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The Battalion

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The Battalion

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Texas A&M cycling adapts, grows during pandemic

TAMU+Cycling
via @tamucycling Instagram
TAMU Cycling

The Texas A&M cycling team is trying to make the best of its current, unusual situation while increasing participation in the sport.
The fall mountain biking season is canceled, and the spring road biking season is currently “up in the air,” sophomore team officer Ryan Kerch said. Nationals are tentatively scheduled for May 2021. Usually the team would compete in four mountain races and five or six road races, but, despite the uncertainty of the upcoming season, Kerch said he is remaining hopeful.
“I am hoping that with the Tour de France, the Giro, Vuelta a Espana going on, collegiate road cycling can go back to where it was before,” Kerch said. “Maybe with some restrictions, but that we are still able to race at the end of the day.”
The team was only able to compete in three races during the spring road season before the pandemic began, and the Aggies could no longer participate in group rides, graduate member Morris “Tripp” Camp said.
“Communication took a hit [after last season’s cancellation],” Camp said.
To comply with university and CDC COVID-19 regulations, the team has a plan that will allow them to practice by riding in “cohorts.” This means each team member is assigned to a cohort, and they are only allowed to ride with other members of that cohort. While practicing with their groups, cyclists are still required to social distance, wear face coverings and have their temperatures checked prior to practice.
Kerch said the team hasn’t had any COVID-19-related incidents thus far.
“We follow the Rec’s rule and just generally we are trying to be safe,” Kerch said. “We have to put other rules in place in addition to Rec rules.”
Since the start of the semester, Camp said the team’s membership has increased about 50 percent. Kerch attributes the increase in membership to people looking for ways to spend time outdoors while following health guidelines.
“Team and member involvement have been at an all time high,” Kerch said. “I’m not sure if COVID has people out riding their bikes more or if the team is just functioning better.”
Due to the current lack of competitive races, team members are focused on increasing participation within the team. The team officers’ mission is to grow the team in both passion and camaraderie, Kerch said.
While the team typically recruits over social media or through high school mountain biking conferences, Tripp said they are also hoping to eventually host a ride in College Station to raise awareness for the team.
The team currently has between 40 and 60 members, including those who don’t race competitively, and is still looking for people who are interested in riding two or three times a week, Kerch said.
“When you post things about cycling, people you go to college with see it and it piques their interest,” Kerch said. “That’s how a couple of members got some more involvement over the summer and coming into the school year.”
Junior member Ryker Richardson has been a member of the team since his freshman year, and said he has loved it ever since. Richardson said he loves being able to compete for A&M, as well as the teamwork the club fosters.
With events mainly being on the road, the members of the cycling team spend a lot of time together, bonding as a team. Former team president and current sponsor Mike Roberson said some of the people he met on the team are still his friends to this day. He described cycling as “a very social sport.”
Kerch’s ultimate goal is to finish in the top 5 at the U23 national individual time trials for Great Britain. Kerch saide wants to move up from the B to the A category by the end of the season.
“[My] favorite part of being on the team is the racing and the travelling together,” Kerch said. “It’s all [about] cycling.”
While cycling relies on the individual performance, the team aspect is also an important part of the sport, Camp said. Cycling events are a combination of individual and team results from races in the three categories, A, B and C, with A being the most competitive group.
“While cycling is an individual sport, if you do it right it can be a team sport,” Camp said.

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