When it comes to competition, it’s clear that criterium racer Missy Martucci is hooked on the rush of racing, “The whole crowd is roaring, it’s so noisy, and your heartbeat is pounding.” But she wasn’t always so confident in the cut and thrust of the crit.
“I literally came from nothing. I didn’t know how to ride a bike. People were afraid of me when I first started racing, because people knew that I crashed a lot it was like, ‘She crashes a lot, and she doesn’t care, like she has no fear, so watch out for her.’”
When she climbed onto the top of the podium at Red Bull Short Circuit in 2022, it was the culmination of a long-cherished dream.
“Stepping on that podium, aside from marrying my husband, was the best feeling of my life. And at the end of the day, every second was worth it. Every hardship was worth it, every struggle, every tear, every drop of blood that came out of me, of all the crashes, it was all worth it in the end.
Formerly a member of Team USA’s Olympic Development Program, a series of injuries forced Martucci into making the difficult decision to end her soccer career. It was then that she found the freedom and joy that bikes can bring.
Since buying her first “too big and really heavy” pink Masi, she switched to fixed gear bikes but only started to take things seriously when “trying to impress” a guy she liked. That guy was Red Hook Criterium winner Francesco Martucci.
Now combining being a badass fixed-gear racer with her career as a teacher, Missy has accomplished a lot after some difficult periods in her life. That victory at Short Circuit in 2022 came after crashing out in the final heat in 2021, serving to heighten the win’s emotional impact. These days, she is also giving back to her local Californian riding community with a new project called Gruppetto. Her partner in the new endeavour is the very same Francesco, now her husband. So at least we know bike racing is an effective way to impress your crush…
Gruppetto is an attempt to give to the cycling community something which Martucci herself received during a very difficult part of her life.
“Not everybody is out here trying to smash crits or race fixed-gear events. I went through something horrendous and I didn’t have a place to go, but I was able to join a group [of cyclists] and they pulled me to a finish line.”
The ethos behind Gruppetto is “to work together to get everyone across the finish line”. Even if that line is not literally placed at the end of a bike race.
“When we were choosing our name, Gruppetto, it was all the people here in Long Beach that have their personal goals. Some people are just trying to learn and get better and we wanted to foster that.”
The journey towards greater skill and understanding is one best shared, Martucci says.
“Gruppetto exists so people could join us and learn not necessarily from us, because we learn from other people as well, but learn with us and become a community. We want to create a place to go to each other if we ever need help, on the bike and off the bike.”
Whether it’s cornering and hairpins in short course races, or clipping into a road bike for the first time, Martucci and her husband coach people at all stages of their riding development. This is her pursuit of progression.