Riders from the Air Force Academy cycling club are seen from behind as they are half way through a 90-mile training ride in Arizona. USA Cycling has chosen the team as their Collegiate Cycling Club of the Year. (Cadet 3rd Class William Gates / Air Force)
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Front Row: Lt. Sprint Clegg, Capt. Justin Martin, Saul Raisin, Cadet 1st Class Preston Moon, Capt. Barton Boma, Cadet 3rd Class William Gates, Cadet 4th Class Christina England. Back Row: Retired Col. Walter Daniels, Cadet 1st Class Ryan Lowenstein, Cadet 2nd Class Harris Butler, Maj. Jim Weinstein, Cadet 2nd Class Alan Fischer, Cadet 4th Class Nathan Seibt, Cadet 1st Class Steve Pingree, Cadet 3rd Class Judith Li, Cadet 2nd Class Joe Grimm, Cadet 1st Class Trevor Johnson, Cadet 1st Class Derek Merkler and Cadet 1st Class Courtney Rehwoldt. (Cadet 3rd Class William Gates / Air Force)
The weather was warm and sunny, but the Air Force Academy cadets who gathered in Arizona recently were not on vacation unless you count riding between 80 and 115 miles a day as vacation.
"Instead of spending time with family and friends, they're spending some time down here in pain and agony," said Maj. Jim Weinstein, the officer in charge of the academy cycling club, which held a training camp near Davis-Monthan Air Force Base the week after Christmas.
That pain and agony was tempered somewhat by a piece of good news: USA Cycling had chosen them as their Collegiate Cycling Club of the Year.
"The team put together a great nomination package" but didn't expect to win, Weinstein said. "It was a real surprise to me and the cadets."
The award recognizes the cadets' leadership activities and training programs as well as their 32 wins.
The team holds weekly meetings about nutrition and race tactics, brings in professional cyclists to speak, and runs a "Borrow a Bike" program to get new riders behind handlebars. Since more than 90 percent of members arrive at the academy with no racing experience, cadets have to mentor new riders to keep the team going, Weinstein said.
"Three years ago, there were only 12 members," he said. The club now has 40.
The leadership lessons come on the road as well as off, Weinstein said.
"It teaches teamwork in an abstract way. With a cycling race, it's very fluid. The leader changes ... the tactics have to change."