Airport Assault: Road Racing at WCU

Airport Assault Road Course
Airport Assault Road Course

In a college town that consists of little more than an expanding campus and a run-of-the-mill athletic department, it’s easy to overlook the absolutely excellent events that take place.

Outside of the Valley of the Lilies Half-Marathon and 5k, and when Western alum Manteo Mitchell pulled in Olympic Silver at the London Games, there hasn’t been a ton to be proud of in terms of athletic achievement. Luckily, and thanks to a dedicated group of collegiate cyclists, Western is now set to host a three-part race weekend on Saturday and Sunday March 22 and 23.

Though I wasn’t a part of the riding community, to see this group put together a complete race experience is nothing short of exciting. It’s easy to get lost in the valley that houses Cullowhee, to forget that there are people that want to come and experience the mountains. The nine percent grade of the time trial route may not be the way most people expect to experience Cullowhee, but then again active communities like cyclists don’t always fit into the “most people” category anyway.

The races are open to collegiate riders, with registration online at USA Cycling. These races include the one mile time trial mentioned before, an 18-63 mile road race, and a 20-50 minute criterium. Distances and times will be determined by rider category, which include Collegiate M-A,B,C,D and W-A,B. Each race costs $15 to pre-register, and $18 for day-of registration.

An awards ceremony will take place on Sunday after the criterium, which should not only highlight the weekend’s top racers, but also the little-known hospitality that so many people in the WCU community are full of. With the introduction of the Airport Assault race weekend, I’m proud to say I graduated from Western, and can’t wait to see what this does for the cycling team, the university and the community as a whole.

For more information take a look at the official WCU Cycling Team page and learn more about the excellent people that are making this event happen.

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Professional: A Lost Standard?

Doping in cycling, hazing in the NFL… It sounds to me like some of the people identified as “professionals” are actually the exact opposite.

After I wrote about bullying, I was pointed to the current story about the issue surrounding the Miami Dolphins.

In case you haven’t heard, the NFL is investigating the Miami Dolphins football team after bullying allegations came out about offensive lineman Richie Incognito.

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CBS

I don’t agree that this is necessarily bullying, I think that bullying has become a buzzword and so the public is accepting it; what I do think this is though is juvenile hazing.

In the CBS story linked, rookie hazing in the NFL is brought up like it’s nothing, as if duct taping a person to a goal post is normal and ok. The problem with that mentality though is how the NCAA would come sweeping in if that were to be brought up from a college campus, but is seen as perfectly decent in the professional level of athletics.

If it isn’t ok for a 20-year-old on a college team, fraternity, or marching band then why should it be ok for a grown man to do the same thing?

Incognito was reprimanded by coaches and no longer has a job with the Dolphins, but the rest isn’t acceptable either.

This brings me to my point: None of it is professional, so why do we call these people pros?

The most appropriate definition I found was from Merriam-Webster:

(1) characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession
(2) exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace

So with a certain standard of professionalism that everyone else is expected to uphold, why are athletes skating by?

I mentioned doping in cycling earlier because a great movie about Lance Armstrong comes out Friday.

Velo News, in addition to the Armstrong movie coming out, put out a great piece on the issues that come with admitting that the standard has been dropped. The outstanding story being the catch that Ryder Hesjedal has found himself in now that he has admitted to doping, despite a seemingly ungrateful governing body that is as much to blame for the level of doping as the riders.

So with double standards pervading athletics at every level, a “professional” atmosphere that seems to catch athletes in a “damned if you do damned if you don’t” mentality, I ask: What do we want, and how will we get it?

I don’t support hazing, having experience in marching bands and a collegiate fraternity, but when it comes to doping in sports, it’s hard to blame athletes that do it if doping has become a part of the culture.

Ethically, it all seems wrong, but the consequences have to be real if we want a real level of professionals.

Vive le Tour: A Beautiful Change

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(ORICA-GreenEDGE)

Who knows, maybe it’s just because it’s the Tour de France, maybe it’s because it’s the 100th anniversary of the tour. Either way, I have been glued to NBC Sports this year, and have been dreaming of a shot at riding with the greats.

Before I get too far into my newly discovered dream of pro-cycling, take a moment to watch this animation that explains the history and meanings behind the Tour de France.

Yep, I’m in love with the notion of being a cyclist. As many of you know, I’ve tried my hand at endurance running. With four half-marathons and a full under my belt, I know that running is just a hobby. January will bring a four-day race weekend with races on each day, but that can be saved for a later post.

However, this is what brought me to the point I am at now…

I need something to test my endurance, that isn’t just for fun. Thus, cycling was naturally the next step. I love riding bikes, all bikes. I love seeing new places, even if it means killing yourself to cover ground (I always thought that was half the point of backpacking), so why shouldn’t I be good at this? Competition, pushing your own limits every time you get in the saddle, sign me up!

Unfortunately my wallet crushed my dreams. I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford anything too fancy, and I knew that, for the most part, bikes hold their value pretty well. So I scoured Craigslist and Ebay, searched for discount bike sites and recycled bike shops, only to find that half the bikes I was interested in did in fact retain their value, and still cost well over $400.

With this new found price point, I decided to see what I could find from the big brands, and see how far off I would be from getting a brand new entry level bike, to hopefully launch my amateur career toward pro-cycling.

What I found was demoralizing.

I fell in love with the Specialized Allez Compact. With an MSRP of $770, it’s the closest thing to my budget, but far enough away that I can’t just drop the cash on the table and walk away with it.

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In my sudden state of lament, I naturally took to Twitter. Surprisingly though, not too long after my initial statement, Specialized responded and brightened my day a little.

Specialized Tweets

It may only be two exchanges, but whoever is running the Specialized Twitter account, kudos, you’re good. So now I’m looking forward to talking to a Specialized dealer to see what my options may be. Hopefully the discussion will lead to some information about the NYC Bike Club scene so I can find a group to ride and train with, even if I am on a beater for the time being.

Hopefully I’ll be able to find a way onto the saddle of an Allez soon, but until then, Vive le Tour, and go ride a bike!