Today is a big day for my family and me, besides the fact that I have 3 kids and it's Halloween, today, YGR turns 10 years old. I launched the original version of YGR on Halloween of 2008. The site has gone through a name change and numerous format changes over the years, but the goal remains the same, to promote and inform the Fort Collins Cycling scene, the best grassroots cycling scene in the nation. There is no way for me to fully articulate how grateful I am to everyone that has supported the site over the years. Friends, family, fans, contributors and advertisers are all part of the equation. Without each and everyone of you, YGR wouldn't exist. This whole post is basically a big 'thank you' to all of you.
So, how did YGR come to be? Well, it was mostly out of frustration. The Fort Collins cycling scene had gotten so big and so spread out that races and rides were going on all over town with only a tiny fraction of the community knowing about them. The scene was diluted and fragmented. After years and years of complaining about it, I finally decided to do something about it. I launched The Group Ride in hopes of uniting the Fort Collins scene. Oddly, the original Wordpress blog is still up and running, I'm not really sure how to turn it off. Although I launched it anonymously, it didn't take Rich Davis very long to connect the dots and out me as running the site, although the scene was growing, it wasn't that big. The goal of the site was and is to improve the overall health of Fort Collins cycling by promoting group rides, local races, events and covering local cycling news.
I had no intention of making any money off the site, I just wanted to bring all of the local cycling information into one place so everyone knew what the hell was going on. I had and still have a great passion for promoting how great Fort Collins cycling is. Back then, there were races, group rides and events taking place weekly and if you weren't on the right email lists, you wouldn't know about them until it was too late. During the first few months of the site I covers things like the New Belgium Cyclocross races, fundraiser to send Skyler Trujillo to CX Worlds, the launching of Echelon Energy- a new elite road team, Velo News interviews with Georgia Gould and encouraged people to ride the Oval. At the time I was working at Kroll Government Services running Colorado criminal history checks for federal background investigations and hating every single second of it. I'm just not cut out to work in a cube farm. The movie, Office Space, portrays my existence pretty accurately. Within a few weeks of launching the site I realized I was getting enough traffic to warrant switching from a blog to a fully functioning website and maybe even selling some ad space, much to the eye rolling of my wife Sara. In January of 2009 I ran an ad on Craigslist looking for someone to build a website with the only stipulation being that once it was built, I needed to be able to manage it it myself. You can imagine how this went, withing a few hours I had dozens of quotes ranging from $500-$5000 to build the site. The one thing they all had in common was that they'd build the site on a open source platform like Joomla and I'd be able to take over running "very easily". Of course being the cheap bastard that I am, I wondered why should I pay someone thousands of dollars to do something that I could do myself. I took that ad down and posted a new one asking for someone to teach me how to build a site via Joomla. I spent 3 hours with a guy in Greeley who taught me the ins and outs of the software. On February 22nd of 2009 Your Group Ride launched. Someone else owned, although wasn't using, the The Group Ride URL so I had to change the name. The new site had a forum, a classifieds section, more menu and page options and more robust advertiser options. It would be another 6 months before I starting charging for advertising, a year before I went part time at my job and 5 years before I quit my job completely to run YGR and raise my kids.
Since the site first launched, I've settled into a routine of updating the calendar, posting race flyers and results, spreading the word on events, promoting my own events and races and covering the good and bad of Fort Collins cycling news. Over the past 10 years I've been able to take part in and do some pretty cool things thanks to YGR. I was a founding member of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge Stage 6 local organizing committee. the US Grand Prix of Cyclocross New Belgium Cup local organizing committee, I was the 2013 USA Pro Challenge Stage 6 Volunteer Coordinator (not my favorite gig), I've helped event and race promoters spread the good word on countless races, rides, movies and other events, I built and maintain the YGR Calendar that houses information on hundreds of rides, races and events every year, I've been the race director for over 100 YGR time trials, I'm the current organizer of the FREE Crazy Joe Cross series (shout out to Ronny Bush for hosting!), the event organizer for the FREE RioSwap bike swap (shout-out to RioPat for hosting!), I've hosted dozens of free cyclocross, time trial, MTB, criterium clinics and other cycling related seminars, I developed the Wounded Rider Program, to help local cyclists that have be injured while racing/training, as a community we've raised tens of thousands of dollars for injured cyclists and victims of the High Park Fire and 2013 Big Thompson Floods. Everyday I blast out updates about what's going on in the Fort via the site, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I'm not trying to brag here but as a community, we do some pretty cool stuff.
None of this, and I mean none of this would be possible without the support of my wife Sara. She was rightfully leery of this when I first proposed the idea, "you want to quit your steady job and run a cycling website in the middle of a recession with our first baby on the way!?" well, when you put it that way... She has since come around to be my biggest supporter and while I won't get rich running YGR, we both see the immense value it provides us both financially and with family time. Although it's been trying at times, I'm sure I don't yet realize how great it's been being able to work from home and to raise my 3 littles. I was literally interrupted while writing this by June, my 2 year old, telling me that she had to go pee on the potty, a first.
Thanks to my friends that have helped me keep the site up and running, provided content and worked events over the years. It is no exaggeration to say that I had no experience with any of this when I started the site. I'm sure I'm missing at least a few people but; Chris Johnson, Curtis Heideman, Sam Acheson, Desmond Yap and Nicole Swan have all helped out a ton with their time and expertise. Thanks to everyone that has provided content to the site over the years, Ben Miller, Paul Kumm and Reno Toffoli to name a few. I should also give a mention to Alan Schenkel for always chirping at me about little things that need to be fixed (mostly on Twitter) and being stoked about all things FoCo cycling.
Via YGR (fun fact, when Rob Noble first referred to Your Group Ride as 'YGR' I had no idea what he was talking about) I've carved out a pretty cool niche for businesses that want to support cycling in the Fort. I mean, it actually works too, it's so weird. As you guys know cyclists are extremely loyal and maybe even a bit paranoid, so when we see a business going out it's way to support our sport we in-turn support them 100%. I think it's pretty awesome that New Belgium and the Rio, my first and second advertisers from nearly 10 years ago, are still on the site today. Mike Weber, Ronny Bush, Matt Skrdla and Dave and Pete with Backcountry have also been supporting the site since very early on and have developed a special bond within the community. Thanks to all of my advertisers, both past and present for taking a risk on this wonky website. I keep refining my advertising model and focusing on certain types of businesses that seem to really excel by supporting the scene. It's a pretty impressive symbiotic relationship.
You guys, the fans, thank you for supporting the site and my advertisers! I don't make any claims to be a good writer, web designer/developer, or event promoter I just do the best I can, learning along the way. Thanks for putting up with the glitchy site, typo ridden social media posts and articles and bare bones events. None of this come particularly natural to me, I'm just making it up as I go. Also, thanks for specifically supporting businesses you see advertising on the site. I know many of you go out of your way to use businesses specifically because of their support for the site and I really appreciate that.
So, what's up next? Well, we've got some big and small projects coming up in 2019.
The site is going to get a complete rebuild at some point. You and I both know it needs it. That will either happen when Russian hackers finally kill of this version or when my youngest starts preschool.
Hopefully and finally get a permanent cyclo cross training course built in one of the Fort Collins Parks.
Host a mile of roadway litter pickup.
Host a mtb trail day.
Host more cycling clinics.
Work with a local car wash to install a bike wash station. Thanks for donating the Park repair stand Rob Noble!
I'm hearing rumblings of a bunch of new races coming online next year. Stay tuned for news on that.
Here's to another decade of YGR!