Automatic Racing: From Underfunded to Head of Class

Beyond the Lycra celebrates the stories told through custom performance apparel.

Tom Gibbons is funny. If you’ve followed him on social media or spent time around him on the sidelines of a crit race, you’re aware Tom’s flavor of humor is usually short quips featuring a Taylor Swift song or his dog, Hilda.

Yet, you’d be mistaken if you confuse Tom’s humor for lack of seriousness around racing or dreams.

“I want to be able to go out and be aggressive, but also have fun – I think fun is lost on other teams, but it’s an important piece of success. Our team is going to have beer and pizza and enjoy life,” explains Tom.

Photo by SnowyMountain Photography

The night before the 2019 season’s first race, Automatic Racing’s host family screen printed their logo on Under Armour tees and sweatshirts. After getting poorly designed and ill-fitting jerseys from their supplier, the team had to find both racewear and post-race apparel in less than 24 hours.

“We went to JCPenny’s, looking for six of anything that matched the night before the race. We ended up finding these hideous, orange sweatshirts with a blue stripe across the chest and white piping. We said, ‘Fuck it, we’re putting the logo on here.’ The next day, someone complimented the sweaters telling us we should make it our team jersey – and that’s how our jersey design was born.”

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Today, the team is newer, young, and hungry, but the spirit is still grounded in the principles Tom and Lauren founded Automatic on in 2019: to have fun, keep a rider-centric atmosphere, and, well, win.

“First and foremost, we put the atmosphere and rider first. With a lot of other teams, you have one or two riders taking the majority of the resources, so we wanted to really focus on having a system where every rider was equal access to the support they need,” explains Tom.

It doesn’t just take pure athleticism to win a crit race but experience working, strategizing, and riding as a group.

“I’m used to doing it alone, and I have to relearn how to race in a support system. I can feel the pieces and the team coming together, and what has shown these last two races with a pair of second place finish. The win is coming. I can feel it,” Tom says heading into Spartanburg.

Photos by Drew Coleman Media Haus

Coming into the back half of the USA Crit Series, Gibbons sitting in first and the team is third place overall. Breaking up the sea of Legion of LA blue bit by bit, the next race block is expected to provide some good ole’ American bike racing.

“I think there is a massive market for bike racing in America; historically. I think it’s been covered so poorly that we’re conditioned to believe no one cares. But, the racing is getting better, and the level is getting higher, and it’s just purely held back by lack of good coverage. USA Crits is working hard to change that. We already see a massively expanded platform with expanded engagement to match. For better or worse, cycling blew up in the early 2000s because of Lance, which can happen again. All it takes is a little spark and some good coverage, and the programs, fan base, and money follow.”

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