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Cycling club to host race this weekend

Jenn Metz | Thursday, March 19, 2009

This weekend, the Notre Dame Cycling Club – the “Cyclin’ Irish” – will be hosting its first ever race in South Bend.

The races – a road race Saturday and a criterium, a short course bike race, Sunday – will take place near campus; the first race, on country roads Northwest of Notre Dame, will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Cyclists will compete in four divisions for men, categories A-D, and two divisions for women, A-B. Each category’s race increases in distance.

Whereas cyclists complete a few number of long-distance laps in the road race, the criterium is a “more technical, shorter course,” senior Andy Steves said.

“It’s much more spectator-friendly. We’d love to have a lot of people there,” he said.

The criterium’s reputation for crashes and “blood and guts” might also make the race more interesting for spectators, Steves, who has competed for Notre Dame since his freshman year, said.

Steves, a senior who has been riding since his senior year in high school, said he became interested in cycling because his grandfather competed in the Ironman.

The club competes in the Midwest Collegiate Cycling Conference, traveling to schools in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana to race.

Steves, who will race in the Men’s B, is set to complete a 50-mile road race Saturday and a 40-minute criterium Sunday. He has eight individual victories under his spandex belt, and traveled to Nationals his sophomore year.

He is one of the dozen or so serious riders for Notre Dame who dedicate hours each day to training.

Senior captain Tim Campbell, an A cyclist, has been racing for Notre Dame since his freshman year. He said he and his teammates will compete in both of the weekend’s events.

“I ride pretty much everyday,” he said. “To be at the top level, you need to ride everyday.”

Campbell’s two-day program of a 70-mile road race and a 65-minute criterium is standard for a competition weekend, he said.

The cyclists, Campbell included, are excited for their first race at home.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do since my sophomore year, when I figured out how to go about having a race at your school,” he said.

Figuring out how to “go through all the hoops” at the University took a while, he said. “Now it’s finally happening.”

Notre Dame cyclists typically compete about seven weekends, or in 14 races, a year in their conference, Campbell said.

“There are also non-collegiate races people at the top end up doing,” he said. “We can race anywhere between 12 and 13 weekends a year.”

Individual cyclists and the team as a whole can earn points in the A division through the season to qualify for Nationals, which will be held in Colorado.

Campbell has been to Nationals twice, but said he’s not sure if the team will make the trip this year.

Because of the team’s club status at the University, they are not permitted to take part in activities after study days.

“It’s hard to have teachers move your tests,” he said.

Another big race for cyclists all across the nation takes place in Arkansas early in May, Campbell said.

“It’s kind of like the Tour de France, but 18 days shorter,” he said. “That’s the best race going on in the country – hopefully Notre Dame will be there.”

Though the Cycling Club hopes for spectators, Campbell said his expectations aren’t that high because of people’s misunderstanding of the sport.

“Everyone knows Lance Armstrong … I’m hoping, with [him], people are coming back to the sport and trying to understand what the sport of cycling is all about,” he said. “It’s a good chance to come out and check out what Lance Armstrong really does … except we’ll be doing it a lot slower.”

Regardless of spectator turnout, for the black and green argyle spandex-clad Notre Dame cyclists, this weekend’s races will be a display of their work this year.

“You’re out there, two to three hours everyday, a lot of times by yourself riding into the wind,” he said. “This weekend, we’ll see the fruits of our labor.”

The club’s Facebook event, “le Tour de Notre Dame du Lac,” includes information about volunteering at the races as well as directions and fliers about each day’s events.

“If someone wants to volunteer or needs a ride out there, we can definitely arrange that,” Campbell said.