The Colgate Scene
Pedalers at the 'gate
|By Kirk Kardashian '00|
Maybe you've seen them. On your local roads, around quitting time, or on a Sunday morning, speeding around your downtown business district on a closed course. Packs of spandex-swathed riders aboard their spinning steeds, in neat rows of ones or twos. On a wet Saturday morning in late September, I found myself back in Hamilton in just such a scenario, grinding past Frank Dining Hall under the curious gaze of groggy students, at the first Colgate Fall Classic.
I had never envisioned myself doing something like this the first time I rode my bike up the Hill, as a sophomore in Paul Pinet's Environmental Ethics class, feeling a bit of healthy environmental guilt.
But thanks to the efforts of a few motivated students, supportive staff members, and at least one generous alumnus, the cycling club is on the move. It generated a lot of buzz this fall by hosting its own sanctioned bike race, a two-part event called an omnium. The first part -- just a little warm-up, right? -- was that one-mile uphill time trial, from the beginning of Oak Drive, past Frank, up to the cemetery above Chapel House. The second leg was a road race over a hilly course through Hamilton and Madison.
I was bitten by the bike-racing bug shortly after I graduated, finding it an outlet for the stress of my job as a legal assistant in Manhattan. And, perhaps because I now live in Vermont (I race as a "Cat 3" in New England), I have the most fun on hilly courses -- one reason why the Colgate bike race intrigued me.
The club is lucky to have such a pastoral place to ride and train. The little-used Chenango Valley roads that surround Colgate are a cyclist's hallowed grounds. Members compete in the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference against schools such as Dartmouth, Lehigh, Penn State, Middlebury, and West Point. The racing calendar begins in early March with the aptly named "Frozen-Toed Weekend" at Rutgers University. To get ready for those chilly early season races, they train on spinning bikes at Huntington Gym, and sneak in outdoor rides on the rare warm winter day.
It's a good time to be a cyclist in Hamilton. There's a new bike shop downtown (Adventure Bikes and Boards), and with its establishment came the Chenango Valley Summit Cycling Club, which offers numerous weekly group rides. Beginners looking to ride with new friends can head to the shop for Mellow Monday. Serious racers should show up for Thursday's ride ready to suffer.
Colgate's cycling club feeds off of this energy. Weather permitting, the groups ride together nearly every day. Scott Truett and Dan Spello, the shop's co-owners, wrench and tweak their bikes on the spot, and even extend the club a discount on goods and services.
[Photos by Timothy D. Sofranko]
It's all in the details
Simchik, an economics major, had spent a year in Adelaide, South Australia, where he was the personal driver for a professional bike race operations coordinator. When he returned to Colgate, he felt compelled to bring the excitement of road racing to Hamilton.
"Jamie called me up in June," Battaglioli said just before the race, "and was like, `we're doing this.' And since the beginning of the school year, it's been almost a full-time job." Quite an undertaking for a molecular biology major who's busy with gene sequencing.
What goes into an official bike race? Think minutiae. Before it grants a license, the United States Cycling Federation must be certain that all the details are covered. The students had to organize a van-load of volunteers, police personnel, medical support staff, race referees, and pace-cars; obtain insurance; notify property owners along the course; calculate entry fees; and more. And, of course, get the word out to potential racers.
The students had some help along the way. Emory Creel, the husband of classics professor Naomi Rood, had organized a similar race in Hamilton in the spring of 2004. He proved an invaluable counselor, reminding Simchik and Battaglioli to grab the traffic cones from Campus Safety, giving hints about how to mark the route and where to position the course marshals. And racers need jerseys, so Randy Adam '73, who is also a cyclist, donated the funds for official team uniforms.
Colgate staff members Deb Bordelon, an administrative assistant in the athletics department, and Erik Moore, a web developer in the IT department, are the club's advisers. An avid cyclist who's been known to ride to Utica and back before 9 a.m., Moore guided the organizers through some sticky situations. For example, when the pastor of a local church learned that the finish of the road race would occur in front of the church, he got a little worried.
"We didn't realize there was going to be a wedding at the exact time of the race," Simchik said, "so we met with the reverend, and at first he said, `No way.'"
Simchik and Moore went back and offered to push the start of the race back one hour, and the issue was solved. "He [the pastor] was very accommodating on such short notice," Simchik commented, noting the valuable lesson he learned about the intricacies of advance scheduling, communication, and compromise.
That adeptness impressed Hamilton Mayor Sue McVaugh, who said that the village board was "delightfully surprised" by the team's attention to detail and noted that the race was a boon to the community. "People come for one event, such as the farmers' market, and stay for another."
For a late-season event on a gloomy day, the race went pretty darn well. In addition to individuals from the region, six Colgate team members lined up for the time trial and the road race; five alumni made the trip from as far away as Connecticut and Vermont; and collegiate racers came from Cornell, Ithaca College, SUNY Cortland, and Delaware. In all, more than 60 riders turned downtown Hamilton into a cyclists' soiree.
It was special for me to be challenged by some very strong Colgate members because, not only were they seven or eight years my junior, they also exhibited all the sportsmanship and tact that one would expect from Colgate students.
While some out-of-town racers missed a turn and ended up in Poolville, on the whole participants loved the sleepy, scenic roads and complimented the organizers on the right admixture of climbs and flats. With a winning formula for a course, a willing village host, and the energetic, enthusiastic club, cycling and the Colgate Fall Classic are here to stay. Next time you journey to campus, bring your bike. You won't regret it. Unless, of course, it's January.
Kardashian, who came in third in both the time trial and the road race, is an attorney and freelance writer in Woodstock, Vt.
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