American rider Justin Williams has signed a sponsorship deal with Red Bull, joining an exclusive club of riders sponsored by the energy drink manufacturer.
Williams is the co-founder of the L39ION of Los Angeles team, which he set up with his brother, Cory, in 2019. The Red Bull sponsorship is an individual sponsorship, similar to that of Wout van Aert, Britain's Tom Pidcock and Chloe Dygert.
"I usually have something inspiring or witty to say but today I’m just grateful," Williams wrote in an Instagram post announcing the signing. Through all the setbacks that come on one’s journey, moments like these are why YOU can not give up."
A multi-time National Champion in the junior and elite amateur ranks, Williams has raced to victories on the track, in road races, and in criteriums. Although there were almost no American bike races in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Williams won the Roger Millikan Memorial Grand Prix in February.
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L39ION of Los Angeles, and Williams, have been the subject of increased press coverage in the past year, especially in light of discussions about diversity in cycling.
“The diversity in the team comes from me and my brother and our African descent, Williams previously told Cyclingnews. So I think that some people get lost in diversity being a reason for the team’s existence. The team exists because there’s no diversity but we don’t try and strictly push diversity,” adds Williams.
The team, who recently announced their 2021 roster, aims to harness the power of community and the sheer excitement of criterium racing to drive new interest in the sport.
Red Bull sponsorship is only offered to an exclusive group of riders, who signal membership by wearing a specially designed helmet and other clothing items only available to sponsored riders. The brand has a High Performance Center in Santa Monica, Calif., where athletes can get training and nutrition advice. In addition, the company owns Red Bull Media House, a media production company that often works with Red Bull athletes on projects.
Save for a select few road cyclists, Red Bull's involvement with cycling has traditionally been limited to supporting mountain biking athletes and events. The brand was instrumental in creating the iconic freeride contest, Red Bull Rampage, and sponsors free live stream coverage of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup.
This week, Williams was on a training ride in Southern California with other Red Bull athletes when he was surprised with his new Red Bull helmet.
"Congratulations my friend," fellow Red Bull athlete Payson McElveen wrote on Instagram after presenting Williams with his helmet. I can’t wait to see what you do with your new wings."
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