The Dartmouth cycling team has quite a rich history; founded in 1961 by Dan Dimancescu ’64, who helped the University of Connecticut win a national championship in 1961 before transferring to Dartmouth, the team has won six national championships and had five individual champions since its inception. Of course, as there was limited competition at the college level back then, bikes were made of steel, clothes were made from wool and helmets were optional.
Over a half decade later, the same cannot be said, as college athletes from all across the east coast lined up on frat row in their spandex uniforms and sleek carbon fiber bikes. Dartmouth hosted two races this weekend, the first of which was an individual time trial, as well as its annual criterium, the L’Enfer du Nord — a short circuit race sponsored by the East Collegiate Cycling Conference. The ECCC — one of 11 college cycling conferences — comprises over 70 east coast schools ranging from McGill University in Canada down to the University of Delaware. This race is of particular importance to the competitors because it counts towards qualifying for the collegiate cycling nationals.
Aiko Takata ’21 spoke to the team’s hard work in preparation for this race.
“Everyone’s pretty dedicated, everyone rides inside,” she said. “They all have trainers for their bike on or they go to the gym and go on a spin bike, so the season really is never over.”
The hard work paid off, as the team saw strong performances in each category. The highlight of the day came in the Men’s A criterium in which Ethan Call TH ’19 took first place for the second consecutive year with a time of 59:00 on the 26.6-mile course. Jack Greene ’20 finished three seconds behind Call for a 15th-place finish.
Another impressive performer was Katharine Ogden ’21, who won the Women’s B criterium by four seconds. Dartmouth also placed top cyclists in the Men’s B and Men’s C criteriums in which Alexander Pelton ’19 finished eighth in B and Kieran Ahern ’21 finished third in C. Takata sped to second place in the Women’s C criterium and Catherine Rocchi ’19, competing in her first ever criterium, likewise finished second in the Women’s D category.
Unlike most college sports, where athletes compete exclusively as a team or as an individual, cyclists race for both individual and team points to win their conference and qualify for nationals in addition to winning their own individual categories. Dartmouth cyclist Zachary Berkow ’20 described this dynamic succinctly.
“It’s an individual sport that can’t be won without a team,” he said.
Cycling also is not recognized by the NCAA and is instead run through USA Cycling. Berkow said that this allows for a best of both worlds situation in which, while the commitment and intensity levels may not be quite as high, it opens the door for a greater breadth of athletes from all skill levels to race and work towards competing in the A category and ultimately qualify for nationals. Berkow explained how this makes the sport more inclusive.
“You could come to the cycling team, show up with a bike, and say, ‘I want to come race tomorrow,’ and you could race,” he said.
Takata spoke to the team’s hard work in preparing for this weekend’s race.
“Everyone on the team trains almost every single day,” she said. “Usually in the winter time, we have team spin two times a week where we have a trainer who writes us some plans, a professional, and then everyone does their own thing on all the other days.”
Berkow described how the team prepares for its spring season.
“For spring break, we do a two-week training trip where we race mountains in North Carolina, and in those two weeks we’ll do anywhere between 550 to 700 miles over 10 to 14 days,” he said.
The Dartmouth cycling team’s dedication to the sport shows on and off the race track, as Takata explained the behind-the-scenes work that goes into putting on a race.
“It involves a lot of work with the town, because we need a lot of permits to be able to even have the race, and then it requires cooperation from [Hanover Police] and the school for shutting down half the streets and everything and Safety and Security,” she said. “And then we’ve also had a lot of community members involved in the race, so that means all the people that are working are volunteering and it’s all day. There’s a lot, a lot of planning and the hardest part is working with the town.”
The cycling team looks to build off its strong performance as it shifts its focus toward the Shippensburg Scurry in Pennsylvania next weekend, followed by the ECCC Championships on April 27. Those who qualify for nationals will compete the weekend of May 9.
Correction appended (April 9, 2019): The original version of this article misidentified Takata's gender, and has been corrected to reflect this. The original article also used results from a secondary race in the event. The article has been updated to reflect results from the Frat Row criterium races, which were the main races for the event.