Cycling team shifts focus to individual level
In West Michigan, there is much more to cycling than Lance Armstrong hoopla.
However, this increasing enthusiasm for the sport has not translated to a higher number of cyclists for the Grand Valley State University coed club cycling team.
With a much smaller group than last year’s team, GVSU will shift its focus to the individual level at the upcoming University of Michigan Criterium, and Michigan State University Get Tough Road Race and ITT.
“We hope to be competitive,” said GVSU senior Jake Van Timmeren, president of the team. “It would be great to have some top-10 finishes.”
GVSU’s roster consists of only eight cyclists this season, which is quite a different look compared to last year’s squad which featured 15 riders and finished as the No. 10 team in the MidWest Collegiate Cycling Conference.
Van Timmeren said there are number of reasons for the decrease, but one factor in particular has thwarted the team’s efforts to come together as one cohesive unit.
“We have a lot people who are more committed to their summer teams,” he said.
With a number of riders placing more attention on other affiliations in the Grand Rapids area, GVSU has had difficulty competing as a team in most of its events this season.
For senior Kyle Stange, there is still much to be had on an individual level.
Stange had a top-10 finish in each of his seven races with the team last year, including a pair of victories at the “A” level during the U of M Mountain Bike Cup last September.
“It takes a certain level of dedication,” he said. “I usually put in 200 miles a week.”
The standout from Millington, Mich. is the No. 7 rider in the MWCCC men’s rankings and No. 5 in the men’s endurance rankings, and in 2012, the mountain bike specialist became a national qualifier. He is currently the team’s only cyclist who competes at the “A” level.
The team ultimately hopes to become a more viable club sport at GVSU, but former president Thomas Beebe said a number of roadblocks still stand in the way.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” Beebe said. “When you have no coach and little participation, you have low funding. The goal of the club is to eventually become an active club team, like hockey or rowing, but for now it’s just kind of a group of people that race individually. There’s not a lot of structure or accountability.”
Beebe and Van Timmeren both said a race at the Allendale Campus could increase participation in the coming years, and said there is no lack of enthusiasm for cycling in the state of Michigan.
“Cycling is not going to go away,” Beebe said. “It’s one of the fastest growing sports in Michigan and there are a lot of events that have doubled their participation numbers in the past few years. From a club standout, we hope to build off that to get more participation.”
The team will compete in the MSU Get Tough Road Race and ITT on April 6 before traveling to the U of M Criterium, which will take place April 7.