Collegiate cycling is no less competitive than any other sport, but the pregame rituals seem driven more by a mutual love for riding bikes than a desire to destroy the opponent. This was evident on Feb. 22 at “Slugapalooza” — a road race hosted by UCSC’s cycling team. Men and women cyclists from colleges across California and Nevada in the Western Collegiate Cycling Conference (WCCC) were all in high spirits before the races as they mingled with other teams.
At 6:30 a.m. the East Remote parking lot buzzed with energy as riders blasted music from their cars and buses while gearing up for the race. All the teams were dressed in bright cycling apparel, with UC San Diego wearing tie-dye and UCSC sporting bright blue and yellow outfits.
“[This turnout] is what we love,” said senior rider Will Curtis, captain of UCSC’s mountain biking team. “The caliber of the riders here is really high, but at the same time, everybody is here to have a good time because they love riding bikes. We couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Even though music still blared, once the races were underway everything became a little more tense. The competition took place on a 2.6-mile course with the riders completing between 12-20 laps depending on their category. Categories ranged from men’s A-D and women’s A-C and riders are placed into categories based off their performance in previous races. The laps included a 400-foot climb up Hagar Drive, followed by a pedaling descent down Coolidge Drive.
“[The course] is really a lot of pedaling uphill — it will show if you’ve been training hard,” said junior rider Reggie Trimingham. “There’s not a whole lot of technical stuff, but you need to have the cardiovascular fitness or you’ll get dropped.”
With the sun beating down in 70 degree weather, the riders passed the checkpoint next to East Remote and chucked their empty water bottles. Their teammates and family members were waiting with full bottles of water and energy bars to hand off — the transactions were incredibly quick and synchronized like a pit stop at a Nascar race.
The heat’s effect on the cyclists was visible as a UC Davis rider crossed the finish line wobbling with beads of sweat racing down his face. He had just won first place in the men’s B category and before he almost collapsed, three of his teammates grabbed him, propped him up and wheeled him off to the side.
Senior president of the UCSC cycling team, Nick Newcomb, said the weather conditions on Saturday were favorable to the cyclists and preferable to biking in the rain. UCSC’s team did particularly well, as freshman Sam Anderson-Moxley finished first in the C category, senior Will Curtis and sophomore Mark Tingwald finished second and sixth respectively in the B category and senior Nick Newcomb — UCSC’s lone rider in the A category — finished sixth.
Only two women from the team raced on Saturday. While neither of them placed, Newcomb said senior Christine Weir appeared fast among the A riders.
The cycling team at UCSC is made up of both a mountain biking and road biking team. The mountain biking season ended in November, but some members of the team participated in Saturday’s road race. It was junior Zora Thomas’ first road race after three seasons with the mountain biking team. “For road, it’s just purely endurance,” Thomas said. “It’s just a different style — you have to get used to riding in packs.”
Curtis said his experience riding as a mountain biker helped him in the race on Saturday because the course resembled the short and punchy climbs he often faces on mountain bike courses.
“This course in particular translates well to mountain bike racing,” Curtis said. “Mountain bike racing is very individual, whereas road racing is usually very tactical. Since this race is just up and down a hill, it comes down to the last few laps and who can get up the hill the fastest.”
Curtis takes charge over the mountain bike team as captain, while Nick Newcomb looks over the entire cycling team as president. The two are housemates and close friends, which made organizing the cycling events over the last few years much easier.
Newcomb, wearing a trucker hat labeled “President” and a Slug cycling t-shirt adorned with “this ain’t your daddy’s bike team,” said he is hopeful that more people will come out to support and possibly join the team.
“I’d really like it if more people around UCSC got the opportunity to watch us,” Newcomb said. “It’s some of the most beautiful riding in California. If you own a bike and you’re willing to race, you can join the team.”