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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • LV Times columnist: The case for a Catholic high school bike team

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  • If I were a local Catholic high school, I would be looking to field a bicycle racing team. It takes a lot fewer students to form a bicycle team than for some of the other team sports like football and basketball.
    Since at least some Catholic high schools are small in student numbers compared to public high schools, that might be an advantage for them is suiting up enough team members.
    Besides, a bicycle team can include both males and females, and there are also a number of bicycle racing events.
    For example, there is road racing, which is most exemplified by something like the Tour de France. There is also mountain bike racing, which is conducted on trails and dirt roads similar to forest service roads, and there are time trials, which are conducted on hard roads but over much smaller distances than road races.
    Road races can be stage races, which are usually point-to-point, or they can be done in multiple loops called a criterium race. The Kansas Criterium championships were sometimes hosted in downtown Leavenworth, encircling several blocks near Haymarket Square.
    Speaking of Leavenworth, the Santa Fe Trails Bicycle and Coffee Shop has been sporting a youth racing team for years and they have great experience to share in coaching a local team.
    A very popular form of bicycle racing is called gravel races and the most famous gravel grinder in the region is the Dirty Kansa 200, which is a 200-mile race on gravel roads in the Flint Hills, and it attracts tens of thousands of people to Emporia every year.
    The craziest races in which to participate and to watch are the Cyclo Cross races and most people just call them psycho cross because they are done in the early winter when it might be rain or snow followed by freezing temperatures that turn mud into slick clay. It is not unlikely that racers may be going as slow as 3 or 4 miles per hour, which makes it easy for spectators to watch. They also involve complex features like a steeplechase.
    The Kansas Cyclo Cross championships have sometimes been hosted at the University of Saint Mary campus. OK, that takes us back to one good reason why the Catholic school system should be hosting bicycle racing teams throughout the entire Kansas City metropolitan area. That is, if every Catholic high school sported a racing team and they hosted some of the events at USM, many of these kids might decide to race for USM and attend university there just like they do for soccer and volleyball, etc.
    The Catholic school system in the region should be able to support an entire league or conference around Kansas City, but headquartered at USM. Bicycling is not inexpensive, especially if you go with good jerseys, shorts, shoes, clip pedals, light weight bike, helmet, etc.
    Page 2 of 2 - On the other hand, one football helmet probably costs nearly as much as most of the bicycling gear and then you have to add pads, clothing, shoes, etc., and need a nice sports field on which to play, something most Catholic schools, like my former school, do not have.
    And, don't forget bicycling involves both guys and gals. The best argument for a bicycle racing team is that it is a sport that can be transferred to adult life, both as a leisure activity and as an actual amateur racing sport that can be done all year, even in the snow in sub-freezing weather on frozen mud.
    I have faith our Catholic schools will eventually have bicycle racing teams and I'll bet they may even learn to start them racing while they are still in grammar school so they are ready by the time they get to high school. And, since Leavenworth already has a youth racing team and coach at the bike shop, I think we would have an advantage over some of the other schools.

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