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Starting a Collegiate Bike Team from Scratch
St. Augustine Cycling Team
By: Mark Janas
Starting a collegiate bike team, let alone the first HBCU cycling team, was no easy task. A few of us involved had done some racing at various levels, and even had some prior coaching experience, but none of us had actually started a collegiate team from scratch. Truthfully, we didn’t know what we didn’t know. Or, maybe more accurately, we just decided that we would keep moving forward and navigate the obstacles as they came.
We learned quickly that funding, equipping, and managing a team was a completely different animal than racing or coaching, especially when trying to do it within the rules and infrastructure of a university. School administration gave us three basic instructions: Don’t ask us for money. Don’t expect accommodation on your day jobs (directed at those of us employed at the school to do other things.) Don’t make us look bad. Those instructions didn’t exactly spell “confidence,” but then again, we didn’t really do much to earn any confidence in the beginning. We were just a couple of college professors and a handful of volunteers that liked to ride bikes.
Fast forward a few months, and we started to gain a little traction. Our obvious initial focus was on getting bikes. We had a couple of donor bikes in the mix at the outset, but we were fortunate enough to secure bike sponsorships for CX/road and BMX bikes. We were able to do the same for other equipment including helmets, kits, smart trainers/bikes, and more.
What we had not planned well for, however, was just how we were going to move all this equipment around to apartments and houses, or anywhere off-campus for training and racing. It was a rookie mistake. We addressed it the best way we could by stuffing bikes into backseats and trunks, leaving scuffs and grease marks everywhere, sometimes on or in the cars of friends who were kind enough lend a hand. But it was no way to run a team.
Enter Saris. Saris had been a supporter of the SAU program from the beginning. The H3 trainers we had allowed us to keep plugging forward during the early days of the pandemic when there were limited training and racing options. But as things started opening up a bit and racing started to return, our problem became exasperated. Getting a team of racers, bikes, & gear to an event 100 miles away (or further) was a lot trickier than the local races (just a few blocks from campus) that we had done to date.
This Fall, we were fortunate enough to expand our relationship with Saris to include the Superclamp EX-4 hitch racks that perfectly fit our school vans. The bikes hold securely on long and short trips and certainly allow us to ride in style! We’ve carted bikes 16 hours away without issues. Transportation is now a breeze, and the racks are easy to remove and store when not in use. Thanks Saris!