Alison Tetrick needed a goal. The former professional road racer turned Specialized-sponsored gravel star had spent the early months of the Covid shut-down riding her bike without worrying too much about the future. In August, she hit a wall. It felt self-indulgent to spend her time out riding day after day, and by then it had become clear that racing was off for the year.
Tetrick had known for a while that she wanted to give back to her community. What better time than now to begin? Though she did not quit riding, and in fact, plans to return to racing when events start up again, Tetrick set out on a new adventure.
“During Covid, I thought I was going to write a book,” Tetrick said in an interview with The Cycling Independent. “Instead, I started an LLC, and I’m pretty proud of that.”
Saga Ventures is her new company, founded with her partner Blaize Baehrens and aimed at supporting education and opportunity. For her first project, Tetrick is selling bandanas to benefit the Norcal High School Cycling League. Already she has big plans. Over time, Tetrick hopes to extend her reach much further, and push her new company’s boundaries, just has she has always pushed her own on the bike.
We caught up with Tetrick to learn more about Saga Ventures and the bandana project.
What inspired you to start Saga Ventures?
I have been racing bikes for the last decade, and I love being an ambassador and helping our sport grow. I don’t want it to be just about results and racing. I also wanted to do something bigger than cycling and make a positive impact.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to give back to my community and how to do it in a viable way. What’s my legacy? How can I give back to my sport with the platform that has come from my racing?
So you’re taking what you’ve learned as a sponsored athlete and using those skills toward something that is returning to your community?
Throughout my cycling career, I’ve worked full-time as a communications consultant and in marketing, specializing in biotechnology. One of my skillsets is story-telling and creating that brand activation. Which is technically what an ambassador — or a professional athlete — does.
You’re taking a brand and you’re bringing life to that brand. Like, shredding on a trail or adventuring in Kyrgyzstan.
I love humanizing the sport and building a relationship with people. And hopefully, having a positive social impact. Ultimately, for me, it’s about equality and about women’s representation. Increasing opportunity and diversity in the sport is really important to me.
How did you choose the name?
A saga is an epic story and so this project is about sharing stories. It’s also about increasing my reach beyond cycling to foster future leaders and help brands activate and grow. We’re starting with bandanas, something that’s tangible and that we can touch — and that can help my immediate community grow.
And you had time during Covid to start something new.
I’m at a point in my career where I love riding my bike. I love training and testing my limits still. So when Covid first happened, I had a lot of fun actually just being home, I felt guilty admitting that — now I feel less guilt.
I didn’t need a goal for a really long time, I was having a blast. But then I hit a frickin’ wall.
I think that’s what egged me on to start Saga Ventures, and feel like, alright, I’m going to cut my hours on the bike in half and I’m going to sell some bandanas and I’m going to raise some money for somebody else. That’s what I’m going to do!
How did you choose the bandanas as your first project?
Prior to Covid, I’ve worn bandanas because I’m a cowgirl and I grew up on a ranch. Sometimes with gravel racing, at the start of these big races, it’s super dusty so a bandana helps. I just think it’s a cool accessory.
And, you know, they’re just fun. Sarah Sturm, the multi-discipline talented pro also races for Specialized and she works as a graphic designer. She has a company called Oso Creatives. She designed these bandanas, all of them!
Why do you want to support the Norcal High School Cycling League?
That the first couple scholarships are going to student-athletes who are in need, or who need that financial assistance is really important, because Northern California is my community.
It’s also super accessible and I can help more. When it’s safe, I can actually mentor these riders, and ride with them. I can show up and cheer them on, and be really hands-on and involved.
There’s so many kids that need support, and I think a lot of people outside Northern California don’t realize that. It’s not just Palo Alto and Marin — it’s also Oakland and Richmond. It’s also Redding, where I went to high school. And it covers San Luis Obispo down south. It’s a really large area.
What makes supporting equity in cycling important to you? What is it about your own experience that has motivated you to make it a priority?
The way I was raised on a ranch, it was relatively remote and isolated. My dad has two daughters and we were raised to be so independent and strong that I didn’t know that gender disparity was an issue. I didn’t know I couldn’t lead a company or I couldn’t be a professional athlete.
It wasn’t until I got into cycling, really. I played tennis in college, and thanks to people like Billy Jean King and Title IX, there is more opportunity.
Then, I entered cycling and work. And there’s glass ceilings and there’s just sort of the culture. I suddenly woke up, and I’m like, it’s not fair? It’s not equal? And I don’t want to sound naïve, but I think I was quite naïve.
Realizing there are these challenges and barriers — I want to help make those go away. I want to make it so that everyone gives each other grace and the opportunity to grow, and to foster education. It’s not just about cycling — it’s about life opportunity. To me, sports are incredible platform to help give people confidence.
I think sometimes people are skeptical. Why should we take inner city kids surfing or mountain biking? But the process of learning that happens in sports, that’s hard to replicate and it’s very powerful.
I actually had that really powerful experience with Outride in Santa Rosa, California, before the pandemic. The kids who are in the program are not going to be professional athletes. Every single kid has been suspended at some point, which is like, 20-some kids. There were a few girls who were at first kind of shy and trying to Tik Tok or whatever, and not wanting to be athletic. But by the end of the day after seeing me doing it, they were shredding.
Suddenly, they weren’t nervous about the way they looked. Their body language changed. Instead of sucking in stomachs and sticking their chests out, they were owning their space. I was super touched by that. Like, this works!
What do you feel you have learned this past year as you’ve been at home, creating Saga?
I think I’ve learned that I genuinely love my bike and I do like having goals and structure. I miss, just that exhausted feeling, like that bike hang over you get after a long event, I miss that. Because I haven’t ridden these crazy distances this year. But I’m okay with it.
I learned to believe in my community in a lot of ways, and that even a little project like this can make a big difference. It sounds cliché, but it’s so cool to see the support — and that there’s something we can do to make life a little better for everyone.
I was really scared at first to ask for something. I didn’t do a Gofundme, because I wanted to give people something tangible that reminded them that we’re all in this together. They’re joining this ride. And we’re all doing this ride together.
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