Who Is A “Professional” Athlete?

March 24th, 2014 by Team AM OAM

You might be a professional athlete without realizing it.  One definition offered by the Merriam Webster dictionary defines the word professional as “characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession”. Further, it defines a profession as “a principal calling, vocation, or employment”, another way of saying a profession is a job. Seriousness of conduct is at a higher level then what one would approach with a hobby. Though we don’t race for a living, everyone on a team benefits from professionalism. Here are a few ways to be “professional” and how it positively impacts yourself and the team.

Full Team

Athletic Mentors teams — now known as Team OAMNow subsequent to the co-title sponsorship by OAMNow — pride themselves on professional appearance and conduct.

Sharp Dressed (Wo)man

Nothing says “conforming to the technical” like a group that looks the same. More than matching jerseys and bibs, a truly professional look synchs socks, helmets, accessory equipment (glasses, gloves, shoe covers, bikes, etc.) and even cool weather wear. It’s imperative riders maintain a clean bike and kit. Team Athletic Mentors’ management puts a lot of attention and effort towards projecting a brand and we all have a role in that. 

(The picture above is from the Priority Health sponsorship era. This year stay tuned for our BRAND NEW Team OAMNow kit, certain to be spotted at events throughout the state in coming months!)

Take Pride in Your Team 

A professionally run team establishes a vision and follows it. TAM has looked to develop riders. Some have gone on to higher ranks, even the ProTour. As a member of the team, you are part of that legacy. When other riders see you they see a team with high standards and a history of success. You have been chosen to continue an image, so take pride. This pride is not just racing or riding in your kit, but wearing the team casual wear during cycling and promotional events. 

Team Mates and Sponsors First 

Being professional means holding up your end of a bargain. Part of this is supporting the sponsors that provide resources to the team. Take every opportunity to promote sponsors’ products, keeping negative assessments within the team. Following through on your contractual agreements maintains the team’s ability to keep and hold sponsors. Think of your actions as reflecting those on your jersey and in your jersey. 

Be an Ambassador 

True professionals take responsibility to foster their livelihood. At our level, that means promoting the sport we love. Be approachable by strangers. Look to help more novice racers. Get in front of the camera. Most of us aren’t genetic freaks destine for greatness in cycling, but, rather, people passionate about a sport. Project that passion by supporting it any positive way so people see it means something to someone.

Make a Good First Impression IMG_0674

A professional conducts themselves at a high character level consistently. Sharp looking, organized teams get noticed, which makes the need to act your best even more important. Maintain an even keel during the heat of racing. Communicate with others through social media, in person, or other means, as if the spot light was always on. This includes when giving our opinion with race officials and promoters. Don’t forget having your attire leave no doubt who you race for while on the podium. 

Add Value to Your Team 

A well run team has a lot of moving pieces. Those pieces working in concert are what make an organization better than the sum of its parts. Try to look for ways to help, even if it’s just to offer your assistance. Most athletes have an expertise in some area(s), even if it’s just time, that can benefit everyone. Few good things happen by chance, but through effort by someone that cared. 

Support Your Team Mates 

One quality of a good team is people want to be a part of it. This usually isn’t the clothes they get, bikes they ride or deals offered. It comes down to feeling part of something where they are supported. Giving assistance, passing on knowledge, watching a fellow team mate and cheering them on are part of this support. It’s always best to feel we can share our triumphs and tragedies.

Forbrush 17k Freestyle Race Report

March 24th, 2014 by Team AM OAM


Kaitlyn Patterson crossing the finish line (photo courtesy of www.nordicskiracer.com)

Nordic skiers Kaitlyn Patterson and Ryan Harris represented Athletic Mentors well at the Forbrush Corner 17k Freestyle on February 15. With temperatures above zero, sunny skies and minimal wind, the participants received a great day for competition success. The Forbrush Corner track is filled with hills, creating a tough, always climbing or descending course. Kaitlyn dominated the race with a first place finish while Harris had an intense battle that landed him third place.

The men’s start was a little rough out of the gate given a few crashes before the first turn and during the wide climb. Skiers were ultra aggressive in getting to the front. Ryan Harris, alongside two other racers, broke away from the pack and had a clear lead, already minutes ahead of any other competitors. At the finish, Ryan was just barely beat by the two competitors; only two seconds separated first thru third place. He finished third with a time of 50:12.

The women’s top three was fairly tight as well, given the 40-second separation of the three places. Kaitlyn led the pack and performed at a fast pace, finishing first for the women and only ten minutes behind the men’s winner with a time of 60:10.

Kaitlyn credits part of her fast performance to the new, RCS Carbonlite hole skis she invested in during the middle of the season. Her new skis are ultra-light, responsive and overall give a faster feel.

“As much as I wanted to think that a strong engine can overcome sub-par equipment, I finally admitted that skis matter a lot in Nordic skiing,” she said. “Even with a warm base structure on cold races, they made a huge difference.”

Kaitlyn felt that she finally put everything together — the powerhouse she’s been creating in training felt good and coupled with her new skis, she raced very well.

Although 5 degree weather doesn’t seem warm, competitors were relieved that the conditions were far less brutal than the VASA race the previous weekend, where the temperatures reached several degrees below zero. It was enjoyed enough that according to Kaitlyn, the sun gave ample warmth for post-race food and drinks on the patio.

“Overall, another great day of racing in Northern Michigan,” Kaitlyn said.

Barry Roubaix – Women’s Race Report

March 23rd, 2014 by Team AM OAM

Barry Roubaix has quickly become the largest gravel road race in America and it is held right here in West Michigan every March. Conditions over the past few years have ranged from 50 degrees and dry, to 19 degrees and icy. The 2014 race, held this past weekend, was somewhere in between at 33 degrees with some mud.

In 2012, Amy Stauffer and Marie Dershem won the Overall Women’s podium spots in the 62 Mile and 36 Mile races, respectively. In 2013, Marie returned to the podium for the 36 Mile overall and placed 1st in her age division. In 2014, Roxane Kippen secured 3rd place Overall Woman for the 24 Mile race and 1st place in her age division.

BRX Podium

Below is a photo from the start of the Women’s 24 Mile race with Roxane Kippen, 2014 OAM NOW/Athletic Mentors rider, and Amy Colby, Athletic Mentors coached athlete, (both in orange) leading out the mass start of 135 ladies.

BRX 2014 Start

As part of this year’s race, there was also a KOM (King of the Mountain) challenge. A specific climb on the course was designated in Strava as a segment where riders could record their ascent and try to be the fastest climber for that designated segment. Prizes were awarded for the top 3 men and women in each race distance. Roxane Kippen narrowly missed the top prize for the half mile climb by one second.


VASA Race Report

March 23rd, 2014 by Team AM OAM

Dan Yankus competing in a cross-country ski event.

On February 8, Team Athletic Mentors Nordic Ski racers Alex Vanias, Daniel Yankus, Ryan Halstead and Kaitlyn Patterson competed in the VASA 50k freestyle race. The race start temperature was in the negatives, far undercutting the forecasted temperature of 10 degrees and provided cold, bitter conditions.

There were 69 racers, and as usual, Athletic Mentors racers finished on top. Alex finished second in a time of 2:29:12, Dan took fourth in 2:37:50, Ryan came in 10th in 2:46:23, and Kaitlyn finished third in the women’s field (24th overall) with a time of 3:06:30. The main heat of the race was between winner Eli Brown and Alex.

Complications began the night before when Kaitlyn and Alex stayed up until midnight waxing their skis, only to realize it had been the wrong wax. After testing their skis, however, they didn’t feel too sticky on the abrasive snow. The warmer wax they had used could have been completely removed during the race, which leads to a significant speed decline.

As the race approached, the crew did a few warm-up laps and found the start line. The race began fast, as usual, and Alex stayed in a content position in the back of the lead group strategizing a time to attack and go to the front. Daniel, Ryan and Kaitlyn settled in comfortable positions among their competitors. Eli, the race favorite, kept the race aggressive; he attacked at the 5k and created a large gap between the rest of the racers, making it difficult for anyone to close in and chase him. Alex was determined, however, and did his best to catch up and challenge him for the rest of the race.

The pain set in and the mind games began. Between Eli and Alex up front, the two skiers were pretending to not be tired, keeping things dynamic and competitive. Alex said that from prior experience, he knew Eli was a strong finisher and that he must take the lead and wear him down in order to prevent him from getting any rest.

“We would event come to nearly complete stops trying to get each other to take the lead,” Alex said.

The rest of the crew was not far behind but experienced some difficulty. Dan mentioned that his skis were not gliding well, which set him in a less competitive position.

Up front, a third racer named Milan Biac joined Alex and Eli, and closed in gaps with his fast skis. After executing a planned attack on “the wall” with roughly half a lap left, Alex dropped Milan but couldn’t rid Eli. Alex kept pushing the pace in hope of cracking his competitor’s exhaustion. Unfortunately, Alex hit an obstacle that slowed him down, widening the gap between him and Eli.

“My plan backfired when I bonked on the Jack Pine section up a giant hill,” Alex said. “I just kept pushing. All I could do now was pretend to still have strength, but I knew it was over.”

With 1/2k to go, Eli muscled up a sprint far beyond Alex’s pace and earned his first place position. Alex glided in easy for second place, followed by his teammates not far behind. The whole team had solid individual performances and is already looking forward to next year’s race.

Nordic Ski Team Starts Strong Season at Cote Dame Marie

March 22nd, 2014 by Team AM OAM

Team Athletic Mentors has assembled a great roster of past, present and future skiers. With the excellent snow season this year allowing for highly competitive and sometimes brutal conditions, the 2014 Nordic Ski Team has been pushing limits, reaching season goals and topping the podium.

Five athletes represent Athletic Mentors this year and each of them took top placements in pre-season events. Alex Vanias, Kaitlyn Patterson and Ryan Harris represent the future of the sport, having combined for five individual wins and one relay win so far this year. Daniel Yankus and Jon Morgan round out the team providing leadership and experience, both finishing with great results, adding a win and multiple podium places to the team’s high success. Combined, the group has reached the podium 12 times in just five races.

The official season began Jan. 18 with the prestigious Cote Dame Marie. The men competed in the 24.5 km freestyle race and the women in the 13.3 km freestyle.


As seen in the picture to the left, the start for the men was quick, fast and crowded, yielding 100 total competitors. Alex Vanias led the race and kept the pace up to eventually win in roughly 1 hour and 16 minutes. Behind him, teammate Daniel Yankus finished 2nd in a close sprint, marking a time just a minute and a half behind Vanias. Ryan Harris finished 6th, and Jon Morgan finished 14th. In the women’s freestyle, Kaitlyn Patterson kept the success theme of the day by winning a four-way battle to the line, making her the victor. Only four seconds separated places one through four. Who says slow twitch athletes can’t win a sprint?

For complete results from the Cote Dame Marie, click here.

Follow the “read more” link to see the summary results from the Cote Dame Marie and the other pre-season events. Stay tuned for more big results from Athletic Mentors’ Nordic ski team! Read the rest of this entry »


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