‘Friars on Tires’ gets the bike rolling
Led by founding member Thomas Barnett ’16, the PC Men’s Cycling Team participated in eight weekend competitions and finished ranked 25th of 57 teams in its conference in its first season.
Providence College’s club Cycling Team kicked into high gear this spring in its first season of competition.
Started in fall 2013 by founding member Thomas Barnett ’16 (Freehold, N.J.), the team participated in eight weekend competitions and hosted the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC) Championship.
As a freshman, Barnett competed independently in the ECCC because PC did not have a team. He worked with Dr. Stephen A. Sears, associate vice president and dean of students; Kristine C. Goodwin, vice president for student affairs; Edward F. Laprey, director of recreational sports; and Christopher Schmidt, assistant director of recreational sports, to establish a team this year.
Known as “Friars on Tires,” the team consisted of seven students and was supervised by Dr. Gary M. Culpepper, associate professor of theology, who shares a passion for cycling.
In search of funding, team members found sponsors in Champion System clothing, Blissful Eats healthy snacks, and Providence Bicycle. Members continued to cut transportation and equipment costs by selling Friars’ cycling apparel in preparation for the season.
The collegiate cycling season occurs in the spring, during which teams compete every weekend for eight weeks before the championship races. Competitions are divided into four racing categories for men and women: A, B, C, and D. There is also a fifth “intro” category to help beginners transition to racing. Here, conference coaches ride alongside the beginners, coaching them on tactics during the first half of the race, before letting them compete on their own the last half.
Barnett, a long-time racer and the team’s president, had many years of riding experience, but none of his teammates had any. Two of the biggest challenges the team faced were learning how to race and how to handle a bike in competition, he said. However, the team quickly learned from its weekly rides and from racing skills practices. He said they also learned to trust each other — they ate meals together and bonded off the bike.
Quick strides for newcomers
Friars on Tires’ training was evident. At the opening race, and the first race of his competitive cycling career, Liam Sullivan ’15 (Eastchester, N.Y.) won both races in which he competed in the D category, clinching PC’s first-ever victories. Barnett also won two A races during the season.
“We accomplished so much as a team,” said Sullivan, the team’s vice president. “I could have competed on my own, but to be able to do it together, to help each other and motivate each other, is extraordinary.”
After winning their bid to serve as hosts the PC, Brown University, and Rhode Island School of Design cycling teams collaborated to organize the ECCC Championship in Providence in April. Often riding with other collegiate cyclists, the Providence student-cyclists share a strong friendship, said Barnett, noting that the cooperation and camaraderie that resulted was “huge for us as a school and as a city,” said Barnett.
Of the 12 races it competed in at the championship event, PC Cycling ended with eight top-three finishes. At season’s end, Providence College ranked 25 out of 57 teams in the ECCC.
After the ECCC Championship, Barnett qualified for and competed in the Division II National Championship, placing ninth in the time trial race. He is now competing in professional-level competitions in the collegiate offseason.
“I love racing,” he said, “but I love watching the team. I relive learning the sport and fall in love with it all over again. Through their victories, I win much more than I could on my own.”
Looking forward to next season, Friars on Tires hopes to add a women’s team and continue to hone its competitive edge in the conference.
— Nick Tavares ’16
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