The Most Intense Club Sport You Probably Have Never Heard Of: Oberlin Cycling

It is common to see students cycling casually around campus, but there are also some students who take this traditionally-viewed leisure activity one step further. The Oberlin Cycling Club has built a strong intramural presence over the past four years, introducing Obies of all skill levels to the world of collegiate bike racing.

While the Oberlin Cycling Club has existed for many years, it was College fourth-years Eamonn Schnell and Adam Fulcher, who serve as the club treasurer and president, respectively, who revamped the team.

“[The club] was a little bit more disorganized in the past,” said Schnell. “Adam [and I], our [first] year — I guess we’re pretty big racers, [so we] got together and started up as a more race-focused cycling team.”

Schnell and Fulcher both started as first-years with a keen interest in competitive racing and have since fostered a closely-knit team. The team now competes all throughout the Midwest.

Last year, members of the club participated in the Trek CX Cup in Waterloo, Wisconsin, a race that attracts some of the best riders in the world and provides the opportunity for riders to bike on a professional course. The team plans on sending riders again this year.

“I think cycling is a really good form of keeping your head straight, and it kind of acts as a therapy,” said Fulcher. “Just riding along … it really gives you a lot of time to think and process things.”

In the fall, the team races cyclocross, a mixture of mountain biking and road biking. Riders use a bike that appears to be designed for roads, but instead race on grass, dirt, and gravel. In addition to rougher terrain, competitors are also expected to get off the bike, jump over logs and barriers, and then quickly board the bike once more to continue the high-speed race.

The spring season focuses on collegiate racing, including participation in the Midwestern Collegiate Cycling Conference. Cleveland is also home to various competitions, which gives members the opportunity to race without having to commit an entire weekend to travel.

Cycling is one of the few sports that is both a team and an individual sport. Teammates practice “drafting” during races, which involves riding behind someone else to help minimize wind resistance. Communication is crucial throughout this process; members communicate during the race to indicate whether or not they have a chance of winning. If not, they collectively strategize how they can best support the teammates that do have a shot at gold.

The team is made up of a range of skill levels that are quantified into categories created by USA Cycling, the main governing body of cycling in the U.S. Both Schnell and Fulcher were upgraded to Category Two, one riding group away from pro-cycling. Both are looking forward to the challenge of racing in a new category with new people this year as they finish up their time at Oberlin. Typically, the team recruits new members at the Connections Fair and receives inquiries throughout the year from people that are interested in exploring the world of competitive racing.

“I’m looking forward to racing with some new [first-years],” said Schnell. “Meeting new people to ride with [is great].”

When members are not competing, they mainly focus on individual training, riding anywhere from 15 to 80 miles a day. Last year, College second-year Joaquim Stevenson-Rodriguez rode with teammates past Cleveland and back, making detours to visit additional bike routes along the way, covering approximately 100 miles in one day.

“We did a 100-mile ride, just for fun,” said Stevenson-Rodriguez. “It was really painful. We passed into Cleveland … got some food. It took all day, like eight or nine hours.”

The team also organizes rides where members compete on a route, showing off their speed and agility and pushing each other to their athletic limits.

Cycling has also provided opportunities for the team to explore the landscapes of Ohio.

“There are so many things that you don’t get to see if you don’t leave the town on a bike,” Schnell stated. “Even if you’re in a car, you’d miss all these little farms and stands. I’ve found some incredible produce stands just riding my bike. It’s a really great experience.”