Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Cycling team grows rapidly

by Rebecca Jensen

The cycling team may be known on campus for winning Nationals, for teir conspicuous lycra uniforms and for being a monstrously large team, but few know that the team was born only five years ago by five guys and a girl who liked to ride bikes.

Mike Wise (’04) and Andy Fischer (’04) were friends since their first year at Whitman and initiated the team by asking President Tom Cronin to fund a few races. Everyone had riding experience, but no one had raced before. Their white jerseys sported iron-on school logos and training was haphazard, more like “who could get up five mile [road] first,” instead of carefully periodized training plans, said Soren Klingsporn (’03) , an alum and head mechanic at Allegro Cyclery, the team’s sponsor shop. The team only attended three or four road races that year and did not race in any of the criteriums or team time trials, as no one had any experience in those races.

The next year, the team got more organized and local cyclist Glenn Silver offered to help coach the team. “Glenn was leading a workshop at Pete’s Ski and Sport when he volunteered to help the team,” said Klingsporn. “Glenn helped a lot: he knew how omniums [multi-race weekends] worked and took us on new loops. Glenn brought a lot to the team when it started. Pete’s also helped out a lot with equipment, thanks to Jim Sanders.”

The team began to grow as word got out, although “it was still very much a living room thing,” said senior rider and club vice president Greg Dering. “It was a lot smaller, there were 12 people going every weekend and people were brought together out of their independent interest in bicycles … small enough that it took the whole team to tape Sam [Johnson (’06)] into a ball in Alan Schmitz’s [’03] living room.”

Then the team kept growing. And growing. The team now has over 50 riders on its racing roster and has won Collegiate Road Nationals twice in a row and the women’s team time trial thrice in a row. When asked what he thought contributed to the growth of the cycling team, Klingsporn said, “Success.” Only in its second year, the team sent two individuals: Fischer and Laura Valaas (’06): to Nationals.

The following year in 2004, the team qualified for Nationals and won the women’s team time trial. Matsen took second in the road race and the team placed second overall behind Dartmouth. In 2005 and 2006, the team won Nationals, won the women’s team time trial and the women’s road race, and in 2006 also took second in the men’s team time trial and won the women’s criterium. Success is indeed infectious, as students are “now coming to Whitman, knowing that they’re National Champions,” said Klingsporn.

The team faces more challenges now, while trying to manage and support 50 racers. Dering said, “Now there’s a wider range of needs. We have to provide something for serious cyclists coming to Whitman for the cycling team and something for beginners who are new to cycling.”

Finances are also becoming more of an issue. The team pays for race registration, food and gas during the regular season as well as the entire trip to Nationals, including plane tickets. While funded by the school and private donors, the team is still $10,000 under-budget.

The logistics of race weekends are also trickier. “Moving 40 people and all their bikes and their equipment across the state, feeding them, finding them a place to stay … it’s literally a three-ring circus that moves three times in 48 hours … and it’s awesome and it works really well,” said Dering.

The team’s season begins Mar. 24 and 25 in Corvallis, Ore.

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