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Community cyclists ride for CMU athletes

GJ VELO wants to raise $20,000 per year for the CMU Cycling Team endowment

When is a bike ride through Colorado’s Grand Valley more than just an invigorating, awe-inspiring, challenging, healthy, fun way to spend a day? When it also supports your favorite collegiate sport.

Seem like a tall order for a ride in the park? Not for GJ VELO, a community-based cycling group started in 2016 by Ed Chamberlin along with 25 founding members. Cycling groups offer recreational and social opportunities, but GJ VELO founders wanted to serve an additional purpose.

Chamberlin had long volunteered with CMU’s cycling team and knew the program would benefit from additional financial support. Funds from GJ VELO membership fees and business sponsorships go directly into a CMU Cycling Team Endowment at the CMU Foundation.

In addition to year-round group rides and logistical support for out-of-town and social events, GJ VELO membership provides a great connection to CMU, the collegiate team and on-campus resources, Chamberlin said.

CMU offers winter training programs to the public in the Chamberlin Cycling Center, a training and maintenance facility in the Maverick Pavilion recreational center.

GJ VELO’s goal is to generate $20,000 per year for the Cycling Team Endowment. The group’s goal is 100 members in five years. Almost three years in, GJ VELO boasts 88 members and 14 sponsors.

Another benefit of GJ VELO, Chamberlin said, is the opportunity to get to know the collegiate cyclists at team honor dinners, volunteering at events and riding beside the student-athletes in the community.

“They’re ambitious, smart, really cool people,” Chamberlin said, adding, “The CMU team is doing really well.”

CMU’s cycling team was started in 1999. Ryan Cranston, a member from 2000 to 2002 and now owner of Ruby Canyon Cycles in Grand Junction, remembers those early years. “Cycling was a club sport then. We ran everything ourselves,” he said. Athletes were responsible for all logistics and funding for out-of-town competitions. Sometimes camping was the only overnight option, he remembers.

There was far less focus on collegiate cycling, but Cranston and his teammates didn’t let that slow them down, earning a national team championship and four individual national championships in 2000 and 2001. Cranston was national champ in men’s downhill. “Times have definitely changed,” he said. “I’m proud to have been a part of it. I’m proud of what we accomplished handling everything ourselves.”

Now a Division 1 program in the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cycling Conference with 50 male and female athletes, CMU is recognized as a varsity program by the National Collegiate Cycling Association, part of USA Cycling. CMU competes in all collegiate disciplines: road, track, mountain, cyclocross and BMX.
Head Coach Patric Rostel is a 2013 CMU graduate, who was a national collegiate cycling champion for CMU in 2010 and 2011.

“We’re doing well,” he said. “Last year we placed second nationally among varsity schools. So far this year we’re third nationally in overall standings, second in track, second in mountain biking.”

Offseason for collegiate cycling is high season for professional competition. “We have some athletes who are world cup and world championship competitors,” Rostel said. “They compete against some of the biggest in the sport.” •

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Written by Deborah Dawes