KYLE BEERY | STAFF REPORTER
Competitive cycling is a sport that isn’t very well known outside the Tour de France. But that hasn’t deterred a group of students from helping the cycling club grow at Butler University.
In its seventh year of existence, the club has gone from six riders competing in one or two races a year to 16 riders, and potentially, a full 16-race schedule in the 2013-2014 school year.
The club started as a predominantly mountain biking club. Members added a road cycling aspect to the club in 2008 which was able to draw more interest. The team now also competes in several track races each year.
The club has official club sport team status, and it receives much of its funding from the Student Government Association. It has applied for a grant this year and is waiting for approval.
The club has five women and 11 men, which is enough to have competitive teams for both genders.
Senior club president Cole Smith said he has been riding since he was young but did not start riding competitively until he came to Butler in 2010. He heard about the club and decided to give it a try.
“I used to just ride for recreation,” Smith said. “And then after joining the team, that really got me to the competitiveness of collegiate cycling.”
Senior Joe Blommel also picked up cycling on a whim. Blommel joined after his sophomore year at Butler.
“I had ridden my bike about 10 times in my life before I decided to do this,” Blommel said.
Like Smith and most other riders, freshman Hunter Hughes biked before college but is taking it to the next level this year.
“I haven’t raced before, but I ride a lot,” Hughes said.
The club has its first competition this weekend at the Hilly Hundred in Ellettsville, Ind.
Smith said the Hilly Hundred isn’t an official competition for the club, but it will be a good tune-up race before the actual season begins in late February. The team will ride 50 miles Saturday and 50 miles Sunday, which is a large increase from the standard 25 miles.
Smith said the team uses fall competition as a way to introduce new riders, like Hughes, to riding in a pack, as they may not be familiar with it.
On a typical race weekend, the club will arrive at its hotel Friday night and race Saturday morning. Saturday night is typically spent doing homework in the hotel before racing the second leg Sunday morning.
Smith expects the team to compete in 16 races this year.
“Last year was a big year,” Smith said. “We had five top-10 finishes, and we had a girls team, and we had one girl go to nationals.”
Smith said only one female rider was in the club when he joined, and there weren’t any females at all until 2008, when the road-racing team was added.
Anne Gerard raced in nationals last year, finishing 27th of about 50 riders.
“It was amazing to see all the people that showed up,” Gerard said. “They were really strong and really good. There were schools with much bigger teams.”
Gerard hopes to improve on last year’s performance and get back to the big stage.
“I’m planning to get out to a few more races than I did last year and keeping up with training to improve on what I was last year,” Gerard said. “My ultimate goal is to end up back at nationals.”