Cyclists take to the road in Saturday’s campus exhibition
“I won my category. I think I was 40 seconds ahead of the field at most,” he said. “That was my first race ever, so I guess it went all right.”
Horvath, a member of the cycling team, won the men’s “C” division race at the Princeton Stadium Classic, the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Circuit’s (ECCC) season opener, on Saturday.
While Horvath’s experience may make a particularly interesting story, it was only one of many from Saturday.
Race promoter senior Brian Holmes explained that he believed Saturday’s race had “the biggest turnout in collegiate cycling history, with well over 500 riders.”
Teams from as far away as McGill University in Montreal, Canada, brought cyclers to the event.
With 10 divisions — three for Princeton community members, and seven for the collegiate racers — this year’s race was a resounding success, Holmes added.
The event was a long time in planning, Holmes and graduate student Nick Bennette, the other race promoter, said, adding that they had been in talks with administrators and town representatives to organize the event.
“I’ve spent more [time] on this than on my thesis,” Holmes said. “I had to contact people and convince them that bike racing was something they should be supporting.”
Organizing the race was a logistical challenge, Holmes added. “We run a race almost every year, but we haven’t had a race on campus in about six years. It’s hard to shut down roads … This year, we had a really supportive club sports director, so we are looking to re-establish this as a tradition.”
Holmes explained that he was not optimistic about the event the weekend before it began.
“We were a little worried because only last weekend, we had only six [non-collegiate racers] signed up, and people were worried about the weather,” he said. “But it turned out that it was warm, so about 60 people turned up.”
To ensure community involvement, the promoters persuaded Small World Coffee, Booster Juice, Triumph Brewing Company, the Terra Momo Restaurant Group and Bent Spoon to sponsor the race and supply prizes for the non-collegiate events.
Bennette said that the support of the community contributed to the race’s success. He said he expected the race to be one of the highlights of his season.
“The biggest … single factor was having people in the town come out. Their support and participation was one of the reasons that [our race] will be on the top of the list,” he said.
He added that the organization on race day was nearly impeccable. “I didn’t think I was going to be able to race,” he said. “It turned out that things were so well run … [They] were running themselves, and I was able to do the course, and it was great.”
Another reason for the event’s success and potentially for the race’s continued success, Holmes said, is the breadth of opportunities for college racers like Horvath to find their racing niche.
In addition to the elite men’s and women’s “A” divisions — senior Nick Frey finished first on the men’s side — the Princeton Stadium Classic hosted men’s “B,” “C” and “D” races as well as a coeducational “Introduction to Racing” heat.
Horvath, who noted that until Saturday he had only raced mountain bikes, said he expected to race in the “B” category but was not allowed to because of his lack of experience.
“I was little angry,” he added. “So I made sure to prove I was a higher caliber rider.”
Horvath quickly separated himself from the pack, and he said he plans to race in the “B” category in the next race, and then in the “A” in the race after that.
If Horvath were to succeed, he would join Frey in the “A” division. Frey, who races professionally and said he plans to race full-time after graduation, has been racing since he was 14 years old.
Frey said in an e-mail that he uses “collegiate racing as an early-season indicator of my fitness as well as increased motivation to get into ‘race-form’. The races are also a blast because I have so many friends in the conference, and the pressure is far lower than in the super-fast professional events.”
“[I]t’s awesome to see so many new racers and athletes just getting into the sport,” Frey added. “I’ve grown to love bringing up new riders and showing them the beauty of cycling.”
Looking back on the weekend, Bennette said the race was certainly a positive experience for those involved.
“Having the town and the students out in such good spirits with a good course and good weather was really great,” he said. “With the familial and low-key atmosphere, it was a great way to kick off the season.”
Bennette, who has been participating in collegiate racing for seven years, said the weekend was a success, but he added that the cycling team’s “primary focus is nationals. We have done very well in the past couple of years, and we know we have a really good chance at winning the national championship.”
The team will travel to New York for a race at Columbia on Saturday before it competes in a race Sunday hosted by the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J.
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