CARIBOU, Maine — It’s no secret among cyclists that one of the best post-ride recovery options is a tall, ice-cold glass of chocolate milk, which is packed full of the right amounts of fat, protein and calories athletes need.
The fact that it’s pretty tasty doesn’t hurt one bit, either.
Now, in addition to producing that apres-ride fuel, Houlton Farms Dairy is lending its name to a cycling team and both members were in northern Maine this past week leading rides and promoting their sport.
Based in Albany, N.Y., Team Houlton Farms Dairy is composed of Brad Baker and Brian Hupe, both 27, who are regulars on the amateur racing circuit.
The cyclists’ connection with Houlton Farms Dairy can be traced to Tim Blanchett, a Hodgdon resident and Baker’s future father-in-law.
“We would have family visit us down in Albany and they would always bring Houlton Farms chocolate milk and lemonade,” Baker said. “We drank so much of the chocolate milk after rides, we began calling ourselves, ‘Team Houlton Farms Dairy.’”
Blanchett often supplied the drinks.
“I knew better than to show up there empty-handed,” Blanchett said with a laugh on Friday. “I think it is amazing they were able to connect with the dairy and form the team.”
After a while, Baker and Hupe said they thought it might be a good idea to check with the family-owned and operated dairy to make sure there was no problem with them using the name.
“We reached out to Houlton Farms and they were thrilled,” Baker said.
In addition to allowing use of the name, the dairy owners gave permission for Baker and Hupe to adapt the business logo into a more cycling-friendly design with a bicycle gear and pedal arms replacing the familiar ribbon and company seal.
“We were really pleased and honored they wanted to do this,” Houlton Farms co-owner Alice Lincoln said Friday. “They apparently like our product and we think it’s awesome to be part of their team.”
For now, Houlton Farms Dairy is not providing any financial support beyond allowing Baker and Hupe to use the business’s name and logo.
The two cyclists cover most of their own expenses associated with competing. Both men work full time, Baker as an architect and Hupe as an environmental, quality and safety manager for CEVA Logistics.
“Someday we’d like to have sponsors to fund team jerseys and team bikes,” Hupe said. “But right now our [handle] bar tape matches our team colors, and that’s kind of cool.”
The men formed the team earlier this year to emphasize the camaraderie that can exist among cycling teammates.
“Brian and I were part of a [bicycling] team in Albany and we’d go to the races and not really know who was who anymore on the team,” Baker, a native of Presque Isle, said Friday morning. “We wanted to start our own team and really build on the brotherhood that forms among cyclists.”
Hoping to attract some northern Maine cyclists into the fold, Baker and Hupe were at the Caribou Houlton Farms Dairy Bar bright and early Friday morning ready to lead a 64-mile ride south to Houlton, stopping at dairy bars along the way in what they dubbed the Tour de Houlton Farms Dairy.
“Cyclists are often asked why we ride distances,” Baker said. “I’ve heard more than one say, ‘I ride to eat,’ [and] today we are going to get tasty treats along the way.”
“Obviously, today there will be ice cream on the docket,” he said. “We hope to make this ride a yearly event with more riders each year.”
The ride drew 10 cyclists from Maine and beyond.
“I’m just here to ride and have a good time,” 18-year-old Silvio Papei of Siena, Italy, said Friday.
Papei was in Maine visiting friend and fellow cyclist Mark Rossignol of New Sweden, also on hand for the dairy bar tour.
“It’s going to be a good day for the ride,” Rossignol said. “I just hope they pace it out at 20 miles per hour and not much faster,” he added with a laugh.
Making cycling fun and challenging is what Team Houlton Farms Dairy is all about.
“We seek members who are dedicated to the love of cycling, the spirit of competition, and the fun and joy of our camaraderie,” according to the team’s website. “Our mission is to aid in the growth of our members, whether they are just beginning or deep into their career of cycling.”
Baker and Hupe want to see their team growing with members entering USA Cycling sanctioned events, but that is not their primary goal.
“Though we seek to be an organized and respectable team, we never let that get in the way of the joy of riding,” the two men wrote on their website. “We believe that riding should not be sought as a task, but something to look forward to.”
For Hupe, getting to see the roads of northern Maine for the first time was something he had anticipated.
“I’m having fun up here,” he said. “The roads are great and the people are really friendly.”
On the race circuit, the team is focusing on cyclocross events — races that cover paved and off-road trails incorporating obstacles that cyclists must run around or over, carrying their bikes.
“Aroostook County is perfect for cyclocross racing,” Hupe said. “We would love to see that sport grow up here.”