Four members of the University club cycling team traveled to Madison, Wisc., earlier this month to compete in the Collegiate Road Nationals. And while the Ducks traveled to nationals last year as well, only one of the four riders to make the trip this season — graduate student David Kuhns — has now gone to nationals for five straight years.
Kuhns was the Ducks top finisher, placing 45th in the 72-mile road race. Seniors Mckenzie Sampson and Jeremy Garbellano and junior Tyler Mangum also raced for Oregon. Sampson finished 104th, and Mangum was 115th.
In the criterium, a bike race held on a course shorter than five kilometers, Kuhns and Sampson each finished in 59th place, and close behind in 63rd was Garbellano. The Ducks sat out of the team time trial event.
Mangum said that the Ducks were satisfied with their middle-of-the-pack finishes at nationals, and they were proud to have qualified. He explained that the people who win races at nationals are at the absolute highest end of amateur cycling.
Mangum said that elite riders spend easily over $1,000 on a racing bike, and new carbon fiber frames made for that style “weigh pretty much like a paperweight.”
The Oregon cycling club goes far beyond the field of four riders who went to Madison, however. In all, 26 riders competed in eight races in the Northwest Collegiate Cycling Conference against riders from other Northwest schools including Pac-10 opponents Oregon State and Washington, and smaller schools such as Portland and Willamette.
The club also has members who don’t race and only train with the club, but Mangum said he wants to encourage new members to race. Once people start to race, he says, they’re usually hooked.
“I don’t think I can remember anybody who has started racing and then not finished the whole season,” Mangum said.
Mangum added that although elite riders buy state-of-the-art bikes, anybody can start to ride with the team, even if they might not have the best bike.
“Anyone with a bike can do it,” Mangum said. “We literally have a guy racing on a ’70s steel bike from the bike program.”
The team starts to train in the winter with group rides in Veneta, Junction City and other cities near Eugene. At the start of the season, the team rides for about an hour, but by the end of the season they’re riding for four hours or more.
The group rides give the team an opportunity to bond while learning racing techniques and practicing drafting formations. It’s a lot to take in, but as Garbellano explains, it’s not too much to handle.
“When you first start, the older guys kind of bring you to their shoulder and show you the ropes, and eventually you’re in that role,” Garbellano said.
The racing season begins in March, and for the next eight weekends the Ducks compete in races across the Northwest. For races as far away as Montana and Idaho, this means as much as 14 hours driving one way.
The Ducks qualified for nationals because of their performance in the regular racing season, where they finished in the top two of the NWCCC’s first division.
On the season, the Ducks’ B, and C teams both finished first in their respective divisions, while the Ducks’ A team finished second behind Washington, and the D squad finished third.
The team now rides together on the weekends, but some members ride different routes (some as short as twenty miles and some as long as 80 or more).
The cycling team also works with the University’s bike program to hold bike safety days on campus and teach some basic bike repair techniques to the student body.