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Representatives Election

At least year’s annual meeting, an important step toward ensuring the longterm continuity of the ECCC was debuted: A nascent but formal Board of Trustees. As discussed, this year we’re adding two representatives to that board via an election across all of the membership.

The Board

Like most such structures, the ECCC Board of Trustees has two key objectives:

  • Provide independent strategic guidance, oversight, and decision making;
  • Ensure long term continuity and survival.

Historically most of the overarching, major operational and strategic decision making about budgets, hiring, significant initiatives, etc., have ultimately resided with the conference director. Over time the board will assume oversight of much of this, particularly as/if the conference continues to develop a larger paid staff. One major goal is better sanity checking via peer review, and formal procedures discouraging ad hoc practices. However, the board also makes this decision making institutional rather than individual, able to be made—and hopefully made well—absent any particular person. In that vein, the board also acts as a knowledge repository, capturing lessons learned and institutional experience even as individuals come and go.

These things take time to develop and there are many well entrenched practices and people even as the conference has to continue to operate at full speed with limited human capacity, so the board is still maturing, settling on activities and responsibilities. However, it has been meeting periodically over the past year to discuss a number of topics. Prominent among these, as an example, is taking public input from the discussion at last year’s annual meeting and settling on final criteria and procedures for the first representatives election. As another example of the kinds of topics addressed by the Board of Trustees, a major topic for the near future and our incoming representatives is a developing proposal that’s been under intermittent discussion for some time to open ECCC racing to all youth, not just full-time students.

Trustees

As currently architected, the ECCC board consists of nine volunteer members in two components:

  • Seven trustees appointed and confirmed by the board itself and serving indefinitely;
  • Two representatives elected from and by the full membership and serving for two years.

The current trustees are all longstanding leaders of the ECCC community:

  • Emma Bast: Former Mt Holyoke rider, collegiate road national champion, and USAC Collegiate committee athlete representative; currently outside Burlington, VT.
  • Christina Birch: Former MIT rider, collegiate cyclocross national champion, and general rockstar; in Boston, MA.
  • Shane Ferro: Former Columbia rider, team leader, and race director; in New York, NY.
  • Joseph Kopena: Former Drexel rider, team leader, race director, official, and conference director; in Philadelphia, PA.
  • Michael Rea: Former Dartmouth and UVM rider, team leader, race director, longstanding conference advisor, and former NEBRA collegiate liason; officially in Washington, DC but often Hanover, NH.
  • Rob Rowan: Former Columbia coach, race director, official, and longstanding conference advisor; in New York, NY.
  • Ian Sullivan: Former UVM and Vermont Law rider, team leader, race director, official, and assistant conference director; currently splitting time between Pittsfield, MA and Rutland, VT.

The two slots for representatives are to be filled for the first time by this election.

Representatives

As a whole the board is formally committed to maintaining gender parity in its structure. There is thus a representative for women and another for men, according to competition gender. However, all current members (currently defined as full-time high school and college students with at least one ECCC scholastic start this year) will vote on both positions.

The other eligibility criteria for the representatives are:

  • Must have 4 starts in any discipline or category in a scholastic field at an ECCC event  within the past year, i.e., was an active collegiate or high school racer this year;
  • Must be at least 18 years of age at the time general voting closes;
  • Must be approved by the trustees, with significant cause to be given otherwise.

Note that the representatives need not necessarily be full-time students at the time of the election or afterward. Racers that just graduated, are taking a break, etc., all have much to contribute. However, especially for this first year we strongly encourage nominees and votes for representatives that will be active racers in the coming year such that they may be more easily acquainted with how the conference works behind the scenes.

Responsibilities

Participation in the Board of Trustees is explicitly and critically not intended to be an overwhelming commitment. It is a significant, serious commitment but not on the critical path for ongoing operations. Expectations include:

  • Attending the annual fall conference meeting if possible;
  • Attending some ECCC race or races annually;
  • Quarterly voice or video call with trustees;
  • Ongoing but light/bursty email discussion;
  • Taking lead on a particular area or project of special interest.

Once elected, the representatives will each serve 2 year terms. They need not be active racers throughout, nor even be committed to staying in the geographic region.

Election

The timeline for our inaugural representatives election is:

  • October 21: Call for nominees (this post!)
  • October 28: Nominations close at noon (to provide time for collation & board review)
  • October 29: General voting opens
  • November 12: Voting closes at 11:59pm
  • November 14: Representatives announced and introduced at the annual meeting

Nominations are to be made by the candidates themselves via this form:

Nominate yourself!

If there are any questions about eligibility, the election process, or any other issues, please contact Joe Kopena.

Changing Seats

“MEN’S A, COME TO THE LINE…” I heard over the megaphone as I was finishing my warm up. That meant that in a short 10 minutes, Men’s B—myself and thirty-something collegiate racers—would be racing another edition of the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference Championships at Black Moshannon State Park. In prior years, that would have meant three laps with Men’s A or 64 miles of pure suffering on the saddle while struggling to maintain contact with the group. Today, however, only two laps would be completed as I had come to the realization that no longer can one dedicate as much time on the bike when studying medicine and thus, riding a longer race would have been just plain dumb. The officials described the course and rules as riders sought to find good positions before the start on the gravel path. As the whistle blew, I couldn’t help but smile. During the prior six weeks, I had been sitting for an average of 11 hours a day while studying for a medical board exam and the narrower bike seat was a fresh change.

We comfortably rode for about three miles while guys chatted about how they weren’t climbers and how hard the race was going to be, etc., typical of collegiate racing. After a few unscripted changes of lines by nervous riders, we began the long four-kilometer descent that would eventually be the reason our race would be over. I had done the descent many times and last year I had obtained a PR, which I jokingly attribute to my gain of weight courtesy of medical school. I think science can back up that claim. Within meters of the descent I realized I had made a mistake. Realizing that I am in what may be the worst shape of my cycling life, I decided to stay back to save some energy early in the race. The road surface was less than ideal with large pot holes at times and riders began to doubt their descending capabilities and made questionable choices such as slamming on the brakes, changing lines, and even going into the left lane of incoming traffic, a very dangerous approach when you have four kilometers of sweeping turns at speeds of over 45 miles per hour on 25mm tires. Suddenly, I found myself split from the front group and trying to make my way to the front, not because of ambitions, but because of safety. Thankfully, I made it unscathed to the bottom and the “rollers” began. That is to say, small steep segments of hills with beautiful descents overlooking Centre County’s beautiful landscape of small creeks and farms. Once again, while gasping for air during hard racing, I couldn’t help but smile.

As we made the 90 degree turn that would take us into the long climb, I nodded to the marshal protecting the intersection from incoming traffic, a sign that I was not so concentrated on racing as much as I was in enjoying the experience of being on the saddle again at Black Moshannon. “Black Mo” is a category 2 climb that spans 6.5 kilometers from the bottom of the hill to the roller segments with an average incline of 6%, but that has rollers that would make it almost 10 kilometers to the very top of the mountain. The view during a summer or early fall afternoon as your legs burn up it, is something I can’t describe with my lack of poetic prose. To be there knowing that you have a functional body, willing to cross the comfort zone instead of sitting down watching TV or studying is something I am grateful for. As we continued to ride up with the main group a few minutes ahead, I chatted, more like gasped, with two other racers about their ride experience up the mountain. Neither of them had done the ride before so I sarcastically joked “what a beautiful day for leisure riding” as our faces showed what some friends and I refer to as the “pain cave” face. One of them understood the joke and joked back “right?!!…”, the other one said “ I feel like I am dying” to which I replied, “if you can still feel, you are doing ok”.

We worked our way up as a team with the sole unspoken purpose of not being pulled from the race, which is to say that we were too slow for officials to wait for us to do another lap. As we approached the feeding zone, I looked for my fiancé who was nervously expecting to feed me for the first time ever. I noticed her blue sweater among the group of spectators and told the guys that I would be feeding so they knew and would not be surprised by the brisk exchange that feeding a bottle of water could be during a race. As I was feeling fairly comfortable after climbing for over 20 minutes, I took the time to blow her a kiss before managing to grab the bottle handed by her with such efficiency as that of an experienced soigneur. I was in a good place. Not race wise, as I was a few minutes behind the main group, but in life in general. I was slower because I chose medicine as a career and instead of putting hours of leisure time into training I was instead putting many hours reading books and lectures in an attempt to absorb as much information as I could. But I have always needed a balance and cycling is my escape from the routine that medical school can become, I couldn’t do it any other way.

While we managed to ride strongly on the mountain ridge before descending to the Black Moshannon Lake, I had one thought in mind, “if we get pulled, I am still going to ride another lap. This is too much of a great day to not do so”. What I did not know was that at some point during the race that took place after us, there was a bad crash on the initial descent. So when we made a 90-degree turn to ride through the finish line to start the second lap and the official waved us off the road, I immediately thought, “shoot, we are getting pulled…”. But something didn’t seem right. There were a large number of riders on the road, so I immediately thought, “this has to be a crash; we are not that far off from the front group”.

Indeed, a crash had taken place but not where the riders were on the side of the road, but instead a few miles down on one of the sweeping turns of the large descent. I heard people in the area talking about two crashes, one of which apparently involved oncoming traffic. At the time of this writing I cannot confirm the information, but many people were saying that the rider had to be transported by helicopter. The race was over, as all traffic lanes were closed and we were ordered off the course by the race directors. Nothing much had to be said, we knew it was a serious situation: the somber faces of officials and course marshals told the story.

Suddenly, everything came back into perspective. One day I may be the physician on the other side of the phone, obtaining a history about a fellow cyclist involved in accident. As I later went on a small ride with some old friends from college I couldn’t help to think about the injured riders. I do not know who they are, what happened, or what their recovery would be like. However, in my mind, I already wanted to be the doctor taking care of them. Even as I write this, I find it interesting that I wanted the weekend to escape from medicine before I start my third year of medical school and what I instead found was a deep desire to get going in training so I can promptly be that physician taking care of injured.

Mariano Garay
Penn State College of Medicine
Class of 2017

Editor’s note: There were indeed extremely serious and lasting injuries, but everybody was “ok” in the sense that no brain or spinal damage was found, and all eventually went home with their teams.

Cover photo by Burt Levine (PSU), Fall Ride to Black Moshannon.

Road 2014, Week 8: Easterns!

After seven straight weekends of travel, bikes and listening to conference director Joe Kopena’s sweet yet cruel words of “Be smart, race fast” at each race’s start, it seems hard that the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference could put forth a memorable final weekend. Brown University, Providence College and Rhode Island School of Design united to host the Eastern Conference Championships to blow everyone’s expectations- and race predictions- out of the water.

The criterum finish line being deployed!
The criterum finish line being deployed!

Scituate High School, Rhode Island, was the staging for Saturday’s races. “Scituate” pronounced “sit-CHOO-it.” Don’t lie, only the thirty people who are actually born and raised in Rhode Island know how to pronounce it. The day’s races- a team time trial and road race- would be complimented by the usual weather collegiate racers have been forced to know and love: cold, mud and rain. The weather was so unforgiving that racers described the day as a “battle of attrition” with each other and themselves, as everyone struggled to stay warm and race fast on the bike. Such harsh elements however would not deter Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) men’s and women’s teams from going aero and storming ahead to take the fastest times of the day: 35:51.92 and 42:04.01 respectively for the rolling 15 mile course.

The morning rain eventually managed to die off, just in time for race officials to decide to stage the road race. Not because collegiate racers cannot handle getting a little damp, but a decision had to be made to evaluate if the two miles of dirt section in the 23-mile race loop had held up through the water run-offs. The dirt hills- the first feature of its kind for the 2014 season- were the most defining and significant feature of the course. With each lap, closeted mountain and cyclocross riders were given their time to shine and they cruised ahead of roadies used to the ease and comfort of hard pavement. In the men’s A race, Bentley University graduate student and professional cyclocross racer Craig Richey made the mud climbs look easy as he pulled away from the field with each section. In lap two of three, Richey’s limbs proved to be harder than a pack of racers’ legs combined as he pulled away for a seven-minute victory. For the rest of the field that decided to brave the hypothermic-inducing conditions, it was Kai Wiggins of Middlebury College and race organizer Thomas Barnett of Providence College that took the bunch sprint to round out the podium.

Jules Goguely, race promoter from RISD, watches the pack split on one of the road race's long, wet, dirt rollers.
Jules Goguely, race promoter from RISD, watches the pack split on one of the road race’s long, wet, dirt rollers.

There was a surprise contender in the women’s A/B field. The top two tiers of elite racing on the ladies side have always been combined to give the lower rated riders a chance to learn from the best, and race reports on this site have tended to focus on just participants in the A field. Taking everyone to school however was B racer Rebecca Fahringer (Brown), in her debut appearance this collegiate season. A doctorate candidate at school and a cyclocross elite racer, Fahringer was a class ahead of the field at each dirt section. The A/B field splintered on the first of two laps at the first steep climb, and then settled to Fahringer and three A racers: Cecilia Davis-Hayes (Columbia University), Michelle Khare (Dartmouth College) and Megan Northey (University of Delaware). Fahringer would take the field sprint and the day while Davis-Hayes, Khare and Northey would be top three for the women’s A field.

Sunday’s cloudy race- the last for the 2014 road season and seniors- was the Providence Criterium by the city waterfront downtown. Thankfully, the course was textbook: flat, wide streets for cornering and the smattering of potholes. Thomas Barnett’s appeal to get the course up and down Providence’s killer side streets was denied on the grounds that it would actually kill less experienced riders ascending and descending during a race. Whether or not such a course feature would hinder Cecilia Davis Hayes’ rampage for the sprint points, we can probably guess “not really.” The Columbia Lion was roaring through in front of the pack to pick up uncontested first for each set of sprint points and lock up the sprint leader title for the overall season. Davis-Hayes would take first in the end for the women’s A win- but behind B racer Rebecca Fahringer, who played the careful game to keep the home turf presence  strong and win. Keeping pace with Davis-Hayes in the A field was Shaena Berlin (MIT) and Michelle Khare (Dartmouth), taking second and third respectively. Berlin- who had a mechanical the previous day that kept her out of medal contention-  still finished the season with enough points to be crowned the 2014 season’s points leader.

Left to right: Rebecca Fahringer (Brown), Cecilia Davis-Hayes (Columbia) and Shaena Berlin (MIT) finish Sunday's criterium underneath the pink Providence banner
Left to right: Rebecca Fahringer (Brown), Cecilia Davis-Hayes (Columbia) and Shaena Berlin (MIT) finish Sunday’s criterium underneath the pink Providence banner (Photo by David DeWitt)

Representing the home course must have been foremost in the mind of Barnett. In the men’s A race, the Red Friar was involved in three major attacks on an otherwise complacent field. The first was a three man break with double jersey holder Daniel Holmdahl (Dartmouth College) himself, the second was a solo attempt for glory- but the third time was the charm. Craig Richey (Bentley), Gregory Ratzell (Pennsylvania State University) and Barnett managed to get away and find the energy to build a 28-second gap on the rest of the field. Barnett’s attacks netted him four out of six sprint victories, and was all but poised to make it a double victory in the elite criterium races. The final finish however was not to be, as Ratzell came across first with unmatched speed to take first for the day. Not bad for a freshman rider, albeit a young Category 2 rider. For the rest of the podium, it was a photo finish decision that gave Barnett second and Richey third. With Zachary Ulissi (MIT)- both the sprint and overall points leader for the first half of the season- sitting out the criterium to rest up for Nationals, any last-minute threats to take away Daniel Holmdahl’s (Dartmouth) double jersey domination was gone.

To tie in to Holmdahl’s victory, Dartmouth finished first for the championship weekend omnium with 410 points. Second was MIT with 408 points, followed by a tie for third between Columbia and Northeastern University with 246 points. For ECCC and Nationals overall school standings, MIT and Dartmouth were both first and second: 2112 points to 1495 points, and 2046 points to 1419 points respectively. Third in the ECCC season overall was the University of Vermont with 1260 points; Columbia was third in National season overall with 1236 points.

Gregory Ratzell (Penn State) raises his arms in triumph as he wins the elite men's criterium, beating out Craig Richey (Bentley, center) and Thomas Barnett (Providence)
Gregory Ratzell (Penn State) raises his arms in triumph as he wins the elite men’s criterium, beating out Craig Richey (Bentley, center) and Thomas Barnett (Providence) (Photo by David DeWitt)

Full results are available from the ECCC calendar.

 

*Feel free to e-mail the blogosphere race pictures or report corrections. There is no way that after such an epic weekend of racing that people do not have pictures to send in for race reports- or that this  was written with zero errors or mistakes. All related goods can be sent to ECCC writer Benjamin Kramer, who wishes cyclists headed to Collegiate Nationals to “be smart, race fast.”

Headline photo by Kristine Fong, series leader Shaena Berlin (MIT) in the road race.

Track Season on the Blocks!

With the road season wrapping up, we know you’re anxious to use that fitness you’ve accumulated. Hopefully you’re not quite finished with collegiate racing for the spring and summer, as we’re pleased to present you with the 2014 collegiate track season!

Showdown in T-Town

This year’s track schedule kicks off May 10-11 at the Valley Preferred Velodrome in Trexlertown, PA. As we finalize the full calendar over the coming weeks, we want let you know about two unique events coming up for the season opener.

  • Saturday, May 10: Collegiate Track Clinic
    Track racing brings a whole different dynamic to racing. The collegiate track clinic will be run by 2000 Olympic Gold Medal Sprinter Marty Nothstein, who will teach you the fundamentals of track racing from how to ride and control a fixed gear bicycle, safety in a pack, rules of etiquette on the track, how to make use of the racing surface, to basic track racing tactics. This clinic will qualify you for an automatic upgrade to Cat 4.
  • Sunday, May 11: Collegiate Team Omnium
    The collegiate team omnium is an exciting event that will be contested by teams of 6 riders (2 men’s A, 2 men’s B, and 2 women’s open). Each category will have its own set of three races, and individual riders places will contribute to the team’s overall score. The final event will bring all six riders from each team onto the track for a 6-rider, 6-lap team sprint. Events are as follows:
  1. Men’s A: Win-n-Out
  2. Men’s B: 12 Lap Snowball
  3. Women’s Open: Miss-n-Out
  4. Men’s A: Flying 1km Team Time Trial (Leadouts Only!)
  5. Men’s B: Last Man Standing
  6. Women’s Open: 12 Lap Tempo
  7. Men’s A: 12km Points Race (Sprints every 2km)
  8. Men’s B: 8km Points Race (Sprints every 2km)
  9. Women’s Open: 8km Points Race (Sprints every 2km)
  10. All: Collegiate Team Sprint
MIT works on their Madison.
MIT works on their Madison.

The Basics

What exactly is track racing? Is is just like road racing?
My favorite description of track racing is that it’s like playing a match of chess on two wheels at VO2max. It’s not pure strength, and not every race is a simple first-across-the-line wins. It’s part strategy, part mind games, and only part turning the pedals as fast as you can. Don’t worry, we’ll explain every race before we run it, but we promise to challenge your notion of what a bike race is.

Do I have to attend the clinic to race on Sunday?
In short, yes. If you are a Cat 3 or higher on the track, you may show up just for the racing on Sunday, however unless you have extensive track experience you’ll likely learn a lot from Saturday’s clinic. If you are a Cat 4/5 on the track and have either done a formal clinic or have significant racing experience, talk to us first if you are thinking of skipping the clinic. Our main concern is safety, and there are track-specific rules and etiquette that you need to learn, even if you are a Cat 1/2 on the road.

I’d like to come, but I don’t have a track bike.
Don’t worry. T-Town has rental bikes that will be available for the clinic and for racing. These bikes are not normally available for racing, but a special exception is being granted for the ECCC.

How much experience do I need to show up?
None! We’ve specifically designed this event to give you an introduction to track racing. If you’ve never raced on the track or even ridden a fixed gear bike, we’ll teach you what you need to know at the clinic to have fun and race safely on Sunday.

Brandon Masterman (NYU) gets ready for his first velodrome ride---on the challenging FCV track no less!
Brandon Masterman (NYU) gets ready for his first velodrome ride—on the challenging FCV track no less!

How do I decide what category to race in?
Because this event is geared toward new riders, we’re not basing the racing categories strictly off of your USAC track category (we assume most of you will be Track 4/5s regardless of your fitness), and the events for each category have been chosen to be fun and beginner friendly. We want everyone to have an appropriate field to race in. We’re relying on you to self-select a category based on your fitness. Here are some guidelines:

  • For the women, we have a single open category, however if you are a Cat 3 or above, you may elect to race in one of the men’s categories (taking one of those spots for your team). If there is enough of a split in rider strengths, we will split the women’s field into Women’s A and Women’s B. We want everyone to have fun and have a proper field in which to race.
  • For the men, if you have a Cat 3 or higher on the road or track, you should race the Men’s A. If you are a fast collegiate B on the road, you should also consider racing Men’s A. Cat 4/5 riders should race Men’s B.

The Collegiate Omnium looks cool, but what if I don’t have a team to race with?
No problem! While we definitely think you should encourage your friends and teammates to come try the track with you, mixed teams are encouraged if you have friends from other schools you would like to race with, but even if you don’t find a team. Even if you can’t find a team, sign up. We’ll make sure everyone has a team to race with.

What’s this sprinting clinic I heard about on May 10-11?
Indeed, we’re sharing the weekend with an advanced standing start and sprint clinic, which will be running both mornings from 9am-1pm, for the more experienced riders. We’ll be sharing details about this event as we get closer to May.

Summertime Action

Looking ahead to the rest of the 2014 track season, there’s a lot already planned.

In June the ECCC goes international, so get your passports ready! We’ll be heading north to London, Ontario to the Forest City Velodrome, the world’s shortest and steepest permanent velodrome—138 meters and 52 degrees!

Banking at the FCV track in Ontario!
Banking at the FCV track in Ontario!

In July, we’ll first be going to Kissena Velodrome in Queens, NY for track clinics and racing. Afterward we’ll stop at the Bud Harris Track in Pittsburgh, PA for a day of racing.

Finally the season will return to T-Town in September for full two days of racing and preparation for collegiate nationals, including a team pursuit clinic.

Stay tuned for dates as we finalize these events, and get your legs ready for some fixed gear racing!

Horses and Cubes

Earlier today, Craig Richey from the brand new Bentley University team (and elite rider for Trek Red Truck Racing) made a great comment:

As fresh eyes on the scene one possible improvement would be to have some sort of weekend omnium podium after the race on Sunday. Yesterday it was clear people wanted to hang around for a bit of socializing and wrap-up of the weekend’s events, a podium would do this and would give some photos for universities to brag about, which in turn would drive awareness for collegiate cycling. Without some sort of official end to the weekend’s events, it seemed like things kind of fizzled after the race on Sunday. It would also be an opportunity to officially thank the event organizers and cadets (maybe this is just a Canadian thing).

All of those points and ideas are absolutely spot on and insightful, touching multiple dimensions toward growth in numbers and quality: More exciting events and a better social experience, building prestige and support within administrations, outreach to potential recruits and sponsors, acknowledging the volunteers making it all happen.

So, the question is: Why doesn’t the ECCC have podiums? It’s a simple thing, but actually a deep question that hits on a lot of fundamental traits and critical current projects in the conference.

Horses and Cubes

One answer is that we do! Of course at Easterns we hold big semi-formal presentations each day for the race and season winners. Sometimes it’s pretty emotional.

Ben Grass (Dartmouth): Cancer survivor, doctor, green jersey winner.  Photo by David Berg.
Ben Grass (Dartmouth): Cancer survivor, doctor, green jersey winner. Photo by David Berg.

Lots of other races have special trophies and ceremonies. Last year featured two of the very best in ECCC history: The golden stallion from the Shippensburg Scurry Horsekiller Road Race, and the pink & metal cubes from the RISD/Brown/PC Rhode Race.

For the accuracy inclined, Horsekiller Road actually killed horses on the descent, as brewery carts lost control on the steep pitch. But the riders found the ascent just as deadly.
For the accuracy inclined, Horsekiller Road actually killed horses on the descent, as brewery carts lost control on the steep pitch. But the riders found the ascent just as deadly. Photo by Nathan Goates.
All will be assimilated into our post-modern vision of bicycle racing. Resistance is futile.  Photo by Jan Valerie Polk.
All will be assimilated into our post-modern vision of bicycle racing. Resistance is futile. Photo by Jan Valerie Polk.

An important fact to understand is that other than Easterns, the conference in terms of the entity and leadership largely leaves this whole aspect of our events up to the host schools. Our role is to ensure the fundamental conduct of the races. Though important, trophies and podiums are essentially polish or frills on top of well run events that we leave to the promoters to individualize and accentuate their events, or not. The conference could potentially have stacks of medals and drive standardized ceremonies, but they would pale in all meaning to a RISD/Brown/PC cube, Shippensburg horse, East Rock jersey, Boston beanpot, Army black and gold, UVM chainring, Northeastern woodcut, UNH rocks, PSU pint glass, or all the other unique awards that have memorialized promoters’ hearts and efforts over the years.

Have Weather, Will Travel

The question still remains as to why more races don’t have podiums.

One superficial but paramount fact is just that the weather faced by collegiate road racers in the great northeast is more often than not… less than welcoming. Nobody wants to stand around for a podium when it’s 20 degrees out or, worse, 35 and raining. With indoor facilities rare and hard to come by, podium ceremonies frequently get literally flooded or frozen in our unreliable, spiteful road season weather.

Similarly, travel is a fundamental imperative concern. Each weekend, nearly everyone is looking at a long, long drive home. Many attempts at holding some sort of podium ceremony are marred by absent riders. This past Sunday, UVM actually had really sweet, professional looking chainring medallions for the A race podiums. But by the time results were in, protest period over, and the organizers ready to do awards—not an overly long process—much of the podiums had already hit the road, let alone the rest of the crowd. Even at the national level people often don’t stick around for awards; I have a whole box of unclaimed national championship medals from years past.

Excited as they were, none of the survivors of the 2014 MIT X-Pot Crit were going to wait around for awards. Photo by David DeWitt.
Excited as they were, none of the survivors of the 2014 MIT X-Pot Crit were going to wait around for awards. Photo by David DeWitt.

Joie de Vivre

In general though there are fewer podiums, trophies, jerseys, etc., for our races than there used to be, and those two factors have always been there. They don’t account for that decline.

There are undoubtedly multiple reasons, but I believe a large part of that dropoff is the sheer crushing difficulty of putting on races these days. Last year’s RISD/Brown/PC debut event was actually really satisfying to me personally because it felt exactly like the very first year my closest friends and I put on the Philly Phlyer: Ambitious, extravagantly expensive courses; over-the-top race flyers and posters; oft-overlooked touches like support cars or pit support; marshals from the entire community; and an overall joie de vivre toward race promotion of which the standout cube podium trophies were just an outpouring.

That zest is hard to come by. It’s amazingly difficult to put on a bike race, particularly the complicated full slate of events and great courses that are the hallmark of every ECCC weekend. That first year of the Phlyer was the largest, most organized, and most committed the Drexel and UPenn teams have ever been, we had half a dozen core committee people working on the event, financial and procedural supports from the clubs and schools, and I still wound up dropping my classes to make it happen. Every promoter of the simplest business park crit will testify that it’s a lot of work no matter how many years they’ve been doing it. Here in the ECCC we’ve got first time promoters from tiny clubs putting on 2–4 distinct events in a weekend; logistically challenging downtown circuit races, campus crits, and long road races; and all of it in the worst weather on the tightest of shoestring budgets. Every year costs go up, townships and school administrations get less enthusiastic, procedural work mounts, the weather grows wilder, and the boom of automatic growth in youth cycling continues to fade.

It’s hard to remain hyper excited about your event when looking at heavy cash losses year after year, months of grueling stress, and days of frantically pulling together just enough marshals to prevent chaos. Of course awards and podiums get dropped as a forgotten afterthought and unnecessary expense. Other things fall by the wayside too, some of them more critical to actual event conduct: On the one hand it’s great that our racers are understanding that the majority of our road races at this point don’t have wheel vans behind most of the fields because its so difficult to come up with vehicles and drivers, especially for so many fields. On the other hand that’s really unfortunate for the quality of our events, and it’s sad that the expectation no longer exists.

Ernie Lehman (PSU) discovers that not all race day crises are covered in the ECCC Promoters' Guide.  Photo by Tianle Chen.
Ernie Lehman (PSU) discovers that not all race day crises are covered in the ECCC Promoters’ Guide. Photo by Tianle Chen.

Do It For Love

We can do something about all of that. We have to do something about all of that. Addressing the existential challenges to grassroots competitive cycling in general and collegiate racing in particular is the entire purpose of our multi-year ECCC 2015: Go Big or Go Home initiative. Along the way we’ll manifoldly expand our capabilities. We do that by thoroughly reworking the whole model and mechanisms of race promotion to make our races more sustainable; to grow our events bigger and more dramatic; to empower our development of beginner, women’s, and elite cycling.

Some of the specific ways we’re working toward those ends include:

  • Fundamentally shifting the financial model and risks of race promotion from single clubs and individuals to a community cooperative, with everyone collectively shouldering the costs and liabilities of the events we all enjoy and from which we derive so much.
  • Similarly expanding the peoplepower responsibility for race production from single clubs and individuals to the community, fostering and mechanically enabling coalitions of host teams and an espirit de corps in which the entire community contributes critical human resources.
  • Aggressively developing and training on new best practices and systematized procedures to reduce workload and improve product, such as simpler approaches to coordinating marshals.
  • Building a conference backbone of professional staff, ensuring quality events and continuity while guiding and developing student leadership and mitigating unsustainable volunteer tasking.

All of that is extremely lofty, ambitious, and an awful lot of work, but it’s also feasible and necessary. The factors behind a decline in podiums and trophies are all the same factors challenging the overall sustainability and growth of our events and the conference as a whole. If we can address them we’ll put ourselves on a totally different path to a much more upbeat, manageable, exciting future.

As a byproduct, maybe there’ll be more horses and cubes down that road…

Make it happen. PennState sweeps the 2013 conference championship criterium, weekend, and Men's A individual season omnium on their own frat row. Photo by Joe Kopena.
Make it happen. PennState sweeps the 2013 conference championship criterium, weekend, and Men’s A individual season omnium on their own frat row. Photo by Joe Kopena.

Headline photo by Jan Valerie Polk.

Women’s Meeting, Gender Identity Policy Study

Alongside its exciting, high speed course through frat row, this week’s Dartmouth L’Enfer du Nord will feature an important ECCC event on women’s cycling, and the next step in an ongoing project on gender identity policies in collegiate sports.

Women’s Meeting

At the start of Saturday’s criterium, right after the first Men’s D race begins, all of the conference’s women cyclists are invited to meet by Turn 2 of the course, at Main St and Clement Rd/Maynard St:

ECCC Women’s Meeting
Saturday, April 12, 2014
10am (start of the criterium, after the ITT)
Dartmouth L’Enfer du Nord Campus Criterium
Turn 2: Main St & Clement Rd/Maynard St
Hanover, NH

There is two hour block in the schedule at that point without women’s races, yielding plenty of time to meet. The hope is to have a free ranging discussion among all of the conference’s women, collecting input and generating ideas on multiple fronts, including:

  • General feedback, e.g., on the new Women’s D category;
  • Ideas for riders, teams, and the conference to recruit and retain more women cyclists;
  • Empowering women to better push back on negative culture, and approaches to combatting latent sexism and actual harassment.

As a concrete example of the latter, the conference is currently planning for 2015 to require all teams to have a designated contact go through the US Olympic Committee’s SafeSport program, much as USA Cycling officials do currently. However, all observations on existing issues and ideas for future progress in women’s cycling are welcome, needed, and fair game to discuss in this meeting. The intent is to gather wide-ranging input and proposals  in order to determine priorities and develop new plans.

Announcements will be made about alternative plans for the meeting in case of inclement weather.

Betsey Pettit (UNH) in the 2013 Women's A/B Rutgers circuit race.  Photo by Jan Valerie Polk.
Betsey Pettit (UNH) in the 2013 Women’s A/B Rutgers circuit race. Photo by Jan Valerie Polk.

Transgender Policy Study

In addition, this Saturday the ECCC is going to be visited by Kristine Newhall from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, a prominent researcher on gender and inequality in sport. Dr Newhall is well known as a contributor to the Title IX Blog as well as TED Talks on that subject. She is currently beginning a study of gender identity and inclusion policies in collegiate sports outside the NCAA, and is looking at the ECCC as one example.

To that end, Dr Newhall wishes to interview current ECCC riders, coaches, and officials. She has already talked with a number of people at the MIT X-Pot criterium, and will be at the Dartmouth crit as well as possibly the RISD/Brown/PC Eastern Conference Championships to do the same. In addition, she is interested in potentially traveling to nearby teams to meet and conduct interviews outside of race weekends. The official recruitment letter for this study is as follows:

Dear ECCC riders and officials,

I am a lecturer in the McCormack Department of Sport Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Currently, I am engaged in research about the creation and implementation of gender identity policies in non-NCAA collegiate sports using the ECCC as a case study. I am looking for potential interviewees who would be willing to discuss their opinions on the new gender identity policy implemented by the ECCC this year. In order to participate you must be currently participating in ECCC events as either an athlete or administrator and of legal age to consent (18).

Interviews would likely last one hour or less and will be arranged at a mutually convenient time and location. Interviews will be recorded but only I will have access to them. You will not be identified by name in any publications or presentations which result from this research.

If you agree to participate, I will contact you to arrange a meeting place at which time you will receive a detailed consent form that further outlines this research. In the meantime, I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

Thank you for taking the time to consider participation in this research.

Sincerely,
Kristine Newhall, PhD
knewhall@isenberg.umass.edu
McCormack Department of Sport Management
Isenberg School of Management
University of Massachusetts Amherst

By participating in this study, the conference hopes to both learn more about itself as well as push its open, inclusive worldview to other sports and cultures. Anyone specifically interested in talking with Dr Newhall about the ECCC’s new gender identity and inclusion policies should feel free to email her in advance, or find Joe Kopena or Ian Sullivan this Saturday to be pointed in her direction.

Headline photo by Jan Valerie Polk.

Black Inc Wheels Support

blackinc-logoThe Eastern Conference is happy to announce new support from Black Inc wheels, offering discounts to ECCC teams and neutral support at the upcoming races in the 2014 road season.

History

Black Inc is a carbon wheels manufacturer led by a former ECCC racer from McGill Cycling, now working with a premiere carbon fiber producer in Taiwan. Its wheels have been tested and raced by UCI continental and pro tour teams for the past three years, both marked and unmarked. They also have a close partnership with Factor Bikes, creator of the Aston Martin One-77 and the well reviewed Vis Vires.

Black Inc’s product range currently includes 35mm and 50mm deep wheels, in tubular and clincher form to suit those riders looking for knockdown drag-‘em-out race day performance as well as the more practically minded. A variety of hub options are available, from the industry standard DT Swiss 240S laced to DT Aerolite spokes to the upcoming proprietary Black Inc hubs made from Ceramic Speed bearings. The Black Inc 30 tubular rear wheel weights a mere 30 grams more than the Lightweight Meilenstein full carbon “wunderwheel,” while employing a more aerodynamic profile, traditional spokes, and retailing for $3,400 LESS per set.

Giving Back

In the spirit of giving back to the community that shaped its founder as a rider, racer, and person, Black Inc is offering student friendly pricing to every ECCC team. The program is designed to get cash-strapped academics riding and racing on top-notch equipment, at prices they can afford. Interested riders and teams should check out biwheels.com and contact Ben Adler, another McGill Cycling and ECCC alumnus, and now North American agent for Black Inc.

Beginning this past weekend at the MIT X-Pot, Black Inc will also be at ECCC road events throughout April, showing off their full range of high quality carbon fiber wheels as well as providing neutral mechanical support to all ECCC riders.  Look for the black tent by parking or staging and swing by to chat up an exciting new range of cycling products, or simply to get some help with your bicycle!

Teams of ECCC: Friars on Tires

So how do people break into bike racing? A lot of teams here in the ECCC are established teams that rely on experienced riders and war chests from a wealth of sponsors to support race weekends. A successful race starts with a good team and better support. But what if your school has not started a team yet?

This is the challenge Tom Barnett of New Jersey faced last year . Barnett has been racing since high school and he came to Providence College looking to join a bike team. At the time a USAC Category 2 rider, Barnett just got picked up by new team Lupus Racing Team and is a part of the branch group based in New York. So joining the collegiate racing scene would be a great way to prepare for a summer USAC race, right?

“ECCC absolutely got me in shape for racing.” Says Barnett. “Other pro riders were telling me to come down south with them to do spring racing, and to not waste time with collegiate racing.” Clearly these naysayers are overlooking graduated powerhouses like Robin Carpenter and Cameron Cogburn, both of whom are now on professional teams. Some are even coming back for more suffering, if people remember Erik Levinsohn’s breakaway win during the opening weekend for the 2014 season.  Levinsohn first came to ECCC as a Williams College undergraduate, and after a year of professional bike racing, he is now a graduate student at Yale. Barnett could also recognize the value of spring collegiate racing. “People care about you more here to fully develop as a bike racer”

Thomas Barnett, in front of the field during the Men's A race at Bard College
Tom Barnett leads the Men’s A field during the Bard Criterium this season (Photo by Tom Nguyen)

So with no team at Providence, what’s a rider to do? “I talked to administration [at Providence] to get funding, but they said to do a trial season- go with a nearby team to the races for help with travel and race support.” So Barnett traveled with RISD and Brown for the 2013 racing season as the solo Providence rider. With no school outfit of his own, Barnett just wore an unmarked black and red kit and became known as “Big Red” in the Men’s A field.

“RISD and Brown were instrumental in gaining the insight to form my own team.” Says Barnett. “I am so grateful for their friendship.”

While Barnett was more than grateful for the chance to race, his major breakthrough came with a second place finish at the Rhode Island road race. That, he said, was a strong enough case to finally convince administration that he- and potential others- would be ready for more collegiate bike racing.

Not only did Providence administration help send Barnett last year to Collegiate Nationals in Utah, but they promised him several thousand dollars of support funding if he got at least ten riders. The first guy to contact Barnett was a sophomore runner named Liam Sullivan, who kept asking about this ‘biking’ thing Barnett was doing. With the help of administration, Student Life and ClubSports at Providence, Barnett and Sullivan got together 25 signatures at the semester Involvement Fair. The final count that showed up? “We got seven riders to regularly show up.” Says Barnett. “That brought down the admin’s money down.”

Five of the seven "Friars on tires." Tom Barnett, Nick Thomas, Liam Sullivan,  Nick Przekurat, Kevin McNeil (Photo by Tom Barnett)
Five of the seven “Friars on tires.” Left to right are Tom Barnett, Nick Thomas, Liam Sullivan, Nick Przekurat, Kevin McNeil (Photo by Tom Barnett)

So the self-proclaimed “Friars on Tires” are in it for a first, lean season. They are not doing too bad: Sullivan, now the vice president of the team, won his first set of races in the D field during the opening weekend. Still, to cut costs the Big Red Friar is the ‘adult supervisor’ for the team. Even though he’s just a sophomore, Barnett convinced admin to let him be in charge, saying his race experience would be a better bet than trying to find and pay for a single adult to commit for two months of coaching for just seven kids. Barnett is fully committed to keeping the seven regularly racing. For now, they have just three sponsors, and RISD has offered to help them build a team website. Currently they have mandatory practices- miss three and you miss the next race weekend. It seems harsh, but Barnett insists it’s a necessity to build the team in its first year- the presence of every rider counts. As it is, one of their D riders was in Texas last weekend as the Providence mascot for the NCAA March Madness. His cycling teammates had to drive down to pick him up Saturday night so he could race on Sunday.

“I will forever be indebted to the ECCC- its executives and riders- for enabling me to bring my love of cycling to [Providence]” Says Barnett. “Because that’s what the ECCC is about. Sharing the love of two wheels and each other. Now, I hope to pay it forward to a Johnson and Wales University rider I met with last week.”

“The love that started this team and fuels this conference may continue to grow not only at Providence, but at all schools touched by its big red heart.”

Hold Your Line

You know what’s hard to do on a trainer? Practice cornering at speed. But have you ever tried to get your team out for cornering practice in sub-20-degree weather? Even if lucky enough to find a plowed parking lot, your teammates will stand there shivering and miserable, dutifully slaloming through a course of water bottles but just waiting for someone to declare they’re going home. That may be why we show up for spring racing strong but rusty in some of the key speed skills.

So here are some links and tips about how to corner at speed. Obviously, no one is going to read this post and become an instant expert, nor I am making claims to expertise. Skill only comes with practice . But a few extra resources can give you a few things to think about next time you’re swooping around that empty parking lot.

Choosing your line.

Before you even enter a corner, you have to set up and plan where you’re going to go. To start with the simplest example, when you’re by yourself (hopefully breaking away off the front, but in my case, often huffing and puffing in a chase), look for the flattest possible curve through the corner.

fig1
To pick the flattest line, start at the outside, cut toward the inside corner, and finish at the outside.

Picking the turn with the largest possible radius allows  the maximum possible safe speed through the turn. First, look ahead for potholes and sand. Also notice how the turn is banked: a turn that slopes inward, like a track, allows you to take it corner faster than one that slopes away from the corner. The flattest possible turn starts at the outside, cuts close to the corner at its apex, and finishes at the outside (in a circuit or road race, of course, obey the yellow line rule!) The smaller the radius, the slower a rider needs to go to be able to turn her bike without overcoming the friction forces that are keeping her wheels from sliding out. That means that when cornering in a pack with riders on either side, you (1) need to leave space for riders on the inside, and (2) can’t go quite as fast because that safe line will be tighter.

fig2
When cornering in a pack, everyone has to take a slower, tighter turn. If behind the leaders, follow the line of the cyclist in front of you.

 As you can see in the figure above, the blue rider off the front was able to take her fastest line, but the pack behind her needs to take slightly tighter turns to leave space for each other to safely make the corner. The most important rule of cornering in a pack is to be predictable. If you need to slow down, do it before you start the turn so that you can coast through the corner without braking; putting on the brakes while in the turn itself will increase the chance of losing traction. Follow the line of the rider in front of you (usually what people mean when they say “hold your line”).  Avoid coming underneath, like the red rider in the diagram below:

fig3
Resist the impulse to dive-bomb on the inside of the turn.

 In this example, the red rider is trying to pass the blue rider on the inside of the corner. She risks cutting off Blue’s line, and she is also going to have to brake hard to make the tight turn. What a mess! Save attacking for the straightaways.

Getting through the turn

Okay we’ve figured out what the optimal line is through the turn, now how to actually do it. Check out elite junior Millie Tanner’s form as she takes this corner (also, because Milliegoat!):

millietanner

To start with, her hands are in the drops. Getting low and forward isn’t just about being aero, it’s also about a lower center of gravity and maximum control. Eyes are up and looking past the turn. Outside pedal down with most of your bodyweight on it. (Okay, when you get really good you can start pedaling through the corners, but that’s ninja stuff after you have mastered the basics.) According to Joe Near of MIT,

“A big part of getting low is also getting very loose and forward so that 1) you have more weight over the front wheel, increasing traction there and 2) your body soaks up bumps during the corner — if you don’t do this, the tire has to do the whole job, and the tire’s elasticity will push you up in the air after the bump (and you don’t have any traction at all when you’re up in the air).”

This pic of Rose Long and Leslie Lupien at Shippensburg in 2013 is a great examlpe of getting long and low: their torsos are just about parallel to the road. Note that Rose is on the hoods and Leslie is on the drops, it depends a bit on bike fit. Check out that game face.

894027_4734721934251_2061589558_o
Photo credit Jan Valerie Polk

Putting it all together,  Brian Walton breaks it down to line, eyes, and legs. This video with Robbie McEwan agrees on the most important stuff: low center of gravity, eyes up ahead, and find your line. In the first pass, Robbie has his arms locked out and sitting up too high; the next time around, he’s bent at the hips, with elbows at an angle  and chin closer to the stem.  Then he demonstrates coming in too tight or starting the turn too early, versus starting way to the outside for a nice wide turn. And his final advice can be taken to heart: “never focus on where you are, but where you’re going.”

This race has a great example, when three guys take the corner at 2:55. To avoid hitting a flaky pedestrian (dude! there’s a bike race happening and it nearly squashed you!) they have to take the turn wide and miss the apex; but rather than get fazed, the guys in green have an exit strategy, riding up on the sidewalk. They wouldn’t have been able to pull that off if they’d only been looking at the asphalt in front of them.

Got any other good videos or Web sites about cornering technique? Share them in the comments! Thanks to Shaena Berlin and Jenn Wilson for the idea to put this together, and Joe Near for the tips!

 

 

Not A Lady

This is collegiate cycling, and we’re all pretty smart. The day before the season kick-off, many of you read the announcement and blog post about transgender cyclists. Yes, I am such a cyclist, and for now the most public and visible. It took a week or two for most ECCC’ers to start asking questions or making comments and then they started trickling, and then rushing, in. I can’t and won’t answer each individually but I do want to clear up a few details, and to help the community learn how to best interact with and include transgender riders.

It’s Not What You Think

First, I want to thank and congratulate you, ECCC, on your generally positive response and support of my racing in the women’s field this year. Together we are proving that we as a community are able to welcome and include everybody, including transgender athletes. As a whole, you have bowled me over with your efforts to demonstrate acceptance. The last few weeks a fair number of you have approached me and voiced your outright support for my racing, the new ECCC policy on transgender racers, and USAC policy revisions underway. Thank you. Your support means a lot to me personally and it gives me great hope that cycling as a sport that can be accepting of all identities and bodies.

Second, I want you to know that I do not identify as a woman. I am not transitioning from male to female, which is a logical conclusion that many of you have assumed. I still truly and sincerely appreciate the effort from those of you who have made attempts to clearly and loudly demonstrate the application of “she,” “woman,” “girl,” “lady,” and other feminine identifiers to me when you thought that was what I wanted. Thank you for making the effort to validate what you thought was my identity.

I was born female. I transitioned to living as a guy because I find it to be the most comfortable and best fit on a day to day basis. I present as a guy in my academic and professional life as well as socially. For personal reasons, years ago I opted not to follow the traditional, linear, route of physical transition, and have no intent on engaging in any physical transition in the future. After extensive medical expert review and testimony that I have no competitive advantage, and a change in its previous policies on this issue, USA Cycling granted me a license to race in collegiate women’s A and category 3 non-collegiate races. I requested recategorization in search of a level playing field: Despite extensive training, and racing for several years now as a guy, my physiology would otherwise consign me to forever struggling to hang on in lower category men’s races, rather than enjoying a safe, well-matched, experienced pack where I can continue to develop my abilities as a racer – just like everyone else.

Identities are complicated. There are a wide range of gender presentations beyond the binary. I’m a guy, although not a particularly masculine guy. I prefer masculine pronouns and other gendered words: He, his, him, guy, man, boy, dude, and so on. Even though I’m racing in the women’s field, because that makes the most sense for me in athletics, that does not change my identity. I’m not asking for everyone to get it right all the time; good intentions count for more than perfection. Nor am I asking the women’s field to change for me—I’m the one who asked to be here, and I can’t express how honored I am to race alongside a group of truly talented, fast, elite women. I’m also not asking for the positive cheering from the road side to change. But I am a guy, and efforts to remember that when you interact with me are appreciated. I realize it’s complicated and trans identities are a new concept for many people, but words & behaviors do matter.

Turn 2 in the 2014 Temple Crit.  Photo by Matthew Hall Photography.
Turn 2 in the 2014 Temple Crit. Photo by Matthew Hall Photography.

Boundaries, Respect, Privacy

Being such a new concept to much of our community, and perhaps the first time you’ve met a trans person, many of you want to ask questions. Many also simply want to express your support. In doing so, please remember that I’m a person too, and my reasons for being at races are the same as yours: I’m here to race bikes, talk about bikes, cheer for people racing bikes, eat too many cookies after doing bikey-things, and other antics involving bikes and people who race them. I like making new friends, especially smart ECCC people who can talk medicine/chemistry/art/linguistics/physics and freely relate those topics to bicycles. I find all of those topics far more fun and compelling than gender issues.

Moving forward, it’s worth making a few points about interacting with transgender people, including me and any other such members of the community in the future:

  1. We cannot be your gender studies class. We cannot be your source of information about trans people, and it’s not fair to ask us to be. There are many great books and Internet resources available. Increasing your awareness and being a better ally is an awesome goal. But you shouldn’t place that burden on the individuals you hope to support.

  1. Being transgender is not an open invitation for anyone to discuss or scrutinize your body, or for strangers and acquaintances to ask intensely personal questions. All of the same personal boundaries and limits on what’s polite and appropriate to ask or discuss apply to transgender people as they do to everyone else. We all deserve the same respect and privacy; as much as spandex will allow.

  1. Despite what TV and pop culture imply, transgender people are not all hypersexual creatures placed on earth to satisfy your curiosities. It is not ok to tokenize and sexualize us just as it is not ok to do the same to women, minorities, or any other group at a bike race or elsewhere. Again, everyone deserves to be treated respectfully, regardless of gender, identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or any other trait. All of the same rules apply as with approaching any other person that you think is attractive: Check your motivations, remember that attraction may not be reciprocal, NEVER touch without consent, and “no” means no.

  1. Not all spaces are equally safe. Do not assume that because a trans person is publicly so in one environment that it is acceptable to transfer that visibility to other parts of their life, or to draw attention to them in other contexts, particularly less-than-safe places. There may come a time when the ECCC becomes the very first place where a new trans person feels comfortable in presenting as their gender identity, but you shouldn’t then export that knowledge outside the community, such as by announcing it at that truck stop diner on the way to/from a race. Not all environments are equally accepting and safe.

  1. If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.

All of those boil down to one basic point: Transgender people are people, and all people should be treated with respect, courtesy, and kindness.

Bigger Than Us

Most importantly, I asked for this recategorization because it was time for a new precedent to be set. I want all people to be able to experience competitive cycling, collegiate or non-collegiate, regardless of their gender identity or how it matches their body.

I confess to not being very brave. It took me 6 years, including an undergrad degree and most of a masters degree, to finally show up at a cycling club meeting. So much ECCC time lost! It makes me incredibly sad, frustrated, and angry to remember the feeling of looking in from the outside, scouring the internet for a policy that didn’t exist, or ANY sign that thinking I’d be welcome at a race wasn’t laughable. Thankfully, the world has come a long way in six years. Cycling is now ready.

This is important. It’s not about me, and it’s not about the ECCC. It’s about making cycling accessible to all people. Remember the first club or team ride you went on, or your first race? Remember the butterflies in your stomach? The feeling of insecurity and fear of being too slow/out of shape/new/whatever insecurity you have? Maybe how self-conscious you were the first time you wore cycling spandex? These and all of the other social issues that come with sports are even more daunting for gender minorities.

You and I both know how cycling has changed our lives, our bodies, and maybe even our souls. Everyone should have an equal opportunity to experience joy, speed, and suffering on a bike. Simply by continuing to make the ECCC the awesome, inclusive community that it is becoming, with respect and welcome for all genders, colors, religions, and orientations of people, you can help make that happen.

The 2013 squad for Yale Cycling, a traditional ECCC women's cycling powerhouse and diversity advocate. Photo by Jan Valerie Polk.
The 2013 squad for Yale Cycling, a traditional ECCC women’s cycling powerhouse and diversity advocate. Photo by Jan Valerie Polk.

Headline photo by Matthew Hall Photography.