“Hey man, what is your team doing tonight? We should all get together and hang out!”
The conversations during a collegiate cycling race never cease to entertain me. Shortly after – the two racers will mercilessly try to drop and gutter each other. Even sooner they will realize the attempts are futile, and will be back to discussing term papers and joke about cycling (possibly) being a higher priority than school work in the spring semester.
It’s the clear dichotomy between ‘Open’ cycling races and collegiate races that show me the true colors of this sport. Ego-Free (relatively) and arguably more fun filled, collegiate cycling is what originally sparked my interest in bicycle racing.
I had the opportunity to participate in both this last Sunday at the University of Minnesota’s Campus Criterium. I was excited to do both – as they say “Race into shape”.
Jumping into an ‘Open’ race merely one cool-down lap after you’ve finished your first race brings about appreciation for your collegiate fellows as the dialogue changes from;
“Dude, A.J., that black and yellow on your bibs makes your legs look funny – and also watch your inside.”
To the more bland and aggressive present in the standard categories;
“Inside, yellow. Inside.”
Overall, the ‘Open’ race brought about just as much fun – but in a different sense. The speedy nature of the bigger fields brings about a whole different animal from within the collegiate racer. All is not lost, however, as you’ll tend to see more smiles on the face of the few collegiate racers who decide to double-up.
There is something indescribable to collegiate racing. Crashing at a Kansas rider’s house during their home race and having them sleep on your couch the very next weekend at your own brings about a higher level of camaraderie, despite racing for different schools. After just a few of these weekends, you start to realize that racing bikes is merely ten percent of the weekend. The other ninety percent dedicated to making new friends and visiting other college campuses on the university’s dime. All of this with like-minded people centered around one thing: Bicycles.
With only one season left of collegiate cycling, I’m sure my days of staying out until 4 A.M. in downtown Minneapolis the night after one race and the morning before another are coming to an end. Jawing with other riders about the Ken Woods Road Race the previous day and making plans to meet up for ‘Open’ races during the summer are intermixed between conversations of that rough ten-page paper that interfered with the crucial Tuesday night group ride. These late night conversations amidst the loud music and gathering of the different school’s riders will most certainly come to an end.
The ‘Open’ races of cycling will gradually take over my racing schedule. Despite my hardest attempts, the more serious nature of bike racing will also replace the collegiate racing attitude I’ve come to know and love. The memories of these fun-filled weekends, friendships and simple notion of being able to laugh or smile during a collegiate race, however, will never leave.
After all, it’s simply about keeping it fun.