’s really important to be good to your team. Making races is hard work, and if you have a great team to work with – which I have always been incredibly fortunate to have – it makes hard days fun. At the end of the day, all my past experiences tell me that if people have fun – racers, staff, sponsors, fans have FUN it’s all good.

What Women inspire you and why?

[Joan]: Number one is easy – Robin Morton. I have learned so much from her - about running races but also about how to be a woman in this sport and succeed. She’s an absolute legend and her stories about taking those first teams to the Giro and Vuelta are amazing and I want to be her when I grow up. Other women like Marianne Vos amaze me because they are gifted on the bike but also use their voices to promote positive change in the sport. Orla Chennaoui is doing great things on the media side – really elevating the women’s coverage and talking about issues that matter. The issue of Rouleur that she just guest-edited was really great. I loved reading the conversation she had with Fran Miller, Lizzie Deignan, and Monica Santini. It was so cool to see her shine a spotlight not just on the racers but other women who are influential in the sport.