Cycling club takes conference title

Although the Carnegie Mellon cycling team is a young, small, and underfunded club team, it boasts three top Division II (D2) riders and a conference championship title that rivals any of the Tartans’ varsity teams’ successes.

In mid-October, the cycling team beat out 29 teams to win the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC) D2 Mountain Bike Championships, hosted by the University of Massachusetts–Amherst. The Tartans beat out St. Michael’s College of Burlington, Vt., by three points, 343–340, to win the title.

The cycling club won three races throughout the fall season, including the conference championships, and three Carnegie Mellon riders earned individual honors. Senior Julie Schonefeld was the top women’s ‘A’ D2 mountain bike rider. Junior Charlie Patterson was the top men’s ‘B’ D2 rider, and junior Aaron Hoy was the top men’s ‘C’ D2 rider.
The ECCC is divided into Division I and Division II teams. Any school with less than 15,000 students is considered to be Division II.

Riders are ranked on competitiveness, with ‘A’ riders being the most competitive and ‘C’ riders being the least competitive.

The ECCC stretches from Maine to Pennsylvania, and Carnegie Mellon lies in the southwestern corner of the conference area. This means that Carnegie Mellon riders pile into cars and travel up to 13 hours to race.
Heavy recruiting and extra funding helped the Carnegie Mellon cycling team to go through a facelift this year. The team went from three riders attending a couple events last year to 10 riders attending a half dozen mountain biking races this year.

Riders vary in skill level from those who have never raced to riders who have a lot of racing experience. While the team does not hold daily practice, it is common for the riders to go on weekend rides together.

The cycling season is divided into fall mountain biking and spring road racing. There are four events in mountain biking: cross country (XC), short-track cross country (STXC), dual slalom (DS), and downhill (DH).

XC is a traditional endurance race; riders race from point A to point B, with the first rider finishing the course winning the race. STXC is a track approximately a quarter-mile in length through the woods; the person who completes the most laps within the allotted time, usually 20 to 25 minutes, wins.

DS is a gravity race, set on a slalom course with gates and jumps similar to slalom skiing. DH is an extreme gravity event in which riders, outfitted in full body armor, take a ski lift to the top of a mountain and ride to the bottom over three-foot drops.

Most riders either specialize in endurance or gravity events, although some compete in both. The races take place over a weekend, with XC and DS events on Saturday and STXC and DH events on Sunday. There is usually a banquet or party for the teams on Saturday night.

“Everyone’s friendly,” said senior Michael Cruz, the club’s president.

“There is rivalry, but no animosity between teams,” Patterson added.

The national championships this year were held in New Mexico. Both Schonefeld and Patterson qualified, but they did not have the funds or transportation to attend.

While the ECCC fall season has come to a close, riders can keep busy throughout the winter riding in local races. The spring cycling season picks up again in March.

If you are interested in joining the cycling club, please send an e-mail to