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The Pleasure and Pain of Cycling for Yale
From September through April, in rain, snow, sleet, and fog, the members of the Yale cycling team bike the streets of New Haven, Hamden, Cheshire, North Haven, Branford, Guilford and beyond, about 50 miles a day, usually six days a week. Only when the baseline temperature drops below 20 degrees do they stay indoors, hitch their bikes to a trainer—which suspends a bike’s back wheel off the ground while allowing it to spin freely—and pedal their daily 50 miles in their dorm rooms and apartments. After six months of nothing but training, the competitive season begins in March and culminates in the Eastern championships in late April, followed by a trip to the national tournament for some of Yale’s best riders.
But no one joins Yale Cycling—a club sport run entirely by students—solely for competitive reasons. Riders speak of how spending so much of their time on a bicycle gives them a rich knowledge of and feeling for the New Haven area—as well as the thrill that comes from whizzing down the highway in a tight cluster as cars roar past.
“You are kind of naked out there and anything can happen.”
Dave Hobson, a student at the environment school and the captain of the men’s team, likes to describe the different sorts of sunsets he has witnessed from the top of East Rock after a ride. In his view, riding involves a communion of sorts with the beauty of the world. But talk with him long enough and Hobson will also tell you about the constant, nerve-jangling awareness that, when pedaling along with his Yale teammates, he is always one false move away from a wreck. In fact, he says, college road races of 40 to 70 miles can sometimes include as many as six crashes before anyone crosses the finish line.
“It’s just part of the whole risk-versus-reward thing that you have to think about,” says Hobson. “You are kind of naked out there and anything can happen.”
This year, on the last Saturday of February, one of the final training days before the racing season began, Hobson had one of those “anything can happen” days. It was the first pleasant day of the new year, 40 degrees and sunny, so a big group—20-some cyclists, including Hobson—came out for a 70-mile trek through the Connecticut suburbs, mostly along Route 17 north and east of the city.
About 13 miles out of town, as they were riding in two long lines, a couple of riders ahead of Hobson overlapped wheels and slowed suddenly, causing a chain reaction. “I went down,” he remembers, “and then while I was sitting in the road, two or three guys who had been going along behind plowed into me.”
Hobson had gashes in his leg and back. His ankle swelled. And he had muscle pain in his back that ended up bothering him for weeks afterward and forced him to miss a couple of races.
But ultimately, he says, such things are “common” in cycling and you can’t let them stop you. So Hobson got up off the pavement, made sure his bike was in decent working order, and then told the rest of the team to continue without him. He made the 45-minute trip back to New Haven on his own.
“I didn’t want any of them to have to babysit me,” he recalled. “So they just kept on cruising. I mean, you know, it was such a great day.”
Eli Broadcast Team Goes to “Frozen Four”
The men’s hockey team was knocked out in the first round of the East Coast Athletic Conference playoffs this season, but the Bulldogs' radio team of Ron Vaccaro '04 and Will Conroy '04 advanced deep into the postseason.
“They are much more professional than you'd expect from college students.”
The pair was named by the ECAC as the official radio broadcast team of its Men’s Hockey Championship weekend in Albany, and traveled to Providence to call the NCAA Women’s National Championship one week later. It was a fine end to the four-year partnership of Vaccaro and Conroy, who became beloved staples of the Ingalls Rink press box while covering the team for WYBC-AM, the student-run radio station. Play-by-play announcer Vaccaro called every Eli game this season, traveling with the team as far as Denver and North Dakota.
The 12-19 Bulldogs earned home ice in the playoffs, but dropped two wrenching—albeit thrilling—overtime first-round games to St. Lawrence. “This year it was easily the most intense and dramatic on-ice series there was,” says Vaccaro. Conroy, an All-Ivy center for the football team, says the chance to do the women’s “Frozen Four” was thrilling. “It was the national championship, so the stakes were raised for everyone, including us,” he said.
With vast hockey knowledge and meticulous game preparation, the pair has earned the respect of players, coaches, and fans. “I don’t get a chance to listen, but I have had the opportunity to get interviewed,” says hockey captain Vin Hellemeyer '04. “They are much more professional than you'd expect from college students.”
In their four years together, the two have survived more than their share of technical difficulties and travel fiascos. “Driving to rinks is half the battle,” Conroy says. Adds Vaccaro: “We’ve had Mapquest directions to roads that didn’t exist.”
But in their postseason duties, their biggest challenge was remaining objective as the Harvard men made their way to the ECAC finals. “It’s always tough to broadcast Harvard winning,” says Conroy.