Collegiate Spotlight: All hands on deck at Belmont Abbey
While Belmont Abbey College might not have the largest collegiate cycling program, they certainly make up for what they lack in numbers in heart. In the program’s third year, they have 14 total riders, and Coach Derek Dalzell says that while they want to be the best team they can on the bike, it’s just as important for them to be the best team they can off the bike as well.
Located in Belmont, N.C., they are fortunate to be within 20 miles of the UCI certified track in Rock Hill, S.C., which might be why they are the defending Collegiate National Champions for the Match Sprint. As Dalzell looks towards the 2018 USA Cycling Collegiate Track National Championships, taking place September 13-16, 2018 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center Velodrome in Colorado Springs, Colo., he’s looking to not only bring home more medals, but also continue to develop that “all hands on deck” culture.
“Our riders not only take care of themselves, they take care of their teammates. With our small team and limited resources, they pride themselves in looking out for each other,” said Dalzell, “Last year at track nationals, they would act as mechanics when they weren’t racing.”
As a small team with only one paid staff position, Dalzell often struggles to find time to recruit new athletes.
“It’s hard to find the time to make sure the athletes are taken care of while also recruiting and making sure that they [recruits] fit into the team culture,” said Dalzell.
On the other hand there are upsides to a small team in his opinion.
“One benefit in having a small staff is that you can spend more time with your athletes on and off the bike and get to know them on their best and worst days,” explains Dalzell, “I want to help develop them into leaders on and off the bike.”
With five National Championship titles in the first two years of having a program, including the defending Match Sprint National Champion, Nick Osterich as well as John Kuhfahl, the reigning Scratch Race, Points Race and Men’s Individual Omnium National Champion, it’s clear that something is working.
“When everyone pitches in and helps, the whole team is better for it.”- Coach Derek Dalzell
The program is also getting noticed within the community of Belmont as they have started to see local residents volunteering to help the team. Most notably, a UCI certified mechanic, John Worchester, has come on this year as a volunteer assistant to Dalzell. Worchester will be driving across the country from North Carolina to Colorado with the bikes to be there for the team this weekend.
While Belmont Abbey’s athletes will have a mechanic this year to help them, Dalzell is insistent that they continue taking care of each other saying, “When everyone pitches in and helps, the whole team is better for it.”
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