The Bucks County Cycling Championship is on this weekend in Doylestown PA. Arounkone Sananikone, owner of the Fearless Femme Racing Team, took a few minutes to share some thoughts on what makes this race event special.
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PEZ: Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your team.
My name is Arounkone Sananikone and I am the founder, owner, director, and mechanic for Fearless Femme Racing. My path to owning and directing a cycling team came through a very non-traditional route than most. I was born in Laos and immigrated from a refugee camp to San Antonio, Texas. Living in a gang infested area in the early ’80s, I took to biking as a means of staying out of trouble.
In 1987, I started Flatland BMX Freestyle and fell in love with the bike ever since. By the time I was in high school, I had competed throughout the state and won almost every event I competed. But by the time I got to college at The University of Texas at Austin in 1993, I shifted from BMX to racing mountain bikes and worked at a bike shop to hone my mechanic’s skills.
After receiving my degree in chemical engineering, I stopped competing in order to pursue my engineering career. On paper, I had the dream corporate jobs that provided intense financial stability. But in 2007, I decided to give up a suit and tie for a mechanic’s apron and I started Pure Energy Cycling, a small bike shop in the historic town of Lambertville, NJ. Within a year we had a club team and within 2 years we were recognized by a big pharmaceutical company to be their branding ambassador for one of their products, via a track trade team known as Pure Energy Cycling-ProAir HFA. The team was wildly successful and was able to send a rider to compete in the 2012 London Olympics, and eventually 2 athletes to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
It was Winter of 2013, then US Criterium National Champion, Theresa Cliff-Ryan, and Kelly Fisher-Goodwin approached me to manage and lead a women’s program, and immediately, Fearless Femme Racing was born over a bottle of bourbon on a snowy day! Fearless Femme Racing added Australian Criterium National Champion, Dr. Kimberley Wells, and by the end of the inaugural 2013 season, our team racked up the most wins of any US team, both Domestic Elite or UCI. That same year, we finalized our 501c-3 Non-Profit status as Pure Energy Velo, and firmly set out on a mission to grow women’s cycling, but more importantly, grow cycling advocacy through Fearless Femme Racing!
Since 2013, we’ve created a substantial youth outreach into the community, while fostering the trajectory of some Fearless Femme Racing Alumni, notably:
- Theresa Cliff-Ryan: 4x USA Criterium National Champion
- Dr. Kimberley Wells: 2x Australian Criterium National Champion
- Kelly Fisher-Goodwin: Original Badass and Park Ranger in Colorado Parks System
- Rebecca Wiasak: 2x World Champion in the Individual Pursuit, and 2x Australian Criterium National Champion, 2019 Winner of the Bucks County Classic
- Tina Pic: Living Legend and Badass and Multi-time winner of everything on the road
- Dr. Christina Birch: 2014 Collegiate CX National Champion, 2021 Long Team Olympic Member, MIT PhD in Chemical Engineering
- Dr. Louisa Lobigs: The University of Western Australia PhD in Human Sciences
- Lauretta Hanson: 2021 Australian World’s Team member, Trek-Segafredo, 2015 Winner of the Bucks County Classic
- Lilly Williams: 2021 Tokyo Games Bronze Medalist and 2018 Winner of the Bucks County Classic (Hagens-Berman)
- Paige Shumskas: First scholarship athlete on Fearless Femme, soon to be PhD in Chemical Engineering from Penn State University, 3-Time competitor at Bucks County Classic
- Georgia Baker: 2021 Tokyo Olympics Australian Games Track cycling Athlete in Team Pursuit
- Ash Ankudinoff: 2021 Tokyo Olympics Australian Games Track cycling Athlete in Team Pursuit, 2016 Rio Games Olympian, 2018 Gold Medalist Commonwealth Games Team Pursuit
2. Bucks County Classic – What’s your history with this race?
Pure Energy Cycling raced this event when it was a UCI 2-day Men’s race. Fearless Femme Racing has been a part of the Bucks Count Classic since its inception of the Pro Women’s race in 2014. We believe this event has the critical and world class intangibles: great course, great crowd, amazing sponsors, community participation, and equal payout. Fearless Femme Racing won in 2015 and 2019 and podiums every year in between. A 25 minute drive from Pure Energy Cycling makes it all the more sweeter.
3. What do you think makes this race special and unique from other races?
The Bucks County Classic is so refreshingly unique because the event is nestled in one of the most charming and historic communities in the United States. The weather is perfect, the course is technical and fun, and the community and sponsor rally together to create one of the most intensified events in the calendar.
The town of Doylestown is historic and beautiful! As part of the town’s Arts Festival, the fan attendance and energy is tremendous for the bike race. The sponsors and community step-up with a party vibe and energized fans around every corner! This race is great for fans and families and the uphill spring finish is unlike any other in the race calendar.
4. Any special memories or stories from racing here in the past?
In 2019, Rebecca Wiasak won the Bucks County Classic as her last race before retirement. Her victory was commanding, and it was so meaningful for her to conclude her career at the Bucks County Classic, in front of fans, friends, and sponsors. Exit Stage left!
5. Goals for this weekend – what do you and the team hope to achieve?
As a local bike shop team that has competed at the highest level, we hope to bring a strong positive impact to Doylestown and to the world of cycling, with an emphasis on community. We want to win in front of fans and supporters, but we also want to spotlight just how much this event creates a positive trajectory for the athletes and sponsors.
6. What would you say to riders and fans who haven’t seen this race before?
Be ready for one of the hardest races for the riders, but most energetic for the fans! Doylestown’s streets create a grueling course, the fans stoke the energy, the amazing sponsors ensure this is as well-organized, and the quality of racers bring the talent! This is a race you don’t want to miss!