Strategy, tenacity, and solidarity anchor the soul of Boston College’s club cycling team, an organization of over 30 dedicated members who like to call themselves “B Triple-C.”
The team’s athletes train together at least three times a week, from cycling for hours in “countercultural” spin classes to biking across the greater Boston area on 40 mile-long trips.
Club cycling competes in the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC), which spans from Delaware to Maine. The ECCC includes over 1,000 student-athletes from 70 schools who compete in a variety of racing events throughout the year.
BC’s team is completely self-coached, led by Ben Egan, MCAS ’17. One of the team’s most skilled cyclists, Egan radiates a positive, resilient attitude that helps foster success among the cyclists.
“My greatest fear is turning cycling into a chore,” Egan said. “Cycling is very strategic, but it’s also meant to be fun.”
The fun starts with those countercultural spin classes. Club cycling’s spin classes are designed to be chatty—a far cry from the stereotypical SoulCycle class, in which an oath of silence, in the name of sweat, is taken prior to entry. The open class is an opportunity for people to get to know and join the team. Club cycling’s spin classes are intended to help bikers translate from stationary biking inside the Plex to road racing in the brisk outdoors characteristic of New England’s fall and spring weather.
At the collegiate level, cycling is divided into two seasons. Mountain biking, composed of four types of races, takes place in the fall. Road racing, an entirely different set of four races, takes place during the spring.
Women and men compete on the same courses, but events are separated by gender. At BC, male and female athletes train together, support one another, and ride the same courses. Of all the events, the criterium—a race consisting of several laps around a closed circuit—is the fastest and most strategic.
“Criterium is the NASCAR of cycling,” Egan said. “American riders love it.”
Road races are typically composed of 80 cyclists, with approximately four to five members from each team in a given race. Moreover, team members are divided into five race classes, ranked by level of difficulty from A to E. The primary strategy of many teams is to slow opposing racers down, frustrating any and all efforts to get ahead.
With fierce strategies come the politics of competition.
“The University of Vermont has a huge team,” Egan said. “Its team usually sends two racers ahead, then leaves two behind to stay in front of all the other riders, cutting them off and slowing them down.”
Often, small teams form alliances with other small teams in an effort to catch up with and foil large teams like UVM’s.
In races like these, a team’s sole goal is to get its last racer in the back—presumably the best—to win the entire race. As a group of cyclists works together, each rider uses 40 percent less energy than the person in front of them. Essentially, wind resistance is cut down.
This interplay of alliance, strategy, and competitive spirit is perfect for the cohort of political science majors that comprise much of BCCC.
“Our sport is very political and chatty,” Egan said.
But beyond the banter, cycling can be risky.
This past summer, during a women’s road race at the Rio Olympics, cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten was injured in a serious crash, suffering a severe concussion and three fractures in her lower back.
During any given race, anywhere from 60 to 80 riders will be speeding downhill at 45 m.p.h.
If a rider leading the pack hits a turn or bump too fast or with too much force, he and about 40 riders behind him will be taken down in a crash, according to Egan.
“In cycling, there are always injuries, often at least one per competition weekend,” Egan said. “It’s part of the sport. Luckily, we haven’t had any serious accidents so far. But there’s a risk and it’s important to know that.”
Photo Courtesy of BC Club Cycling