Until a few years ago, competitive cycling was limited to a small group of European athletes riding outrageously expensive bicycles, but things have changed. Bicycle racing is hot, last summer the first American entered the Tour de France, and even Harvard, the slowest in the Ivy League in this respect, has a cycling team. Harvard's incipient cycling team is the brainchild of David K. Smith '58 development officer in the University Development Office. Smith is the current Massachusetts champion in the 25-mile time trial for males aged 45 or over.
The Long and Winding Road
"I'm trying to get competitive cycling on a club basis, as it is in many other colleges," said Smith, adding that "Princeton has about 11 riders who are licensed by the United States Cycling Federation (USCF), while Harvard has none."
Smith will be one of three team coaches, joined by Lynn Lemaire, and John Allis, three-time Olympic cyclist and former national road racing champion. Allis began competitive racing at Princeton in 1960, and made the Olympic team for the first time in 1964.
Although many colleges have had cycling teams for several years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of teams in the last few years. Smith believes this increase is due to the enthusiasm for biking generated by Eric Heiden, an Olympic gold medal winner who now competes in professional cycling, and to the movie "Breaking Away."
The popularity of biking has been hampered by the problem of transporting a team of cyclers and their equipment to competition. A more pressing problem is that of expense, since a new racing bike can cost anywhere from a few hundred to well over a thousand dollars.
The Harvard cycling team will attempt to keep cycling within economic range of students by lending bicycles to those people who are not sure if the sport is worth the initial investment.
In addition, The Cycle Factory has agreed to support the team by making high quality bicycle frames available to team cyclists at a reasonable cost. Even a common ten speed bike can be made suitable for competition with only a few, inexpensive modifications, Allis said yesterday.
Inexperience is another thing that should not inhibit the would-be cyclist. Most competitions, both intercollegiate and open, have two categories, one for experienced bikers and one for novices, Bob Ellis, director of intramural cycling at Princeton, said yesterday.
The team will probably compete in five or six intercollegiate meets, which are organized by the Intercollegiate Cycling Federation, Smith said, adding that individual members can compete in open events by the USCF once they have been licensed.
The team will begin riding in the spring, but will start getting prepared for the season after winter break. "Cycling is one of the most demanding sports I know of," Allis said, adding that, "you have to ride at least 20 miles a day to stay in shape."
Cycling is not only physically demanding, however, but requires a great deal of concentration and fitness as well. "Cycling is often compared to chess," Allis said. "It is at least as challenging mentally as physically."
The next meeting of The Harvard cycling team will be February 9, in Eliot House Junior Common room (H entry) at 7:00 p.m.