By Gabe Mejia, Jimmy Araneda, David Barthod —
[Editor's Note: In this blast from the past, Cycling West looks back at the 2016 Bicycle Polo World Championships, at which a team from Salt Lake City, Utah competed.]
Les Beehive Boys: Gabriel, Jimmy and Dove are back from Timaru, New Zealand after 11 days spent riding their polo bikes on the roads and on the courts. This is the story of Salt Lake City's major bike polo team.
Beehive Bike Polo Club (BBPC) 801
Everything started about 15 years ago when a group of mountain bikers decided to build mallets with ski poles and gas pipes to hit a ball around on some grass. Chuck, Danny and Mark were the pioneers of the Salt Lake grass bike polo scene (Editor’s note: See page 28 of our July 2007 issue online: ).
After some Seattle bike messengers reinvented the sport by playing on asphalt in the late 90’s, our local group started to play Hardcourt Bike Polo by the tennis wall of Liberty Park. Jimmy, Tate, Gabriel and more bikers started to show up weekly and then found a new spot for the winters playing in a parking garage downtown.
Today BBPC is a group of about 30 diverse people training every Tuesday, Thursday (Women's night) and Sunday in a kindly and friendly atmosphere. Chuck, Danny, Gabriel, Tate and Jimmy are still at it with a bunch of local bikers and people from all over the U.S. who joined the club to make those nights fun and intense!
Les Beehive Boys
In 2014 – we created The Beehive Boys with Gabriel, Tate and Jimmy to represent Utah and Salt Lake City at tournaments. We drove to our first tourney in Vegas for Desert Bike Polo and played a year later in Fresno, CA for Smack In Da Middle IV. A great way to improve our skills by competing against new players.
In spring 2015, David – who just moved from France to Utah for his job – subbed in for Tate at the South West qualifiers. We had as a main goal to get a spot to play the North American Championship in Lexington, KY.
We drove a total of 20 hours to Folsom, CA and took 4th place. The top 5 got to represent the region at the North American Championship!
3 months later and after raising funds selling shirts, we flew to Kentucky for the NAHBPC and made it to the final day taking 13th over 50 teams from all over North America. The Cherry-on-top was to get a spot to play the World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championships in New Zealand!
In Timaru – We want to GO!
After we came back from Lexington, we had to decide to go to the Worlds or not. The only fear was the price of the tickets ($1,500 each). After a first team meeting, we finally agreed to do whatever we could to make it to New Zealand. Financial sponsoring in bike polo is today reserved to only few teams as the sport still a niche – growing though! We were lucky enough to gather support from local companies Saturday cycles, Velo City bags, and from DZR shoes in SF
We started to raise funds thanks to an online crowdfunding campaign – preselling shirts, hoodies, stickers and offering a French dinner at David’s house for 5 people! Few weeks later the strategy was paying for itself and we bought our tickets for Timaru.
In order to finalize the budget, we organized an Alley Cat race downtown “The Hive” including a raffle at The BeerHive with prizes from sponsors – Velo City Bags, Saturday Cycles, Mavic, Mission Workshop, Ogden Made, LedByLite, etc. 30 riders raced and celebrated in January to support our team before the trip. January 28th we traveled ‘down under’.
Bike Polo Touring Trip:
It will have been too bad for us to travel so far without catching a bit of this amazing country. That’s why we decided to go for a ‘bike-polo-touring-trip’ in the south island. After figuring out the best way to do long a tour on a polo bike, we were ready to see New Zealand the best way possible. By bike.
Day 1: After we took the shuttle from Christchurch we started our bike trip at Lake Pukaki – a magical place where Mt Cook and the lake seem unreal! 32 miles – riding on the “wrong” side of the road – for the first day. We spent the first night by lake Benmore where we were suddenly awoken in the tent by the owner of the private land where we were sleeping – we must have missed the sign. The only unpleasant kiwi we met.
Day 2: 49 miles which started with a portion of the ‘Alps 2 Ocean’ trail before a long ascent we will never forget. But thankfully followed a descent along Lake Aviemore. After riding as much as possible we found a secret spot to set up camp and rest while drinking a warm bottle of red wine and eating some leftovers.
Day 3: Another 50 miles to the final destination Timaru which started with a bunch a hills where sheep and cows were looking at us the whole way. We finally joined the main road by the ocean and met the ‘couple of the year’ – a 65 year old man and his wife who invited us over to their estate for some coffee, pastries and a chat! Definitely the nicest kiwis ever! The last miles were not the easiest especially with the trucks and cars passing us pretty fast. Timaru here we are!
World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championships:
After 3 days of riding together as a team we had time to discuss the upcoming Worlds. For the first time in bike polo history, a city from the south hemisphere hosted the major event, bringing a lot teams from NZ and Australia.
Our strategy was pretty clear. We were the outsiders and by consequence we had to surprise our opponents by playing our strengths: speed and defense.
Day 1: Came into the tournament a little nervous and didn’t do too well. We progressively got more comfortable on the court as the hot day went on, and by game 5–after having played against teams from 3 different continents including the wildcard winning team Golem and the Australian champions Huntsmen–at the end of the day we played a very intense and fast paced game against Los Bigotes, who would later rank 5th in the tournament.
Day 2: In order to qualify for the final day, we needed to do well. And we started the day well, with two wins. The next challenge would be to play the current world champions Call Me Daddy from France. We knew our level of play was not at the level of Call Me’s, so our strategy was simple: stay on your bike and defend. Even though we lost 3-0 we feel it was one of our best games. After all that’s the reason we go to tournaments, to play the best out there. We finished the day with a loss against Fully Torqued from Sydney, Australia. Our chances of making it to the Final 16 were very slim at best.
Or so we thought.
After the announcement of our name over the speakers we were ecstatic, and also happy for all our friends who made it to the final day with us. What’s notable is that among the 16 teams that played the final day, 3 of them are from our Southwest Region. The Control, who finished 3rd, Thunderfart and us.
Day 3: We had surpassed our goals for the tournament so we decided to not put too much pressure on ourselves. We would play at our best and see how that stacks up against the best in the world. We played The Control (3rd place), Sentinels from Australia, and our friends Los Bigotes (5th). We did not make it to the next round of games, but we came out of those games very happy with our performances. And after examination of our individual and collective plays, we will apply all we learned in Timaru.
After 3 intense days we took 15th over the 54 teams who played the 7th Worlds in Timaru. This experience was all we were hoping for and more. We consider this, our first season, a success!
This trip has been a beautiful collective experience after riding through the south island and playing the best bike polo teams! Huge congrats to Timaru for hosting this championship. No doubt that it was the best one ever and it gives good recognition to bike polo.
The future looks bright. We have a great group of motivated people playing bike polo in Salt Lake. We want to send three teams to the next SW qualifiers and make Utah known in bike polo.
To make this happen we need a reliable, evenly paved, lit place to play and train, and for that we need Salt Lake City and our friends behind us. We already started discussions but they are going slowly. The winter is especially hard because of the rain, snow and cold. But week after week we are always there ready to play.
We also want to get kids on their bikes and trying bike polo by organizing a kids program with the Salt Lake Bicycle Collective. This is how we will build the future of bike polo in Utah.
We are working towards hosting an interstate tournament this spring.
If you want to join us, to watch us or to help us – feel free to join the club on Facebook or to email us [email protected]