A New Year’s resolution that’s not just about you
Why a pro cyclist is spending his own money to help others race.
Why would a pro cyclist decide to share part of his team’s already-small budget to help people start racing or race a little more — even if they may not have any intention of going pro?
That’s what Tom Gibbons, who owns and leads Automatic Racing, is doing. It started as a whim: Give six $500 grants to cyclists — three for men, three for women — so they can go race this season. It can be an expensive sport at any level, and Tom recognizes this isn’t going to send anyone to Europe. But race experience is crucial in developing racers, and the health of the sport depends on getting more people, and a more diverse field, on the start line.
The idea he launched on a whim “from equal places of charity and spite,” as Tom says, has taken off. In just the first few days, other cyclists, teams, companies, and races have agreed to fund 20 more $500 grants.
And this isn’t a team taking sponsor dollars and putting up a $100,000 purse at a race for other pros they invite (and let’s be honest, themselves.) This is a team taking money they would use for their own travel, lodging, and entry fees to open up the sport to others. To remove one more barrier that’s keeping someone with a bike and the desire to race from getting on the line.
The team has always been an outlier. Automatic’s first race, in 2019, was in Birmingham at the first Hammerfest criterium. Their kits didn’t arrive in time and they raced in black Under Armour T-shirts with the Automatic logo ironed on by our neighbor Renee. Around town they wore orange JCPenney sweatshirts with the Automatic logo ironed on. Even with that rag-tag start, Automatic won the pro race. Tom ended up winning the individual series championship in 2019 and again in 2021. (There wasn’t a series in 2020.)
And so the whole grant idea is completely in keeping with Automatic’s DNA; if the team was a big corporation, you might say it’s part of its “culture.” But it’s really deeper than that.
Three years ago Tom described the team’s approach to racing and life like this: “If you do the work, if you remain positive, if you go out of your way to lift others up when they need it, and accept the help of others when you need it, success isn’t out of reach. In fact, it’s automatic.”
Automatic’s grant program is a natural expression of that philosophy, and it didn’t come out of market research and focus groups, taking form on a Powerpoint deck. It came out of a genuine desire to lift others up. And when others offered to help, Tom accepted that help gratefully and enthusiastically — and shared the credit.
At the time of year when people start talking about resolutions and how they’ll improve themselves next year, maybe this is the resolution to adopt: Stay positive; do the work; go out of your way to lift others up when they need it; and accept the help of others when you need it.
The Automatic approach to life seems like a good way to improve more than just yourself.
The grant program:
Follow this link for instructions on how to apply. Applications are open through January 10, 2022.
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