Crushing it together - Meet CrushPod, NGNM’s e-racing team on Zwift

When we set up our weekly Women’s Crush Wednesday ride on Zwift, we openly admit that we had fairly grand ambitions, namely to tackle one of our mantra affirmations—you know the one:
we believe in a borderless nation, united by our ideas, beliefs and love for cycling.

It was a dream for us that involved an international, all-inclusive community and great company on and off the bike. Grand, but achievable, right?

After holding the events for 98 weeks, imagine our delight when two familiar names from our weekly virtual ride contacted us outside of the Wednesday e-riding appointment to ask if we would be interested in supporting their seriously exciting, globally spread women’s-only e-racing team.

Hell, yes, we’re in.

Get comfy and meet the women behind CrushPod, supported by No Gods No Masters, racing in the exclusive NGNM x Zwift WRRS kit and Performance Bib Shorts

The women—30 committed riders in total, aged from their 20s to their 60s—have been busy over the summer, stitching together a multi-tiered team that’s spread across Europe and the States. With strong all-inclusive principles and values that are aligned with NGNM’s, these women are ready to rewrite the narrative as a team that places value on camaraderie vs. competition, acts of care vs. personal bests, and lending the wheel whenever needed. 
There’s a ‘do what you can’ vibe that’s upheld by everyone—and after a long day at work and juggling family, sometimes that’s all you can do.

Building friendships in our virtual peloton. 

While social riding is able to scratch one itch, there’s an innate competitive drive inside all of us (arguably more apparent in some than others) and Zwift is fertile ground for unlocking this desire to push your limits. As the same names showed up on the screen each week at the NGNM ride, Sweden’s Sara Norström—a regular at our Women’s Crush Wednesday—decided to get proactive.

Let’s rewind and set the scene: We’re in the midst of the pandemic, the first wave, everyone’s at home, events are cancelled, training groups are a no-go, so where do you find the extra hit of endorphins that so many of us are addicted to? Where can you channel the energy of teamwork and work up a sweat for a bigger purpose? 

Easy. Team Time Trialling, poetry in motion—the virtual version. Sara found riders of a similar ability through our group and decided that they’d be the ideal teammates for Zwift’s now iconic Team Time Trial events, held every Thursday, week in, week out and live streamed with commentary on Youtube. Joanne Ernst, Olivia Smith, Jo Graham and Kate Lascelles got the initial invite from Sara. They thought about it briefly, then chased each other’s wheels for 30 km one Thursday night in the deepest part of winter and were hooked.

This was the start of CrushPod, back at the start of 2021. Right now, as we roll into autumn 2021, CrushPod is present in the WTRL Team Time Trial and the ZRL—Zwift Racing League—with three teams named after the three Norns of Norse mythology, who live at the root of the Yggdrasil (the tree of life), where they spin the life threads of all beings—Wyrd spins the thread, Verdandi  twirls it, and Skuld  measures it then cuts it. They've chosen some apt symbolism—the Norns are all about working together to create and control their fate, which is reflected in the virtual racing circuit as it demands teamwork and slick execution.

While riding, we threw some questions to the founders:

Nan Deardorff-McClain
– Delft, Netherlands
– Zwifting since November 2020

I'm in CrushPod because…
My very first ride on Zwift was at the NGNM Crush Weds ride last November. It was fun, a great group of women, an inclusive spirit, and a lively chat made the hour go by in a pinch! An invitation to join the team soon followed. I went from a total Zwift newbie to a TTT racer in less than a year!

Favourite thing to do on Zwift:
Leading the NGNM rides as Yellow Beacon and racing the WTRL TTT league with CrushPod 2!

When not Zwifting, you'll find me ...
I’m a mosaic artist doing mainly murals as community art projects in the Netherlands. I love going for an icey dip in a lake near my house to start the day, and IRL rides with my husband Michael. Last but not least, going surfing with my kids!

Jo Graham 
– Surrey, UK
– Zwifting since January 2020

I'm in CrushPod because…
I found a fabulous group of ladies with the same passion for cycling through the NGNM Crush rides. The camaraderie, support, fun and friendships are what makes us such a special team.

Favourite thing to do on Zwift:
Ladies Crushpod Team events and when doing mixed category races, beating the men up the hills!

When not Zwifting, you'll find me ...
Enjoying the outdoors with my husband, exploring new places. I recently took up open water swimming, found it very invigorating and participated in some longer distance events. For a job, I work for a Biscuit company based in the UK.

Oliva Smith
– London, UK
– Zwifting since April 2020

I'm in CrushPod because…
I began by riding with Sara, Joanne, Kate and others at the NGNM ride. Sara mentioned trying the TTT and I thought ‘why not? After all, we always have fun and we're quite competitive. We managed to persuade a couple of others and CrushPod was born (thanks to Joanne for the name) and it's just grown from there.

Favourite thing to do on Zwift:
NGNM rides, crit races and anything else with CrushPod

When not Zwifting, you'll find me …
Being the best servant I can to my two cats. I work as a product manager for a Bicycle parts and accessories company and trying to get ready to become a mum at the end of this year. I'm also looking forward to getting back riding on Zwift 

Sara Norström
– Brevag, Sweden
– Zwifting since January 2020

I'm in CrushPod because…
I met these super strong, super nice and super interesting ladies on the NGNM Women Crush  Wednesday (Joanne, Olivia and Kate) and I managed to nag them into trying out a TTT. And I guess we were all hooked after that =)

Favourite thing to do on Zwift:
I like individual time trials as much as team ones. But most women races are fun, and especially with CrushPodders.

When not Zwifting, you'll find me …
I'm trying to balance full-time work as a teacher and researcher with family life (two kids, three dogs, and a husband). Zwift is a lifesaver.

Kate Lascelles
– London, UK
– Zwifting since March 2020

I'm in CrushPod because… 
After several NGNM rides with Joanne, Sara and Olivia, Joanne asked if I was interested in racing, which I was :)

Favourite thing to do on Zwift:
Any rides/races with CrushPod as well as individual races, especially beating the men! 

When not Zwifting, you'll find me …
You'll find me cycling and running in Richmond Park, training for my next triathlon. My partner and I love to travel and can't wait to get back to it, especially our cycling holidays. You’ll also catch me organising our team time trial for CrushPod 1 as the team captain and working as an Executive Assistant.

Karoline Straßer
– Ihrlerstein, Germany
– Zwifting since October 2020

I'm in CrushPod because… 
I used to be a regular on NGNM Women Crush Wed rides and Joanne finally convinced me to join them

Favourite thing to do on Zwift:
Individual races, Team races like ZRL, WTRL TTT, women group rides.When not Zwifting, you'll find me …
At my sister (Julia Volkmann), spending time with my husband and my 2 little girls, baking cakes, pizza and bread, riding outside, gardening, working for NFT-sport.

Joanne Ernst
– Colorado, USA
– November 2017

I'm in CrushPod because…
I enjoy riding with women who like to ride hard and support other women to achieve their potential. CrushPod is a fantastic, fun group of women. Simply the best!

Favourite thing to do on Zwift:
Race WTRL TTT with CrushPod. I like almost all races because I'm learning so much and the team is so enthusiastic.

When not Zwifting, you'll find me …
These days most of my outdoor riding is on a gravel bike. I'm still learning and improving my bike handling skills. I work with my husband in a business we've run for 27 years. I love hiking with my husband and working in the garden which my husband is happy to watch. I'm not much of a cook but I love to eat good food!

“The values at the core of CrushPod are the very same ones with which we’ve infused our weekly Women’s Crush Wednesday rides, and they’ve been a big catalyst to aggregate like-minded women. When it comes to spreading a positive culture among women in the sport, we’re confident that CrushPod and NGNM are going in the right direction.” – Milly de Mori, NGNM founder.

Find out more about the team @crushpod_racers

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