The University of Oregon cycling team has been skewed toward a large number of male members. Last year, there were only two women who consistently competed in races and it prevented them from taking advantage of the team aspect of the sport. In races, men and women compete separately, so the women found themselves alone on the course.
“It was very fend for yourself,” cycling women’s coordinator Sophie Andrews said about competing last year. “There is a huge component of racing that involves team effort and being able to pull each other through races.”
This year, things are different thanks to a large influx of women riders. The breakdown of the club is five women and five men — a balance that had been rare to find at Oregon.
Cycling can be a tough sport to recruit new members due to high participation costs. Equipment alone makes a big dent in a bank account. This often keeps many who are on the edge from participating.
“The fact that we have so many women on the team is almost completely random,” club captain John Morehouse said.
One of the newest members is Amanda Morris, a graduate student at UO. She decided to join despite that she has never raced competitively before. She plans to rely on her experience in mountain biking and cycling recreationally.
“I just moved here in August, so I thought it would be a good way to meet people,” Morris said.
Morris has been training daily since winter break in preparation for the season opener in March. She tries to ride outdoors everyday, though sometimes the wet Eugene weather forces her to settle on using a stationary bike.
Once a week, Morris joins some of her new teammates on rides.
“It’s fun because a lot of the times during our rides we socialize,” Morris said. “Even if it’s a hard ride it takes your mind off of it.”
Forming a rapport with one another is crucial for success in a sport that is surprisingly team oriented. Having teammates riding with you can be a huge boost, both mentally and physically. Moral support is key when pushing through the final stretch of a long race, while being able to draft during competitions creates a huge tactical advantage.
In cycling, drafting is when one person sits behind the wheel of another using their body to reduce the overall drag. This greatly reduces the energy needed to maintain speed. A team uses this tactic to leapfrog each other during a race, taking turns resting.
Now, the women’s team can take advantage of their increased numbers.
“My goals for the team would be for us to all really learn how to work together,” Andrews said. “Bonding on and off the bike.”
All in all, a balance between the genders can only be a good thing for Oregon cycling.
“I think a lot of times in cycling programs in the states, the women are in the shadow of men,” Morehouse said. “What we really want to do is offer a 100 percent equal sport for the women, and make it known that we support women’s cycling.”
Follow Christopher Keizur on Twitter @chriskeizur