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Championship cycling team 

Cal's cycling team cruises to national title
6 June 2002

By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs

Spring was a banner season for Cal's sports program, with the rugby, softball and crew teams all bringing home national championships. Amid the media blitz and hoopla, though, was another compelling victory that didn't draw much attention: Cal's cycling team also clinched a national collegiate championship.

As a self-supporting team, the group usually doesn't get much press attention. But last month the cyclists scored a first for Berkeley: they won the overall team title and several individual titles at the National Collegiate Cycling Road Race in Vermont.

That's quite a feat, given the group's self-sufficiency. Unlike Cal's football, basketball, or swimming programs, they receive no financial support from the university.

Teams members paid for the trip to the finals out of their own pockets, made hotel and transportation arrangements, and relied on each other for advice and motivation, since they can't afford a coach.

"It was tough to stay focused on the race," said environmental engineering major Kate Maher, "because we had to take care of all these details ourselves."

This rag-tag bunch went wheel-to-wheel with schools boasting fully funded programs, high-tech equipment, coaching staff, administrative support, scouts and scholarships.

Grueling practices

For three grueling days, the Berkeley riders sprinted around tight corners, trudged up steep inclines and pedaled long distances over treacherous terrain. The threat of flat tires, stripped gears, injuries, accidents and exhaustion hung over them throughout the race; but a little luck and expert preparation pulled them through.

"We received a map of the course in January and saw a hill that looked a lot like one here, up above the campus," said Lance Doherty, a graduate electrical engineering student. "So we decided then we'd climb it three times a week to get ready."

When they first started, Doherty said they could barely reach the peak. But by early May, the group was cruising uphill with ease.

"Our members devote anywhere from 10 to 20 hours a week training," said Maher. "We have to be out there every day, even if it's cold and rainy, to stay in top shape."

While many were surprised by Cal's accomplishment - Berkeley's last appearance at the finals was in 1991 - team members never wavered in their commitment to win the title.

"Whenever I set a goal, I write it on a post-it note and tack it to my bathroom mirror," Doherty said. "I decided last year that we were going to win this spring, so I put it on the mirror and looked at it everyday for inspiration."

'Hungry' for victory

"Last year, we had to sit back and watch as UC Davis cruised the winners lap in their championship jerseys," said Anya Hinkle, an integrative biology major. "I think that made us hungry."

Their appetite for victory made for an impressive showing at the tournament, which consists of three races: the Criterium, a fast-paced, 50-minute sprint around city blocks; the Road Race, a 65-mile endurance test; and the Team Time Trial, where four riders work together to come up with the fastest group time.

The combined points of Berkeley's men's and women's squads, each with five members, put them at the head of the pack. And then it was Cal's turn to don the championship jerseys for the winners lap.

While the team is still basking in the glow of the victory, they're already steering toward the future.

"We hope this title will encourage new talent to come to Berkeley," said Maher. "We want to continue this tradition of winning."

Cal cycling team
The Cal cycling team in action during the National Collegiate Cycling Road Race in Vermont