Cyclists post podium finishes at annual Whitman Bike Race

They may not be Team US Postal of the Tour de France, but the Whitman cycling team boasted plenty of its own competition at the annual Whitman Bike Race this past weekend.

Led by senior President Roxy Pierson and Vice Presidents Simon Pendleton and Chelsea Momany, also seniors, the Whitman cycling team is comprised of a number of students who are united by a love of riding. The team was established in 2002 as a way “to bring together cycling enthusiasts on the Whitman campus,” as stated on the team’s web site.

Since cycling is a club sport, the cyclists are responsible for all aspects of the team, from scheduling practices and meetings to organizing travel to races. This is all in addition to the long hours spent training, which can be upwards of 15 hours a week between riding and weight lifting.

U of O cyclist pulls ahead of the competition during the Men's B Palouse Road Race. This was the first of three races in the Missionary Omnium which took place last weekend on Saturday and Sunday. Photo Credit: Ben Lerchin

Cycling can be considered an individual sport, but for the Whitman riders it’s just as much a team sport, making teamwork and cohesion keys to success. The riders get to know each other extremely well during training, and that pays off during races.

“As for between members on the team, cycling is a very team-oriented sport,” said Momany. “When someone wins a cycling race, it is certainly due to their own strength, but very often what you don’t see is that they have one or more teammates in the pack who have been working very hard during the race in order to help that person win.”

“We always play off each other and challenge each other in order to get better and earn the team more points,” said junior Rachel Hoar. “Some of us are sprinters, some are climbers, some are time-trialists or all-around riders. Each person puts their natural talents to use and we all take advantage of this.”

Thanks to the strategy and hard work of her teammates, Hoar claimed the Conference Leader jersey for the week of March 19. This indicates that Hoar is the leader in the overall time standings for all the riders she competes with.

Sophomore Katie Chapman joined the cycling team at the beginning of March, after completing an extremely successful varsity swim season. Her first official competition was Whitman’s collegiate home race, held last weekend.

“I’ll be a little nervous, especially since I don’t have very much experience riding in big groups,” said Chapman prior to the race. “But I think I’ll be excited more than anything else. I’m a huge sucker for competition and the adrenaline of racing.”

The Whitman Bike Race — featuring a road race, team time trial and combine criterium — was a smashing success for the Missionary riders to say the least. In the overall conference team standings, Whitman moved from third to second place, behind only the University of Washington. In addition, 12 different Whitties earned top 10 finishes. First-years Luke Ogden and Chase Martin, sophomores Chapman and Molly Blust, juniors Hoar and David Hancock and seniors Momany and Carrie Reinhart were all multiple-podium winners in the two-day event.

For many of the riders, the opportunity to ride on their home course was something they had been looking forward to. Riding at the Whitman race is a matter of pride, and the cyclists wanted to show off and protect home course advantage.

“Racing our home course is much better than racing other courses. First, because our course is simply better and second, because we know the course in extreme detail” said Hoar, who lost the conference leader jersey but remains in second place among individual riders. “On other weekends we often learn the course as we ride it, since we often ride a particular loop a couple times … But here, we can make moves and play earlier in the race because we’ve ridden it so many times before.”

Whitman may be a school of less than 2,000 students, yet the cycling team has experienced the support and dedication from students around campus that comes with success. For our riders, that success has come on a national level. Whitman has won team nationals in 2005-2006 and 2009-2010, and looks to repeat that success this season.

“It’s amazing, the dedication and support of so many students, especially considering our relatively small campus,” said Hoar.

“We hold our own and more.”

Interested in the Whitman cycling team? For more information visit http://whitmancollegecycling.terapad.com




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