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Jan 18, 2022

This week we sit down with Dimond Factory Racing’s Chris Schroeder. We learn about Chris’ transition from professional triathlon to that of a gravel racer. We also look at his decision to start a racing team versus continuing as a privateer.

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Hello and welcome to the gravel ride podcast. I'm your host Craig Dalton. This week on the podcast, we've got Colorado based professional gravel racer, Chris Schroeder. Chris is not only a racer, but he's also the manager of the diamond factory racing team.

His path to gravel racing was from that of, uh, as a professional triathlete. Interestingly, I learned that the private tier model, as it's known. It's something that's quite prevalent.

In the triathlon world. But Chris didn't really want to take that model forward. He really wanted to build. Uh, professional gravel racing team. So i thought it'd be interesting to get his perspective to hear about his experience in the gravel world thus far and more importantly hear about what his plans are for 2022 with his teammate.

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Would that business out of the way. Let's jump right in to my interview with Chris.

[00:03:15] Craig Dalton: Chris welcome to the show.

[00:03:17] Chris Schroeder: Great to be here

[00:03:18] Craig Dalton: Yeah, I'm excited when you reached out to me, I think this is going to be a really interesting discussion. The starting point for all my conversations is always to get a little bit of your background as a cyclist, how you came into the sport and how ultimately you started riding.

[00:03:31] Chris Schroeder: So it's hard to say how I came into cycling. I came into cycling and triathlon at the same time. About 15 years old, my family relocated from Telluride, Colorado to New York city. And at the time New York city is has a giant cycling presence. Contrarians are a very big thing there.

They do a lot of races in central park and the surrounding area. So as a way for me to find something to do when I was there, I started running of those, the local cycling club. It wasn't a race club. It was. A website or a form, or you just go on there and they say, right, we have a group ride every couple of mornings and you know, it was fun.

I had a old road bike and then the same exact time I was getting into that, I also equally wanting to get into triathlon. So that was a great like way for me to start training and start preparing. And as that grew, I did a couple of bike races and at the same time training for triathlons eventually just kept going into triathlon and kept doing more of the.

And at the same time, I was always a very big fan of cycling. I would always watch the races. I would always follow the riders and that was like a restaurant, but I was a fan of cycling. So I just kept coming up and triathlon. Eventually I went to college at university of Colorado here in Boulder, and Boulder is a great community for pro triathletes and cyclists of all kinds.

It's just a Mecca for it. And I ended up eventually becoming a professional in, I believe 20. 15 though, like end of 2015, I went on and raised five years, professional triathlete, you know, I got a lot out of it. I traveled the world. I raised on like six different continents. I met amazing people like throughout the whole way, but at the end of the five years, I just, I wasn't content with where my career was and I wasn't really, I think it plateaued.

I just wasn't moving. I wasn't getting the results. I needed to continue doing the sport. And I just stagnated and going into 2020, I had this mindset and I had signed up for, to just a way out. I was like, know, I'm going to finish this sport by dating my first full iron man.

So I went to go, the plan was all right, I'm going to go do Ironman, New Zealand. And a couple months before that there was a race in Oklahoma called the Oklahoma gravel Gower at the time. And I kinda knew that I got this sport gravel. I really liked it because it reminded me a lot of the monuments in cycling, like cargo bay, the dynamic just of the just bad-ass like let's get out here and get dirty and strongest man wins kind of mentality.

So I knew going into that race. Not really know anything. I was like, didn't have a gravel bag and laid that on my road bike with the biggest tires I could fit. And I ended up having a great race. So early on, I got a new move of Ted king. We went on for a while. Like I eventually got dropped. I got picked up by two guys behind and then ended up beating both of them in the sprint to finish second.

So all of a sudden I had this hot iron. What I use then to go on to use, to create this transition to gravel.

[00:06:48] Craig Dalton: Interesting. Yeah, for me, it's not super surprising that you had a great cycling experience in New York. It might've been. 10 years ago before I knew a bunch of people from New York and realized like how great the scene is there for a road racing. It's maybe a little surprising that you got into triathlons out of New York, but obviously there's a lot of great road running there and triathlon.

There's a few good races in that neck of the woods.

[00:07:14] Chris Schroeder: Yeah, we'll come back to that. When we started talking about diamond and stuff like that. But when I, because I had that result in Oklahoma, when I went on to do Ironman New Zealand, you know, the race went, it was a good way to end the closing. On my drunker and made me feel very contented, very like, all right.

I did everything I could and I got what I got out of it. And then I'm probably the only person in the world who this positive came from. COVID where the world's shut down. As soon as like, before I even left New Zealand, the world's start shutting down. It's a miraculous, I even got able to leave the country, the roads shut down.

All these triathlon races got canceled. All of a sudden the sport that I don't want to do isn't happening anymore. But I have all these sponsors that need me to do something. So when I was able to do with all my current sponsors to say, Hey, I can't race a triathlon because there was no triathlons.

I can go do another gravel race where I already had this giant buzz, this giant pop and a good result or this year. So with that, I was able to just start doing gravel races with all my sponsors, still supporting me. They were just supporting me as they were and things just went well. And then.

Mid 2020, we just started really committing to, we're just going to start a team. We're not going to have minimums or anything like that. We're just going to work at the end of the January 1st. We're announcing this team and it can be big, small, whatever, wherever we land, we're going to go with. You know, we were very fortunate in having Jared come on, board, our videographer, and he really is the only reason this team was able to exist in 2021.

I did Belgium wall fried Cedar city September, 2020. He came out made. What I think still to this day is his best piece of work, which was a video covering my experience. There really just raw showing that experience. I was able to then all these sponsors I was talking to at the time that were like, eh, we don't really know.

I was able to send them this video. And it was like talking to a different person. All of a sudden the conversation went my way and we were able to close a couple of deals with at the time Kenda tires and vision components, both of which were huge. I, we desperately needed both of those contracts. Eventually a hybrid clothing and Lin helmets came on board to help us out.

And then we had. We had the support. We had the writers, we had a product, which was our video production and assets, and that kind of launched us into 2021.

[00:09:48] Craig Dalton: That's a super interesting story about how athletes need to package themselves up in order to be successful in this. I want to go back a little bit to that transition period. And as a quick side note, I also retired as a triathlete from Ironman, New Zealand, not professional, not fast, but it was my last iron man.

And I agree. It's something, if you get into the sport of triathlon, regardless of the level, having that iron man experience is just it. I think it is very similar to these epic gravel events. We're just getting across the finish line can be such a magic. Thing in your history that everybody should try to do it.

[00:10:24] Chris Schroeder: Yeah, absolutely. I I it's just like in the moment I was just miserable. Like I was. A lot of stuff, like just in my life and where I was my career, but I, because I finished it.

I can just, I don't have to look back cause I'm just I'm so much more content than I would be. Had I not done that?

[00:10:41] Craig Dalton: Yeah, a hundred percent. I'm also curious, you know, it sounds like the 72.2 distance was a strong suit of yours. Then you moved up to the Ironman distance. When you started going to these long gravel events, what kind of parallels did you see from the endurance and mental strength required to complete an Ironman or a long distance triathlon to what you were seeing at the gravel of.

[00:11:04] Chris Schroeder: Well, it's hard. I don't think 70.3 is Ironman. You can draw a lot of parallel parallels, the 70.3 distance. Not as much because those races are dynamic. You are racing. An Ironman is a lot more similar in the sense you. Not raising, you're all just trying to finish. And one of you happens to finish before the others.

Definitely the mental attitude that you have in an Ironman of when you're just trying to finish it. I've nothing else to do today. If always I keep putting one foot in front of the other, I will eventually cross the line. That's like the unfortunate gravel mentality for a lot of these 10 plus hour events or.

Even the comment, I feel like 125 miles is the common distance for gravel. You're still looking at a seven hour day for the fast guys. Like it's a lot of time out there versus the 71 is really four hours. Most professionals go way under that now. So it's hard to say, like, I think honestly my biggest asset transitioning to gravel was just the amount of time has been being a fan of cycling and why.

Professional races and just admiring the tactics.

[00:12:09] Craig Dalton: Yeah, I think one of the things that has come up on a number of occasions and in my own personal experience with triathlon was just. Stuff's going to go wrong and you just gotta move forward and get on with it. And the events are long enough that you can have a really bad nutrition or hydration moment and come back around.

If you just fuel the system in the right.

[00:12:28] Chris Schroeder: absolutely. I think in gravel, The gravel, you can get a little more catastrophic with your failures. You're talking about just breaking everything is breakable on a gravel race tire wheel by Canterbury's yourself. Like it's all up in the air. In a triathlon you can bonk or you can get a flat like those.

Those are really the two bad scenarios and the gravel is just, you just don't know what's going to go wrong. There's so many options.

[00:12:50] Craig Dalton: Yeah, a hundred

[00:12:51] Chris Schroeder: Like for Unbound with, you have to basically be able to rebuild your entire bike is rather than.

[00:12:57] Craig Dalton: Speaking of Unbound. So 2020, you sort of get your gravel legs underneath you. You have the good fortune of having sponsors that are willing to pivot with you because gravel was going off more than the triathlon world was you fell in love with it 2021, you register from Unbound. And there's a great video of your experience there.

So why don't you talk to us about your experience? What was your. Expectations and goals going in and how did it play?

[00:13:22] Chris Schroeder: Unmanned was definitely a little emotional. Like it's a, like, it's a lot that goes into it. It's really very parallel to the Ironman world championships in terms of prestige And just the hype around it. I definitely went into it a little ignorant of just like what's about to happen. I made some just blatant mistakes, but ultimately I just wasn't trained properly for it. And completely just melted in the, it's hard to describe for people that haven't done Unbound it's 200 miles. I think the winter did like 10 hours and 30 minutes this year. So you, would expect this, the race to play out in something in a way that would, you know, relate to someone trying to pace themselves for about long race.

In the beginning, like three hours of Unbound are just you're on the pace

[00:14:20] Craig Dalton: Did you enter that race thinking I'm going to stick with the lead group? You know, this is going to be my tactic in those first three.

[00:14:27] Chris Schroeder: yeah, I just didn't do a couple blatant things. I didn't preview enough of the course. I preview maybe the first like 20 miles and then like mile like 25, we entered this just ridiculous Doubletrack section. Bodies everywhere. And it's like, as a easy tactical error, I was 58 wheels back when we entered that section.

And this is probably my biggest advice for anyone racing gravel is it's not ever the effort of being in the front group. That's going to get you. It's the effort of having to chase back onto the front group. That's going to kill you and having to do that twice. Cause there was two Doubletrack sections and both of those sections I wasn't prepared.

I was out of. And then leaving them. I had to chase back on. And then those efforts are the ones that really take it out of you where you're doing 10, 15 minutes, just like everything you've got to try and chase back on. That's the effort you can't recover from. And that's also the same effort that you're burning.

Very precious fuel. You're brewing your body's heating up, like, you know, the internal temperature and all that's just going up and to ever recover from that. Like you almost have to completely just start going easy to even recover from it. So that's like the thing that kind of like led to the, my, a larger downfall in that race was just those big efforts from just not being prepared with the course that resulted in just like catastrophic kind of blow up that I had.

It's hard to say like 200 miles is a lot. It's a lot to train for, to being competitive. And I think that perhaps for 2022, I might actually pivot and race the a hundred mile and Unbound with the thought process of just being like at, in the 200, you know, what's realistic from results standpoint.

You know, everything goes well, like my best day, where am I finishing? You know, perhaps on my best day, I'm finishing ninth in the laundry. That's a huge result. I think on an average day I could win the hundred. So from an athlete perspective and a business perspective, I'd have to think, all right, where's the optimal value right now?

I'm seeing it in the a hundred, you know, the a hundred got a lot of press still. The winner was on a lot of the magazines are not, he's like the news articles that we came out about it. I think that I might be taking a step back from doing the 200 Unbound this year to refocus and prioritize the a hundred and really go after a result there.

[00:17:04] Craig Dalton: Yeah, it is interesting, you know, a hundred is a lot more racing distance than a 200, as you said. I think the top men and women, like they know how to handle that a high-octane three hour, first, three hour of Unbound, and then go back to a more comfortable level and then race, you know, another six hours later.

But at least

[00:17:23] Chris Schroeder: Absolutely. I think that 200 miles, the thing is this, I think eventually Unbound will suffer from this is that it's not dynamic watching 200 miles race. Ironman has the same problem. It's not interesting watching any of our race because not enough is happening to keep you entertained. Unbound is the same thing.

The last five hours of it, or even more boring than the first five we're watching the more boring Bard, because everyone's just dying at that point. And they're just dying in a direction towards the finish line. A hundred mile raising is completely different, you know, it's completely dynamic the whole entire time.

You're because it's shorter. People are able to stay together longer and makes for more interesting race. And that's where I think the. I get the gravel has this mindset of like longer is more gravel or something along those lines, but there is a line where you need to just like adding miles for the sake of adding miles is just not like, what's it doing?

I had this conversation with Jim Miller at BWR at Cedar city where this year they, it used to end where you do. Like a mile, like 105, you'd go from do like five miles of single track. And then you get on a bike path and it was like three months to finish line and they added like 17 miles of like, you face the thing on track and then just do 17 miles of like nothing gravel and an around like construction sites.

Like you're on the road going through like neighborhoods, like you're on the road going through an industrial park. And I was just like, why did you add that? Like, it did nothing for the race. You have this beautiful. You know, you're struggling. You Google, these climbs, you get to the single track, just getting there is such an accomplishment.

You've finished this very hard tangled, downhill, single track, and then you're on a bike path to the finish line. And that was like, when you think of a race and you're no, one's saying you have to have a certain distance, so you should just try and have the best race course you can. And by adding those extra miles, you didn't really do.

You did the opposite. You made us all finish with the last hour of stuff that we saw. An airplane hanger and a construction site and utility soft. Like I just think that some of these race directors need to not have the mindset of longer is better.

[00:19:42] Craig Dalton: Yeah, it's interesting. It's interesting to get your perspective as someone more towards the front end of the race, because I've got the mid pack perspective. And, but I tend to agree with you. Like, for me beyond a hundred miles just is not something I really can ever get fit enough for being, you know, a professional and a family man.

Like that's just not happening in my world. So I'm not. Super pro those things and I can in talking to you definitely get it that you're not going to get a very dynamic race with 20 people battling it out. If it's 200 miles, because half of those people are going to drop out from mechanicals. Others are going to drop out through nutrition, and you're going to end up with this battle of attrition that maybe leaves it as we've seen in the last couple of years, two or three people duking out a little bit.

Towards the end of the 200. And then maybe if you're lucky it's a sprint finish.

[00:20:38] Chris Schroeder: Yeah, I'm the same way. Like I just visit logically like that a hundred mile to like a fast, 125 mile course. That's my sweet spot. And I think that, I don't know if I would say, like, it was a hard lesson to learn that I'm not in this current state of 200 mile racer. I'm a lot better at that a hundred, 1 25 kind of range.

Yeah, accepting, like, look, I'm at a couple of these events, like take gravel worlds, for example, like it's just not, it's not great for me. I can do, you know, really well on a faster, less climbing, 125 mile course, but longer than that, I'm just not ready. Like I just don't have the years and miles of this intensity in the legs.

Like, even though it triathlon. Obviously still very bike heavy. I don't have the intensity that these races are run out for that long a time.

[00:21:29] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Yeah. So speaking of that, What, when you transitioned you talked about this a little bit, but how would you care to characterize your gravel skillset? Are you feeling technically strong or is that still like, you're a horsepower guy from your triathlon days?

[00:21:46] Chris Schroeder: it's a hard one. It's definitely something I'm I work really hard to improve. Is my technical skills, not just like Unbound and it's a good example of well early stages. And I would say like the first 30 miles on a mountain, you are in a giant group and you need to be 10. We still don't have to move within that group in a very comfortable way.

You need to be really comfortable, bumping elbows and shoulders. And I did a lot to help myself with that. I raised a lot of like criteriums on the local scene. I did a cyclocross this season, all with that in mind. Not only do I want to get better at it. I want to be known as someone who is very proficient at my handling and my positioning, because I think that's one of the biggest gaps in gravel where you can take advantage of is a technical skill, especially for descending.

It's very hard. It's not like the road at all. Cause there's so many things going on in any given turn. So just getting better at that skill is something I really wanted to invest in, in the off season. And hopefully that kind of. Pays for itself, this coming season.

[00:22:49] Craig Dalton: Yeah, that goes into another one of my sort of desires for the sport. I love when event organizers do throw in technical elements of the course. Cause I do think the best gravel racers that I want to see that I admire. They've got that full bag of tricks, right? They can go well when it's a basic gravel road or pavement, but they also can thrive in the technical elements of the sport.

And you definitely see, and it sounds like you're very attuned to. The types of events that are going to suit you well, so maybe you're not going to a super single tracky event today, as you're continuing to build that skillset.

[00:23:23] Chris Schroeder: And you're also not going to see me doing like I'm 63 and like 170 pounds. Like I'm not going uphills quick. Like you're not gonna see me a Toshar. I did that race this year and I was like, this is awful. This isn't for the big boys. So like knowing also like, what race am I realistically going to be competitive to that person?

What race do I just not like, don't just, don't go do that. Like just don't do that race. You can just skip it. Like there's nothing wrong with skipping a race. So I think it's just a lesson where you have to just sit and go, let's take an honest look at things. This is what I'm good at. This is what I'm horrible at it.

So we shouldn't go to races that have a big emphasis on stuff that I'm bad at. I. I definitely agree with you where I think that in gravel, every race should have like one call it feature of just ridiculousness. Like each racing I'll throw in a single track section, throw in some river crossings, you know, something like that.

Just to I think it's always fun just to have that one kind of obstacle that race will then become known for.

[00:24:20] Craig Dalton: Yeah, it's like a preeminent criteria. It just spices things up. And in this scenario you'd know about it. Right. You know, there's the technical, single track coming up and that it may create a, a. that might be someone's opportunity to take advantage of their particular skillset, knowing full well that, you know, they're less proficient in another discipline.

I remember hearing pace and McKelvin talking about the rule of three and racing against the in Boswell. And he's like, you know, Ian's got me in so many different ways, but I did know when, as someone with a mountain bike background, when I hit that single track, it was going to be a huge advantage for me.

And I could likely take that to the finish line. And that proved to be.

[00:25:01] Chris Schroeder: Yeah, I think that, I think I've even listened to that. Pacing and Ian, where it does, it makes us it up, which keeps gravel interesting. It means that mountain biker has an advantage on the road cyclist. And you know, the flip side of that, of the road psychos has the advantage on the mountain biker and all these different sections.

And it just it goes on like BWR, Kansas had like a cyclocross specific section, which favored a bunch of guys from that background. So it just it helps keep grappled fresh. Giving people from all these different disciplines, their chance to shine.

[00:25:36] Craig Dalton: A while back, you mentioned your cycling team and the formation of it, the diamond factory racing team. I thought it was interesting as you and I were talking offline. Obviously the director. Professional attitude towards gravel racing is I'm going to become a private tier and I'm going to cobble together my own personal sponsors.

And I'm going to overtly take that positioning. You've taken a different approach and you're looking to build a team. And I'm just curious to hear in your own words about that process and why team versus private two year. And what's the vision for the.

[00:26:08] Chris Schroeder: That's a hard one to say, like triathlon. It's funny. We talk about private here so much in gravel. All triathlon is private here. That's all you do. So I private tiered for years, five years of private area. I loved it. But the thing when you're a privateer is you have nothing to point at and say like this won't all be gone tomorrow.

If you're a privateer, you can wake up the next day. Every single sponsor you have could be gone. It, you know, it sucks to say like, and that's just the business I wanted to. And then when you're done racing, it's all gone completely. It's not coming back. You're if you're not racing, providing them what they want before.

Your job's done. So part of the team was I really enjoy the business process of the sport, and I wanted to build something where I can actually transition from being a racer to just being the manager. So the goal was always this long-term vision of, I want to build a program. That's my career. I want my career to be building this team and I want it to be pursued that way.

When I talk to people now, I say like the honest truth is I'm in the gravel business. I'm not in the gravel hobby. I'm not in the gravel fitness, I'm in the gravel business and everything I do has somewhat of a business perspective on it. Cause that's just the mindset I have to have for me to ever get this program where I want it to be.

And I have, you know, call it a five-year vision board for this team. It's hard to map out because we just don't know what is going to look like every year. It's changing a little bit different regulations that UCI has coming in politics. Drama, it all kind of changes in affects the way that the outcome is going to be.

But I know like deep down that I want this program five years from now to be the absolute forefront of this. On the professional scene. I want people entering the sport young age or any aspiration to always be looking to us as that pinnacle of this is what it means to be like a true professional at the same way.

Any of us is in cycling or was I guess now it's shuffled a little bit at the.

top, but having that team where everyone wants to be on this team means that you've made.

[00:28:32] Craig Dalton: So what's step one in that journey. What does 22 look like?

[00:28:35] Chris Schroeder: Well, step one was the hardest one. Step one was Brittany and I and Jared coming together and saying, we're just going to start a team. And this was a back in when we first started the program going into 2021, I'm saying we, we decided the biggest thing that we had to put away in our minds was were we had this mindset of rolling to start this team.

If we did. Filling the blank. We had to take that away and just say, we're starting a team, no matter what, and we're just going to go with it. So changing that is what led us to step one. And then in 2021, our big gamble, you could say it was, we ended up investing 80, 90% of our budget into content creation.

We just said to Jared, and we want the absolute, highest quality possible consistent. I don't care about views. I'm here about likes. We just need consistent high quality content. And that's the investment we're going to make, because we think that's where the value is that we can show it's tangible.

We can always point at it and say, here's a product. A sponsor comes, you know, we can show them. This is our asset. A lot of people don't understand when you're talking to sponsors, you need to have definable assets for them to understand for them to latch onto and create value. And that's where the party has been cycling and triathlon where the modern scope of what that is very different than it was five years ago, 10 years ago, simply going to a sponsor saying I raised 20 times a year and I post on Instagram every other week. Do you not really creating value? You're just there. You're just pack fire at that point.

[00:30:21] Craig Dalton: Do you have a vision for the type of content that you're aspiring to produce? Is it giving people a closer look at what racing some of these big races is like? Or are you thinking otherwise.

[00:30:34] Chris Schroeder: Well, our biggest asset is our series. It's called the equal rod. It's on my YouTube channel and the team's YouTube channel. And that's where we're diverting all of our budget and supporting to creating this series. And we just want it to be a YouTube series. And it's hard to say, like what it shows.

We just say that it shows an honest look because you go to these races and everything will go different than you think it will. So we just tell Jared whatever happens, just film it. And it sucks when you're dying on the side of Unbound and you have to DNF and there's a camera in your face and you have to narrate your own misery.

It's awful, but that's what we decided to go with it. And it just katelyn Andrew. And you know, there's the flip side of it. I don't know. I had a great race. I'm so happy to talk about it. So we never know what an episode's going to be. We just know it's going to be honest. It's going to be misery.

It's going to be glory and everything in

[00:31:30] Craig Dalton: gotcha. I'll point people to the YouTube link for that failure in 2021, because I do think it is interesting and it's so real it's truth, right?

[00:31:39] Chris Schroeder: Yeah. And that's just the thing is that you have on one of these professionals that will have a bad race and they'll bury it, you know, they'll, they won't post anything about it. Then we'll talk about it. They'll post 10 other things about blah, blah, blah, motivation. And you're like, wait, I saw this build and all of a sudden there's just a gap.

And now you're back on this train. Like what happened? Like I want to know, like, I'm following you for a reason. And that's the story. Like I'm not following you. Cause I think you're going to win. I felt like, cause I just want to see your story and your perspective. So we really want to be true to the audience and give them what really happened.

[00:32:13] Craig Dalton: that makes sense. So the title sponsor, the team is a company called diamond by. And I wasn't familiar with them. And after doing a little research, I see that they were big in the triathlon world, but they do have a pretty impressive looking gravel bike. Do you want to talk a little bit about the company where it's based and the bike you'll be riding this year?

[00:32:35] Chris Schroeder: It's quite the story of how diamond and I came together when I was back living in New York city as a kid at the time before I'd even done my first draft. Ironman hosted iron man, New York city, which was a gimmick. The entire triathlon took place in New Jersey. And then the finish line was in New York city and it was a joke, but I was a kid I volunteered the entire day.

I was up at like 3:00 AM. I was just buzzing. I saw all this stuff. It was fantastic. I, you know, it was at the finish line start like, Hey, people that are swim bags and then everywhere I could go, I was, and then at the end of the day, I ended up at the finish line. And if anyone's ever done an Ironman or triathlon, you know that when you cross the finish line, give them more or less just collapse, emotionally, physically, however, they feel like it.

So they have volunteers literally there to catch you and you stand in line and they're just young people come in and whoever's first in line catches them one. I was there and you know, this is just 15 year old kid. This pro called TJ Alex and came over in the line. I caught him. I think he finished fifth on the day.

One of the coolest experiences of my life. You know, I'm a kid, I just touched a fro. And to me it was just the coolest thing in the world. You know, follow TJ, enjoyed that eventually, you know, a couple of years later I became a pro and then a couple years after that, I went and did a Ironman 70.3 in Argentina.

It was in Berlo Chang. One of the prettiest towns I've ever been to. And these races, you know, what they do is they'll put you up and they'll just assign you a hotel room. And I happened to be assigned or hotel room with TJ. So we shared a room in Argentina and we just became friends through that story.

And we ended up doing quite a few races together. We raced all over the country. I think TJ, we raised in Argentina, we raised in Peru, we first in the United States and then towards the end, he eventually retired from racing. I went on raised a couple more years, and then eventually I have stepped down from triathlon to gravel and we'd always come in contact.

We've always been friends and it was a great relationship. And then he watched what we did in 2021. And then I went to see Otter and I went there pretty much from a business perspective of like, all my sponsors are here. I can sit down and crank out two months worth of emails in two days.

Also just a great event, iconic. I highly recommended only considering going, doing that race says any race you want, they have it. And I went there and I saw DJ and it was great. You know, we bumped into there. He showed me the gravel by, we talked, you know, all was good. And we went our separate ways. And then a couple weeks later I kinda got a text from him saying, Hey, I got a idea for you.

Let's chat. And six weeks of hardcore negotiating later, we ended with. A multi-year title, sponsorship deal with diamond, and it's become really the linchpin of this team now because of the ability where it guarantees our ability to grow, no matter what happens, we can grow going to 20, 23 now. And that's what this team needs.

I need to always have a perspective of what's the next step. If I'm not looking to grow we're stagnating. So closing this deal and being able to have this. Guaranteed to athletes coming on, going to 23, 3, nothing else matters. Everything else can go with that.

[00:36:02] Craig Dalton: Yeah, that's pretty unheard of level of security. I imagine for a lot of gravel rates. To put a little bit more color around the brand they're located in Iowa. Is that correct?

[00:36:15] Chris Schroeder: Yeah. So this is an American brand, the factories in the morning. I, the bikes are made in Des Moines, Iowa. They're handmade. It's super bespoke, experiencing, if you go on their website, the first thing you're gonna to see is that just like actual diamonds, no, two diamond bikes look the same, every single diamond bike, you get a custom paint job.

However you want it funky, traditional everything in between. You work directly with the owner, TJ when you're buying and ordering. And it's just a great experience. I think it's also just unique, you know? You're going to stand out with a diamond. Yeah. They've they launched their gravel and their road bike, their ground bike.

The carbide is very new. They launched it mid 2020, and it was a it's interesting. I, when I first saw it, the diamond for the triathletes who are aware of the brand, they made make the fastest triathlon bike on the market. It's non-traditional, it's a beam bike. Pretty much the pioneer for that whole industry of the beam bikes.

And when they came to gravel with anything that you said, all right, how can we be the forefront of this? And that's what went into the carbine and just the way that it's laid out the geometry, it's all race focused. Like this bike is a thoroughbred, it's there to win races. And I'm just the thing on top of it pedaling.

So That's an interesting perspective. This is probably my first time where it's a lot to say this. I think that we're going to have the fastest bike in gravel. I think the way that our diamonds are built with visioning the mountains, it's weird to say, but I think we are going to have the fastest bike in the sport.

[00:38:02] Craig Dalton: That's confidence inspiring. I'm sure. To look down and feel that way. Yeah. It's an interesting bike and I'll make sure to link to it in the notes as well, and fascinating to learn that there's another. Us carbon manufacturing brand out there. Cause there, you know, there's probably only a handful of them in existence in the United States.

[00:38:22] Chris Schroeder: Yeah.

it's a dynamic that you mainly hear about, like, you always hear like these legendary oh, Italian brands. Five bikes and they cost a million dollars. And I think that was the normal introduction than people think when they think small bear brands, but this one being American, it's just, it's very different.

It's very American brand. TJ is American. He tries to be more flamboyant than he is, but he's just a hardcore American and he's a blue collar, hardworking dude. I it's weird. Like he's my boss now, but we've been, we were friends for so many years that it's hard to have. Transitional of like thinking of him as a boss.

When I just think of him as like this guy I've traveled the world with, and then he's told me stories about everyone I can think of and you know, we'd sit down and he tells me about his kids and stuff like that. It's just, this guy, when I proposed my fiance and we had a business call and it was like right after I had.

We talked, it was like an hour long heritage. We talked five minutes a visit and he, it was like 55 minutes of just mind shattering advice for marriage and life. Like it was these perspectives that just gave me this feeling of someone who really cares about me. He basically talked me into wanting to have a wedding when I really just didn't care.

Like he just completely changed my perspective on it. And to have that relationship is really special.

[00:39:44] Craig Dalton: Yeah, it sounds like it's going to be an amazing thing to have in your corner this year. And the fact that you guys are building something together confirmed over the next two years, they're just going to be great. It's going to be super interesting to see where it goes. Speaking of this year, what's your, what are your goals this year?

Are there big events that you're really thinking about?

[00:40:05] Chris Schroeder: It's a little bit up in the air. I just got confirmed for led boat. Like yesterday where I got my Leadville charge on the credit card. Cause that's how they tell you. So that's gonna be a major goal on down. We'll be a major goal in terms of like peak performances, fitness, every race I go to, I'm trying to, when I'm not going to races anymore, that I don't think we're gonna win.

I'm gonna win some. Mid-South Unbound SBT, and then a fake sugar and Belgium welfare. I Kansas are all like my main events, but I'm also going to hit a lot of like local grassroots events. I'm starting off my season at gravel, Miami, which is a new event in Miami. And I'm really excited to do that one.

It's a flat course, which I'm really excited about a hundred miles. I'm just excited for that race. They're putting us, it's sponsored by Miami brewing company and they rented like three rap video level mansions to house the pros in.

[00:41:09] Craig Dalton: Only in

[00:41:09] Chris Schroeder: And yeah, it was only in Miami.

and it's, you know, it's the treatment that I always dreamed I would get it every race.

So I'm going to be a little sad when I come back from it and I realized. Van life and all these events. And I'm really excited for that one. We do, we'll do a couple of other the robot do rendezvous is a hundred mile race in Scottsbluff, just some smaller ones. Like there's something in gravel that is special, that everyone jokes about dying.

They call it the spirit of gravel. If you go to these small races, you'll experience that it's special. It's unique and it's weird, but it's still out there, but it's only in these small races. So for me, you know, if I go to Unbound, it feels the same as when I was a professional Ironman. Everyone is, you know, a little tense, a little uptight they're there, everyone's on their peak form.

No one really wants to talk and hug and all that. But then you go to these smaller grass root events and it's the opposite of all that. It's, everyone's relaxed. Everyone's just there for the community and the experience and beer. It's great. So I really want to make sure I continue to have those in my schedule to keep me grounded into what I love about the sport.

[00:42:23] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Yeah. I think those are there. It's a key thing that's going on in gravel that how races are changing and evolving and no one wants to lose that intimacy and camaraderie, but inevitably like as these races get bigger and more important to people's professional careers. It's undoubted bull that the tenor is going to change at the start line.

So yeah, long live the community event.

[00:42:48] Chris Schroeder: Yeah.

exactly. That's just how it is. And we're actually trying one thing I do. From a business perspective as I try to pull from other sports and it's something, this is unique. And I think that's hopefully going to be a good success that we're going to be trying this year is that at certain races, we're actually going to have a diamond booth in the expo where we're going to have, you know, this year will be a little different cause there's just myself and Brittany and Jared we're in, you know, we're going to be there to try and interact as much as possible.

We're going to have team bikes. We're even going to have some demo bikes come by. You can chat with us. And we want to grow that very similar to like motorcross or NASCAR, where people get the experience to come into the pits and they get to look at the garage and see the driver and the mechanics, all working.

We wanted to bring that as a way for people to interact more of us on a personal level. And especially in a approachable way, you know, we've all been that fan boy at the expo that sees someone we want to talk to, but you know, they're walking around and they're doing their thing and we don't want to interrupt them.

So we thought, how can we. Creative approachable environment that is friendly for the fans. And it's a great way for us to really talk to our fans of our sponsors and say, Hey, you know, this is our bike and you want to here's the demo one, go take it around the block,

[00:44:05] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:44:05] Chris Schroeder: Touch it.

[00:44:06] Craig Dalton: I think that'll shine through if you set that intention, which is great. And I think based on this conversation, fans of the sport will have a great way to follow you and your team throughout the year on the video series, and hopefully be able to connect with you at some of these events.

So I, Chris, I appreciate all the time today. That's a great conversation. I wish you best of luck and really do look forward to seeing your name up there at the front end of these events.

[00:44:31] Chris Schroeder: Yeah, fingers crossed that it eventually gets to that. And for anyone watching, like you're going to see me at an event or two this year, come up, give me a hug. I want to interact with you guys as much as you perhaps wanna interact with me. So just don't be a stranger.

[00:44:46] Craig Dalton: Right on. Thanks Chris.

So that's going to do it for this week's podcast. I hope you enjoyed the conversation with Chris and I encourage you to follow the diamond factory racing team on social media. I know they've got big plans to show you behind the scenes about what it's like being a professional, gravel racer. In 2022.

If you're interested in joining the conversation, I encourage you to visit the ridership. It's our free online community.

Within the community, you'll find gravel, cyclists of all kinds, whether they be backpackers. Racers commuters, you name it. They're all in there. Everybody in the community shares a common goal and it's just to elevate one another. So, whether you're looking to answer some of those hard questions about what tire to buy or what equipment, what bike to buy, or just need some moral support, the community is there for you.

I'm always impressed with the level of interaction and comradery that I see happening that I've got nothing to do with. It is also a great place to get in touch with me. So, if you have any feedback for the show, please just hit me up directly in the ridership. I found inspiration for many, a new episode from the questions that I've received.

Through the ridership. So remember that's just to get started. If you're interested in supporting the podcast. You can visit me at buy me a coffee. Dot com slash the gravel ride. I appreciate any and all support you can provide to my efforts. And hopefully the journey that I've been on as a gravel cyclist has been useful to all of you.

Until next time. Here's to finding some dirt onto your wheels