Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Letter to the UVM Cycling List Serv

I know I haven't posted in a quite a long time, but life happens to you.  Even though I have been very busy this spring, I have had very little to say, especially about cycling.   As some of you may know, UVM cycling has a pretty lively list serv (although, this comes and goes).  There has been a lot of talk about the decline of the team and even a taunt from an unnamed Conference Director.   Below is my response.  Although much of the email is specific to UVM cycling, I think some of the elements transcend team boundaries. Every team leader dreams about what their team could be some day; the great ones put these plans into action and make it happen.  Sadly, collegiate cycling's management is brutally cyclical.  If a team is lucky, they will get a couple of years of great leadership out of one person, then they will ride off into the sunset, then a new leader with vision and drive is needed to keep it going.  

Hi all,

A couple of days ago J^% *&pena sent an email to the list serve.  It was less than flattering of the UVM Cycling team's prowess.   While I have been banished to the windswept wasteland of tyranny (Canada), I have had a little time to reflect on what actually makes UVM Cycling great.  It does seem like there is a little bit of a lul at the moment, but that it entirely reversible.   The cornerstones, as I see them, of UVM Cycling's greatness are: a bloodthirsty desire to win, a tremendous  all-inclusive espirt du corps, and being a massive horde.

Durring a conversation with a couple of current riders, I spoke about the winning spirit when I joined the team.  This didn't mean that the team won all the time, far from it.   What it meant was that the questioned posed after riders finished a race was, "did you win?" or "what did you do to make a teammate win?"  Additionally, the team pushed for all the riders to be there all the time.  If you know somebody who is "saving" their green and gold chamois for nicer weather, give them a kick and tell them to, "get in the f!K$ing vans!"  We used to send out the rosters for each weekend when there was still time to sign up to encourage/shame those on the fence to sign up.  This is because the Conference title isn't won by individual riders, or just a riders; it is won by teams.  Teams win by riders in the C & D races  fighting for the last spot in the points like it was for the top step in the Roubaix velodrome.  Each rider and every single spot matters.   Dropping out of races when you still have a shot at any points is a black smudge on the shimmering broadsword of UVM Cycling.  One of my favorite cycling quotes by Eddy Merckxs, a kindred spirit of UVM Cycling, was, "My advice to aspiring cyclists: when in doubt - attack.  Always attack"  

It goes without saying that the defining characteristic of the team is its crazy zaniness.  Despite what my fellow alumnus may have to say, I think you guys have this locked down.   Nobody else pranks or party's quite so hard.  Nobody else can rally into a parking lot with an American flag fluttering out the window and "Ride of the Valkaries" blaring with the same panache.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly is the team's character as a teaming horde of villains, scoundrels, rakes and barbarians from the North.  I would never be so insulting as to suggest that you aren't villains, scoundrels, rakes and barbarians; but, UVM Cycling is no longer a horde.  A better descriptor might be, contingent, battalion or troop.   UVM has 50% more students than when I was a freshman (and electricity too); the team has nearly doubled its budget; however, only half the number of warriors fill the vans.  It is sad, but not irreparable.  Each and every of you owe a duty to UVM Cycling.  The team's greatness is directly proportionate to its roster.  Each of you knows somebody with a bike.  Each of you possesses the power of persuasion - use it.   There are washed out runners, crewers, nordic skier, and others who could be part of the greater glory of UVM Cycling, but they probably don't know it exists or don't realize how accessible the sport truly is. If they have a bike to use and a helmet, then the ECCC will take them, run them through the intro clinics and make a bike racer out of them.   You all just need to get them in the vans.  

I guess that is all I have to say, minus one parting thought.   Change is inevitable, but decline isn't.  The team Derek, Lee, myself, Slim, etc led is gone and will never return - to think otherwise would be madness (at least there can only be one Dark Lord Satan).  Each member of the team helps to build a castle of sand that is, at least partially, washed away by the tide of graduation.  The perpetual loss can be disappointing, but if nobody tries the team will shrivel to a single van every weekend of people who knew about collegiate cycling before they got to UVM and would have raced bikes anyways.  Everyone benefits by bringing new riders into the sport and infusing them with the UVM Cycling's innate enthusiasm.  I would challenge every person on the team to bring two new people to the next meeting and to encourage their teammates who are opting to stay at home to sack up and to to the races.

Good night and God bless,