An Ode to Collegiate Cycling

Recently, I’ve been feeling pretty optimistic about cycling in general.  Seeing how many winter warriors braved the apocalyptic weather over the past few months has convinced me that Boston can be a “world-class cycling city,” regardless of Mother Nature’s best efforts to break our spirits.  Furthermore, rising gas prices and the well-documented shortcomings of the MBTA will likely (hopefully) result in more people taking to the streets by bike this year.

While I’m certainly pumped about the promise of cycling in Boston this year, nothing gets me excited to ride a bike like collegiate cycling.  Lucky for me, this past weekend featured the first racing of the season.  Sure, Sunday featured monsoon rains, but it was okay because I was racing my bike for the first time since July.

Sunday's rain continued unabated almost all day. Pictured here, the Men's C1 absorbs some H20 before the beginning of their race.

So, I could either give you a second-by-second breakdown of my races this season OR I could describe to you why I like collegiate cycling so damn much.  I’ve gone ahead and chosen the latter, for your benefit.  You’re welcome.

If you know anything about me, you know that I like getting people to ride bikes.  The Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC) is the largest of the collegiate cycling conferences and the conference leadership has made it a main goal to lower the barriers to bike racing.  For instance, they’ve banned aero gear, such as time trial bikes and deep carbon wheels, for all racers – a move I wholeheartedly support.  These rules put the focus on training instead of buying a few seconds with a $2500 pair of wheels.

Another thing that the heads of the ECCC and I can agree on is that females in spandex = win.  Seriously, though, the ECCC has done more to expand women’s cycling in the past few years than any other organization I can think of.  Last year, the conference added another category, making cycling accessible to women of all fitness levels.

Despite all the talk about accessibility, you’d be remiss to think of collegiate cyclists as a bunch of novices.  Racing at the elite level of the ECCC features some of the best riders in the region, who don the kits of teams such as Trek-Livestrong and Colavita when they aren’t representing their colleges and universities.  Ted King, who now rides for Liquigas-Cannondale, got his start in the ECCC while representing Middlebury College.

As an interesting aside, I find that collegiate cycling has made my rides safer.  How, you ask? Well, you may find this hard to believe – hell, I hardly believe it – but, drivers are less belligerent towards me when I’m wearing my collegiate team kit.  How drivers that usually ignore my existence take the time to notice the university name on my back has me befuddled.  Yet, I am rarely honked at, threatened, or run off the road (you know, the normal fare) when representing my school.  The lesson to be learned here?  Sponsor a collegiate cycling team – people actually read the jerseys!

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