Pedal Power

Collegiate cyclists speed past Wisconsin’s Capitol during a 2009 road race. May’s national championships, hosted by the UW, will include a criterium through downtown Madison. Photo: Paul Marker

UW cycling team wins bid to host national championships.

In the world of bicycle racing, Madison is the real deal.

With miles of paved bike trails and low-traffic rural roads, the Madison area has long enjoyed a national reputation for bicycling. This year, UW-Madison’s cycling team has parlayed that reputation into a two-year commitment to host the 2010 and 2011 Collegiate Road National Championships. The races are run under the auspices of the National Collegiate Cycling Association, a division of USA Cycling, and the UW team says the organization was impressed with the Madison area’s topography.

“[This] part of the state has incredible riding — big hills and rural roads near a city, which is pretty uncommon — and scenery on top of that,” says cycling club president Jason Carr x’10. “That helped our position.”

Sponsoring the events for two consecutive years is a coup that organizers hope will attract more U.S. cycling events to Madison. The championships will be held in May, when nearly three hundred teams and eight hundred athletes are expected to participate in a road race; a “criterium,” or short, closed-circuit race through downtown Madison; and a team time trial.

University cyclers last hosted the event in 2004. “We wanted to bring nationals back to Madison, but it’s a lot of work for college students,” Carr says. With encouragement from the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau, they found help in a partner: Team Sports, Inc., a Wauwatosa, Wisconsin-based company that will handle the event’s logistics, from marketing and promotions to securing roads and setting up the courses, as well as covering the liability and financial risk.

The project was a perfect fit for Jack Hirt ’99, director of cycling races and events for Team Sports. “My mission is to make Wisconsin known across the country and around the world as a place where anyone at any level can come and compete in the sport of bicycle racing,” Hirt says. “The sport has a huge potential for becoming a mainstream sport, and it also has great benefits from a tourism and business standpoint.”

The League of American Bicyclists ranked Wisconsin as the second-most-bike-friendly state (after Washington), and America’s Dairyland boasts a $1.5 billion bicycle tourism industry.

Cycling is the largest club sport at UW-Madison, with about 120 dues-paying members, and it’s the only club sport on campus that has its own endowed scholarship. Part of the Midwest College Cycling Conference, the team participates in road racing in the spring and mountain bike racing and cyclocross — a rough-terrain race — in the fall.

“We generally attract people who were into cycling before they come to college and who love the outdoors,” Carr says. “Every year we get a couple of people who have never seen a road bike or they’ve had the same bike since they were twelve.” Any student with any bike is welcome to join, as long as he or she has a helmet and brakes.

Collegiate cyclists speed past Wisconsin’s Capitol during a 2009 road race. May’s national championships, hosted by the UW, will include a criterium through downtown Madison. Photo: Paul Marker

Published in the Spring 2010 issue

Tags: Athletics, bicycling, Students

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