Biking is a popular activity in Burlington, VT — for students and locals alike. Bikes are a great way to get around the city, stay healthy, and reduce your carbon footprint all at at once. This isn’t all that bikes are used for, though. A group of students within the UVM community take biking to the next level: the UVM Cycling Team.
This group is student run and student funded, which is impressive considering they compete (and win) both regionally and nationally. Self-described as being “Iconoclastic. Ostentatious. Egregious. A force of nature,” their website boasts: “We wear our hearts on our sleeves, and our jorts short enough to risk public exposure.” Despite being a fun-loving, tight knit group of athletes, competitive cycling is no joke.
“Racing professionally is hard, short-lived, and means living paycheck to paycheck and couch surfing,” admitted Sam Damphousse, who previously held the roles of social media chair, sponsorship coordinator, vice president, and president for UVM Cycling. Enjoying his last year as a cycling team member, Damphousse reminisces on his start as a competitive cyclist.
“I started competing when I was a sophomore in high school. My first race ever was funny. There are under 18 gear restrictions I had no clue about. I got about halfway through the race and ended up crashing and just riding back in the follow car, only to realize that I would have been disqualified anyways.”
The biggest mistake you can make when training for a race? “Quit early because it hurts. Workouts are supposed to be hard,” said Damphousse. “The more you can push yourself while training, the harder and faster you can go when you are racing.”
Hard and fast the races are indeed. Damphousse’s worst biking injury resulted in 15 facial sutures and a concussion. But if risk of injury doesn’t stop these bike enthusiasts, nothing will.
“[Cycling is] an escape from reality. It calms my mind and just puts everything into the right light for me,” said Damphousse, who became interested in cycling as a young child. According to him, the best thing to do while training for a race is to “Enjoy it. The whole of it. If you aren’t there because you enjoy it, then you shouldn’t be racing. It’s a sport that is easy to burn yourself out on so just make sure you’re enjoying yourself.”
Furthermore, cycling has opened doors to even more opportunities and career paths for Damphousse. Currently studying psychology, advertising, and graphic design, Damphousse plans on going into the design side of the cycling industry. This could entail working on apparel, creating the paint schemes for bikes, or just overarching product design.
“Most of my friends are racers, and racing has provided me with most of my professional contacts and shaped me into who I am,” said Damphousse.
If you are interested in learning more about the UVM Cycling Team, general meetings are held on Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. in the Davis Center Mount Mansfield room.