Cycling has deep roots at College
By Rahul Raina
Published on Friday, October 14, 2011
The Dartmouth cycling team does not enjoy the same following as other College-sanctioned Division I sports. While men and women clad in tight green racing suits can regularly be seen pedaling their way up and down Hanover’s surrounding hills, the cycling team is rarely in the public eye, despite the sport’s long history at Dartmouth.
The Dartmouth Bicycle Club was founded in the early 1960s by Dan Dimancescu ’64. After leading the University of Connecticut to an Intercollegiate National Title in 1961, Dimancescu transferred to Dartmouth the next year and brought his passion for competitive cycling with him. While the Dartmouth team failed to take off over the next few years, it resurfaced in the late 1970s by winning five straight Ivy League titles from 1977 to 1981.
The sport has changed signficantly since the 1970s, but the team’s passion for competitive cycling is still just as strong.
Dartmouth’s cycling team won four consecutive League championships from 2002-2005. There are currently 25 undergraduate and graduate students on the team, numbers which are fairly consistent from year to year. The team has had its fair share of talented riders, including former professional cyclists Eric Schildge ’10 and Toby Marzot ’09.
While the Big Green’s primary focus is on its spring road-racing season from March to May, some bikers also compete in less publicized events in the fall. Nick Wimer ’12 and Ellen Anderson ADV’16 have already won races this season. The team’s biggest races are the Eastern Conference Championships and the USA Cycling Collegiate National Championships, which are both highly competitive events.
Although cycling does not have a strong contigent in sporting circles — those who watch are usually cyclists themselves or those fair-weathered fans who only tune in for the Tour de France — collegiate cycling has gained more attention in recent years.
“I think it’s an extremely exciting time for the team because throughout the [Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference], people and riders treat this as a varsity sport,” team social chair Joshua Hall ’14 said. “And I believe we may soon be in a transition phase where the cycling team may become a varsity sport.”
Team members come from a diverse range of cycling backgrounds. While riders like Max Jentzsch ’15 — who rode professionally in Germany before matriculating at Dartmouth this fall — bring a wealth of experience to the Big Green, other students join the team as recreational riders. The team encourages riders of all skill levels to join, according to its website.
“Many team members start with little or no prior experience,” Dartmouth cycling president Matt Nichols ’13 said. “Mentoring new riders is part of the team’s mission.”
Like many Dartmouth club teams, the cycling team sometimes struggles with attempting to compete at a high level and spread awareness about its sport.
“Balancing athletics with academics is a challenge that we all embrace,” Nichols said. “As an entirely student-run team, our team leaders also have sizable responsibilities beyond just riding their bikes.”
As a club team, the cyclists do not have a coach, and instead must organize their own racing schedule. Trying to get bids into competitive races and dealing with the entire team’s financials can be a daunting task.
“Last year we limited the Dartmouth race to an individual time trail and the frat row criterion because these are cheaper and easier to organize,” Dan Holmdahl ’14, the team’s vice president, said in an email to The Dartmouth.
Nichols added that cycling’s busy race schedule can pose further difficulties.
“Performing 25-plus races in a season is a major challenge, especially with the cold and wet weather we face,” he said.
While maintaining active membership on the cycling team is not an easy undertaking, Nichols said the Big Green is enthusiastic about cycling.
“Personally, this team has been my passion for the past two years, and I thank my predecessors, Isaiah Berg [’11] and Michael Rea [DMS ’08], for their lessons in leadership,” Nichols said. “From the joy of qualifying for Nationals as a freshman to the frustration of breaking my collarbone as a sophomore, I feel I’ve paid my dues and I’m ready to be a major player in the conference this year.”