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ISSUE 119 VOL 20 PUBLISHED 5/12/2006

Cigs and cycles: Team competes, dominates

By April Wright
Staff Writer

Friday, May 12, 2006

Fancy hotels? Travel expenses paid? Meet entry costs covered? Not for the St. Olaf Cycling Team. This group of racers has been winning at meets despite their paltry funding and lack of school support.

Competitive cycling is something at which the team is very good. Team members Steph Thompson '09 and Sarah Egler '07 earned first and second place, respectively, at the women's race at the Division II Conference. As a result, Thompson is bound for nationals.

The men on the team won the honor of Division II Fastest Team Time Trial in the Conference. Finn Kolsrud ‘07 took first in the Lincoln Plating Stage Race, and placed third in Division II Conference road race. Brandon Krawczyk ‘09 earned first in the Lincoln Plating Circuit race and first in the North Central Collegiate Cycling Conference Road Race. Peter Halquist '07 took third in Division II Conference criterium. Team member Jake Boyce ‘09 is also having a successful year racing in Europe.

“We've done a lot better than we ever thought we would this season. As a team, we dominated our conference in Division II,” Kolsrud said.

The St. Olaf team feels that their devotion to the sport gives them an edge over many of the other local teams. In reference to the Carleton team, Team Driver Brian Baur ‘08 said, “They don't even finish their races.”

When the St. Olaf team faced up against Carleton in a race, the Oles showed their true mettle. Even though the Carls had rested after not finishing their previous race, and Halquist, Krawczyk and Kolsrud were exhausted after racing all day, the Carleton team lost by about 40 seconds. Kolsrud called this feat “one of the season's highlights.”

The team is careful not to brag, since they are part of a network of cyclists that reaches across the country, and bragging would alienate them from that network. “It's a subculture. You just go stay at their houses,” Kolsrud said. For example, the St. Olaf French House played host to visiting cyclist Mike Blahut earlier this year.

“There has to be mutual trust,” Halquist said.

It's lucky for the team that this national cycling community exists; without it, the team would have a hard time attending meets.

The cyclists received a measly $300 from St. Olaf to cover their expenses. “This amount barely covers the gas used to get to the races and it unquestionably does not cover the racing fees,” Baur said.

“We're out there wearing the St. Olaf colors at high visibility events,” Halquist said, reflecting the team’s sense that the school has more or less abandoned them, a problem owing, at least partially, to the fact that the team is in a transitional phase between being a club and being a club sport.

The team's inadequate funding situation has spawned some legendary stories. One such circulating rumor is that the team pays Baur in cigarettes.

There is truth to that story. This past year, the team had a meet in North Dakota, and with no way to get there, Kolsrud offered Baur an expenses-paid trip if he would be willing to drive the team to the meet. To sweeten the deal, he even tossed in a carton of cigarettes.

Baur agreed. Originally, the team thought they would be sleeping in a retired meth lab.

Fortunately, this was not the case, and instead the cyclists spent the night in a fairly normal home. They are willing to “live hand-to-mouth because they love racing,” Baur said.

This devotion to the sport and perservering ethic is enough to put them in the Ole cycling history books. But, Kolsrud had one final note to strengthen their legendary status: “We carry a pirate flag wherever we go; it sort of represents our team.”

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