Feature: Durham University Cycling Club
The stunning views and picturesque scenes of Durham gradually become the background of students’ daily routines, as the weeks, terms and years of our degree courses go by.
The majority of this city’s inhabitants only tend to glimpse the surrounding countryside through the window of a stuffy train carriage or packed car at 10-week intervals.
The committed members of Durham University Cycling Club (DUCC) can claim to know this area better than the rest, often escaping the bubble by at least thirty miles and returning by lunchtime, having seen more of the North East than most students will in 3 years.
An interview with DUCC’s ‘exec’ allowed me to discover various weird and impressive things about this group of wandering, competitive sportspeople.
Amongst all the ‘University sport club’ dialects, theirs is the second hardest to understand, behind that of those other lycra-wearing, ‘cox-boxing’, ‘rigger-jiggering’ rowers.
Leg shaving is a safety precaution for male cyclists apparently (although they were not so easily able to excuse the use of muscle-enhancing oil).
DUCC harbours a National Junior Track-Cycling Champion, Rob Lambton (Josephine Butler).
Most notably, however, DUCC receives a budget of less than £1000, but so far in the 2011/12 season has contributed more BUCS points (96) to the University’s tally of 2944.5 than Durham University Netball Club (93) and only three less than Durham University Fencing Club (99).
To contextualise this fact, netball and fencing are both classified as “tier 1 performance” sports by Team Durham and consequently the clubs enjoy full-time coaching staff.
The University fencers have also recently gained a world-class fencing suite through Team Durham’s recent investment of £6.7 million into the facilities at Maiden Castle.
On the other hand, the Cycling Club is entirely student-led and it receives minimal funding and no coaching support.
Club President, Matt Wilson (Van Mildert), stressed that Team Durham often displays a lack of interest in the Club by regularly fumbling reports of the club’s impressive results.
Palatinate Sport can report that the Men’s and Women’s teams won silver and gold medals respectively in the BUCS Road Cycling Hill Climb, with siblings Holly and Ben Page (both Collingwood) claiming individual silver medals each.
At the BUCS Team Time Trial (an event that involves teams of three cyclists tactically slip-streaming their way as quickly as possible along a 30 mile course) the Women’s team won silver medals again, while the Men’s team was struck by ill-fortune when one team member got a puncture for his efforts.
The BUCS Individual Ten Mile Time Trial was the proudest moment of the season for Andy Miles (Men’s Road Cycling Captain), “seeing the rowing convert, Matt Rossiter (St. Cuthbert’s), beating all riders except a semi-professional”.
Consequently Durham University are third in the BUCS Cycling League behind Birmingham and Cambridge.
DUCC has also climbed to the top of the North-East Regional Club Road and Track Cycling League, which sees them compete against non-University cyclists.
Miles (St Aidan’s) stated that this is a distinguishing feature of DUCC amongst its university counterparts: “the fact that we also get involved in local and regional events adds an extra dimension to our riders’ ability and their experience of sport at Durham University.”
Their success requires outstanding core fitness levels and a certain degree of masochism (which perhaps explains the recent influx of five ex- University rowers to the club).
Along with “social rides”, the top competitors often go out for sixty-plus mile rides into some of Britain’s hilliest countryside.
Katharine Broadbent (Hild Bede), commented, “Cycling does not attract many women and it only tends to be those with a certain type of determined character”.
Then again, Team Durham’s mantra is, “Allowing exceptional people to do exceptional things”.
While DUCC has to fight especially hard for its achievements, with little support coming from Team Durham, at least it can mount its efforts while exploring the hills, valleys and towns beyond Durham City.