that played in their rental car and their run-ins with various race officials
and law enforcement. He wrote about the crowds and the culture
surrounding the race. The writing and photographs are compelling and
odd and funny. Since the Giro, people have come to know MFS as “gonzo
journalism for cycling.” “We weren’t consciously like, ‘ We’re just going to
go gonzo on this,’ but I guess that’s what we did,” Granado says.
During the Giro, they also grabbed attention by publishing stories
every single night. Previously when they’d covered a race, it would be
weeks before they published their reports. Daily publishing added a
timeliness to their coverage that allowed people to follow the race via
MFS rather than, or in addition to, the mainstream press. Their site
traffic spiked, and their sponsor, Castelli, took note.
Castelli is an Italian company. The sponsorship of MFS is an
initiative of their U.S. distributor. But suddenly “the people at
Castelli in Italy wanted to talk to us, and they wanted to figure
out: Is MFS a global Castelli project or is it a U.S. Castelli project?”
Wakefield Pasley says.
“There was a clear-cut before Christ/after death moment, and it
was the Giro D’Italia,” Granado adds.
Since then, the attention has grown steadily. Granado and Wakefield
Pasley had courted the Garmin cycling team, also sponsored by Castelli,
for a couple of years, but were kept at arm’s length at least partly
because of their irreverent style. This past spring, however, when MFS
was covering the Pais Vasco race in the Basque region of Spain, one
of Garmin’s top riders tweeted that MFS is some of the best cycling
journalism he’s read in a long time. Now, their relationship with the
Garmin team has solidified and they have insider access to a major team.
Granado and Wakefield Pasley began MFS because they saw a
gap in how cycling is covered. The mainstream press celebrates the
few guys who win races, but have no time for the hundreds of other
cyclists who are “elite-level athletes and they’re just hanging on”
to the sport, Wakefield Pasley says. “Cycling in Europe is glitzy and
glammy, and big tour buses and podium girls and Lamborghinis and
Italians.” Except for the elite ten athletes, cycling in the United States
is a blue-collar sport. “These guys are kind of like rodeo athletes in
Spandex, but the rest of the world views cycling as more like racecar
driving,” Wakefield Pasley says.
Rather than pitching individual stories to the cycling press
for one-off fees, Wakefield Pasley and Granado decided to pitch a
digital cycling journal to Castelli US, giving the company exclusive
sponsorship of the site. It was important to have “the ability to check
in repeatedly with the same people and have some sort of narrative
that plays out over years,” Granado says. “Also from a career point of
view, it just makes so much more sense to own your content versus just
selling it off to somebody for $200…. If Manual for Speed died today,
we’d still be the Manual for Speed guys. We would still be the guys that
can bring it in that way, whatever that way is.”
It’s not lost on Wakefield Pasley and Granado that, at a time
when brands are looking more and more to editorial-style content to
To make the site sustainable, they say, they will have to continue
to refine its business model. This year they launched a project to
document a series of American races and were able to bring Clif Bar
on as a sponsor for that work. The pair have also landed commercial
work because of MFS. And they earn thousands of dollars selling MFS-
branded shirts, jerseys and other cycling swag.
They’ve taken some of what they have learned and applied it
to another web-based publishing project, Yonder Journal, which
focuses on outdoor adventure and recreation. In July they embarked
on a 25-day trip sponsored by Yakima, the car-rack manufacturer,
documenting recreation in the American West. They’re hoping the
trip will be their Giro moment for Yonder Journal.
FROM LEF T TO RIGH T: Crowds cheer cyclists at the 2014 Paris-Roubaix race in France; a vintage Fiat 500 and display of cycling jerseys along the race route at the Giro D’Italia.