UofL Cycling Named Largest New Team in the Country

Louisville, Ky– The University of Louisville Student Cycling Coalition recently became the largest new team in the country with 17 licensed riders. As a reward for becoming the largest team, the SCC received a product sponsorship from American-based nutrition company, Bonk Breaker, an official sponsor of USA Cycling.  

Founded in 2005, Bonk Breaker is an American sports nutrition company that specializes in all-natural, gluten and dairy free energy and protein bars.
Founded in 2005, Bonk Breaker is an American sports nutrition company that specializes in all-natural, gluten and dairy free energy and protein bars.

USA Cycling asked current team president Abner Miralda how it all unfolded, and what the future of the team looks like. Here’s his response:

What instigated the formation of the team? Who was behind it and what did it take to make it happen?

The team was formed when Josh Goodman approached me about wanting to do a cyclocross race at Purdue University in the fall of 2013. At the time, Josh was fresh off his first ever bike race– a last place finish in the Cat. 5 race at the Derby City Cup—and I had never done a bicycle race before, didn’t own a ‘cross bike, and had no clue collegiate cycling even existed.

To our disappointment, we needed to be a part of a collegiate team to participate, so we were forced to sit out of that race.

We approached Andrew Tursic, the then-president of the Student Cycling Coalition at the University, and asked him if he was willing to work with us to create a team. He said exactly what we were all thinking, “Why not?”

Sure, we had no idea what we were doing, but we went on with the USAC paperwork (super easy) and dutifully drove 2 hours to Indianapolis the next week to race in the Cat. 5 cyclocross race on one-day licenses with plain red jerseys and borrowed bikes. We inevitably crashed and got heckled, but we hopped back on the bike and haven’t looked back since!

Ben King is a Bio-Engineering Ph.D. candidate. Photo: Kent Baumgardt
Ben King is a Bio-Engineering Ph.D. candidate. Photo: Kent Baumgardt

What is your membership like (Male/female, mtb/road, beginner/advanced, etc.)? 

Our membership is best described as “beginner” regardless of discipline. Only one rider had raced road before when we rolled up to the start line at Lindsey Wilson College’s Road Race. Only one rider had raced mountain bikes before when we travelled to Lindsey Wilson’s Mountain Bike Race, and all but two advanced riders are on their first full season of cyclocross. Bikes are cool, because they have brought together men and women from several areas of the university ranging from undergrad, to medical and dental students, and even engineering PhD’s!

What advice would you give to other teams for growing their membership? How did you grow the team so quickly?

Recruiting is a numbers game, so the more people with bicycles your members talk to, the higher chance you have of convincing them to go on a bike ride with you. Being friendly and relaxed is key, but dropping them on the flats is a bad strategy (I learned that the hard way).

We waged guerilla warfare on the broken bikes on campus, setting up a tent where bike traffic is high, and fixed bikes for free, registered them with campus police, and told people about our weekly, beginner friendly ride, #SlowRollMonday.

We also looked for business sponsors because the University does not give us any financial aid. We set up as a non-profit organization, and used the funds to pay for race entry fees to sweeten up the idea of going to a race for beginners. We wrote a detailed cover letter/sponsorship packet, and set out looking for sponsors. We were chewed out by a few University of Kentucky alums/fans (bad blood runs deep here) and businesses who did not believe in cycling, but we took it in stride, made several more phone calls, and earned some desperately needed dollars for the team elsewhere.

What do you see for the future of the team? How can you make this growth sustainable? 

John Francisco is a former Red Zone Elite junior and raced in Europe as part of the EuroCross Camp before attending UofL. Photo:Kent Baumgardt
John Francisco is a former Red Zone Elite junior and raced in Europe as part of the EuroCross Camp before attending UofL. Photo:Kent Baumgardt

In 2015, we will try a new, dual strategy for recruitment. There’s something in the water in Louisville, so there are large amounts of junior talent that we can actively recruit much like a varsity team. We learned this year it’s very difficult to convince college students to join a club to race bicycles, so the junior recruitment will grow the number of fast riders from the bottom-up.

In order to get more college students involved with the club, we will start a triathlon team to compete in the USATriathlon Mid-East Collegiate Triathlon Conference. There are lots of former high school cross-country runners and swimmers, so triathlons are an excellent way to put those talented endurance athletes on bikes.

The growth of the team would not have been possible without the help of multiple factors. Our sponsors Evergreen Rehabilitation, Raising Cane’s, Middletown Cycling and Fitness, Sommerville Sports, and BarryS Coaching believed in us when no one else did. Social Media, word of mouth, and our website UofLcycling.com, were unbelievably effective in spreading the word in a low cost way.

Cycling is fun, and even though starting/running a team can be stressful at times, it is an unbelievably rewarding experience.

Best,

Abner Miralda

SCC President

Editor’s note: since this article was written, the SCC has begun offering coaching scholarships to triathletes and cyclists with USATriathlon certified coach Barry Stokes and Red Zone Elite Cycling coach Joe Collins. VO2 Multisport has been added as a sponsor.

Then-SCC Membership Coordinator Joseph Wheatley- gave a thumbs up at a recruiting fair in January 2014.
Then-SCC Membership Coordinator Joseph Wheatley- gave a thumbs up at a recruiting fair in January 2014.
Evan Kuhl, Andrew Tursic, and Erik Seibt wait for the whistle before the TTT hosted by Lindsey Wilson College on Feb. 22, 2014. This was the first time any of the three riders pictured had raced before.
Evan Kuhl, Andrew Tursic, and Erik Seibt wait for the whistle before the TTT hosted by Lindsey Wilson College on Feb. 22, 2014. This was the first time any of the three riders pictured had raced before and raced in temporary jerseys.
Mark Renn was the only mountain biker that had ever raced mountain bikes before. He went on to finish as the Men's B conference champion in the Downhill and Dual Slalom events.
Mark Renn was the only mountain biker that had ever raced mountain bikes before. He went on to finish as the Men’s B conference champion in the Downhill and Dual Slalom events.
On-campus free bicycle repair!
On-campus free bicycle repair!
medium sized group 4
The uniforms of the SCC for 2014-2015.
Advertisements

First Race at Lindsey Wilson College

COLUMBIA, KY- The Student Cycling Coalition competed in its first ever road race in Columbia, KY hosted by the Lindsey Wilson College Cycling Team.

Evan Kuhl, Andrew Tursic, and Erik Seibt wait for the whistle before the TTT hosted by Lindsey Wilson College on Feb. 22.
Evan Kuhl, Andrew Tursic, and Erik Seibt wait for the whistle before the TTT hosted by Lindsey Wilson College on Feb. 22.

The race weekend began at 8 a.m. CST on Saturday February 22 at Kellyville Church with a cold and relatively hilly 12 km Team Time Trial.  When asked about the course, third year medical student Evan Kuhl said, “The hardest part is going to be staying together on the hills.” At 8:06 the Louisville Men’s D team composed of Andrew Tursic, Erik Seibt, and Kuhl set off on its race against the clock. Tursic towed the team safely up to the turn around point and broke off the train leaving Seibt and Kuhl to finish out the last 6km on their own. After crossing the finish line, Kuhl said, “It felt good– good course, good effort; can’t complain.” The SCC finished the Men’s D TTT event in second place with a time of 18:32 min. The Indiana University Men’s D squad won the Men’s D TTT by posting a time of 16:34 that stood unbeaten until Marian University’s 3rd Men’s A squad took the course.

Results from the TTT hosted by Lindsey Wilson College on Feb. 22.
Results from the TTT hosted by Lindsey Wilson College on Feb. 22.

Later in the day, as the weather had warmed to 60 degrees, the team started the 25 mile road race in Purdy Church. Before the race, Tursic said “We’re going to have to play it smart,” while Kuhl added that the emphasis would be on “Good teamwork, and good communication.” The packed Men’s D field of 71 riders was set to roll at 1:15 CST through a winding 25 mile course that featured 3 short uncategorized climbs; with the final climb a mile away from the finish line. Lining up for the Cardinals was a team of five: the three riders from the TTT plus the addition of Joseph Wheatley and Josh Goodman. Early in the race, Tursic was caught in a crash that involved several riders but chased back to the main group. Riding together, Kuhl, Seibt, and Wheatley led the chase of the break away but were unable to reel it in before the final climb. Wheatley finished 22nd, Seibt 24th, Kuhl 35th, Tursic 53rd, and Goodman 54th. Chris Besaw of the University of Wisconsin-Madison won the D race, with the University of Kentucky and Indiana University placing 2nd and 3rd respectively.

The Men's D field lines up at the Road Race hosted by Lindsey Wilson College on Feb. 22.
The Men’s D field lines up at the Road Race hosted by Lindsey Wilson College on Feb. 22.

On Sunday February 23, the team participated in the criterium held at Adair County High School. The course was a fast 1/3 mile four corner circuit that featured a short steep climb on corner 3. Owen Stone represented the Cardinals very well in the Men’s B race, reeling in several breaks before Kenny Hall (Lindsey Wilson) was able to get away for a solo win. “I tried to stay near the front and watch for breakaways” Stone said. He rode to a 7th place finish in the bunch sprint following Hall’s impressive solo win.

The main group of the Men's B criterium hosted by Lindsey Wilson College on Feb. 22. chases an early break away after cresting the hill.
The main group of the Men’s B criterium hosted by Lindsey Wilson College on Feb. 22. chases an early break away after cresting the hill.

The Men’s D criterium team featuring Abner Miralda, Andrew Tursic, and Josh Goodman didn’t fare well in the criterium. They worked well as a team, and took turns fighting the strong headwinds, but eventually were caught by the leader’s breakaway that chewed up the field of 70 down to less than 20.  Michigan Cycling tweeted about their top D rider, “Doug Plowman grits out a top 10 finish in the D race that got splintered early and never slowed down.” Despite the setback of the Men’s D criterium, the team was happy with its overall effort in its first ever collegiate road race weekend.

“We’re excited for this new season,” said Tursic.