Cycling, connection, community

Cyclist Victoria Jansen races against an opponent in the Women’s A Criterium at WWU in Bellingham, Wash.

Erin Ford, News Contributor

OSU Cycling Club provides outlet for students to learn cycling, connect with teammates.

Climbing up mountains and speeding down narrow roads, the Cycling Club at Oregon State University currently leads the Northwest Collegiate Cycling Conference as the end of race season approaches.

The Cycling Club has created a supportive and connected environment open to all who want to ride around the scenic Northwest.

Victoria Jansen, the Cycling Club president, is on her way to nationals this year, but still remembers how it all began on her first group ride. 

“I showed up with my commuter which was a pink steel frame with a flower basket on the front and panniers on the back,” Jansen said.

Even as a beginner she was welcomed into the club, an atmosphere still present today.

Sean Hollenbeck, a second-year graduate student studying civil engineering, said the club and sport has a welcoming nature. 

“I think some people think, ‘Oh I need all of this equipment,’ but if you have a bike and you show up for rides it’s pretty easy to pick up and learn how to do well,” Hollenbeck said.

The club offers group rides every weekend, one of which is geared towards beginners, with the option of racing during the spring, Jansen said. Group rides resume at the end of May and increase over the fall as the preparations for the next season begin.

While it is not mandatory to race, for Hollenbeck, races offer him the most growth as a rider. Not having done any serious cycling before joining the club, he felt that in just one race weekend he knew more about cycling than any other sport he had ever done.

“In one weekend, I think last year, I went from complete beginner to actually knowing how to attack and do all these different things in races that before I was just completely unaware how to do,” Hollenbeck said, citing the advice of his teammates and expertise of the club’s coach as reasons for his success.

For Jansen, the significance of the club all comes back to the community and the close-knit environment. 

“In high school I didn’t really have a solid group of friends or some group that I felt a part of, and the club really gave me that,” Jansen said.

Dr. Erica Woekel, director of Lifetime Fitness for Health at OSU, feels that club sports are great platforms for building the kinds of connections necessary to be happy in college. She believes that the blood, sweat and tears of athletic activities forge strong, unique relationships between teammates.

“People just develop a different type of connection or encouragement that you might not be able to develop in a classroom setting or in a dorm room setting,” Woekel said.

These kinds of connections and friendships are what Hollenbeck has found as a member of the club. 

“I came to OSU and I didn’t know anyone and that was kind of terrifying, and joining the Cycling Club I had 10 of my best friends immediately,” Hollenbeck said.

Woekel said dedication to a club can create a sense of connection to the activity itself.

 “It’s not just what I do, it’s who I am,” Woekel said.

The physical activity, the sport, the community and the opportunities all motivated Jansen to be an active member of the club. She is committed to making sure more students have access to cycling, which includes providing rental equipment and education about the sport.

“One of the reasons we’re so successful this year and in our conference is because of that huge education piece that we teach people,” Jansen said. “We teach people how to race. We teach people how to be successful on the bike.”

The openness to newcomers and the emphasis on the education of riders is one of the reasons the team has been doing so well, Hollenbeck said. 

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