Lees-McRae Cycling: Building for the Future

BANNER ELK, N.C. --- The Lees-McRae College cycling program has built a legacy over the past ten years, undergoing a transformation from a small on-campus club to a nationally recognized team with ten national collegiate championships to its credit.

Now the program is receiving long overdue amenities, including an adequate storage area within the program's designated on-campus facilities, which are being retrofitted to better fulfill the needs of the cyclists and insure a new chapter in the program's proud tradition.

The room, located in the lower part of the Tennessee housing facility, has been utilized by the program over the past few seasons as their primary storage and indoor training facility. As part of the campus beautification projects that have been taking place, the cycling facility has begun to undergo numerous changes that should bolster performance in the near future.

Phase one of the process is now complete, with phase two planned for the early part of the year as well. The initial phase includes refinishing and leveling the floor, as well as more permanent walls and a loft area that will be constructed over the soon to be finished storage area for bikes and parts.

Phase two will include a new indoor training facility with many amenities, such as bathroom facilities for the riders, and a number of training programs for the cyclists to continue to build their skill level. The newly renovated facility is expected to be completed sometime during the summer of 2011.

The building materials and supplies being utilized in this project have been recycled from numerous areas across campus, combining the storied history of the College with the new history being written with each outstanding performance. Home Depot has shown tremendous generosity during the remodeling effort, providing materials and labor throughout the process of renovating the floor.

"This will give us another unique aspect to our cycling program with this room, as we can continue to provide the best opportunities for success with a quality for fittings, testing, cleaning and the day-to-day work that goes into keeping a bicycle in great condition," said Director of Athletics Craig McPhail. "We feel this will continue to attract the best cyclists in the world to consider Lees-McRae College a place to continue their education, while riding in the best training areas imaginable."

In 2001, College employee Sean McAndrew gathered a group of friends and began the Lees-McRae Cycling Club, hoping to build on a rich cycling history in the Banner Elk, N.C. area. That fall, the group competed in the first mountain biking event in Lees-McRae history. The club saw the potential of the program, and less than a year later petitioned the school to adopt cycling as a Varsity level program, allowing for the use of scholarships and funding to bring in students from around the globe.

The program's rise began, and in the fall of 2003, Lees-McRae earned its first collegiate national championship, taking first place in the 2003 USA Cycling Division II Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championship. The Bobcats continued to shine, garnering two more national mountain bike titles before expanding to include cyclocross, track, and road disciplines in the program. The squad petitioned to join the Division I ranks in 2006, and since that time have garnered seven Division I collegiate national titles, topping the podium in all four disciplines as a team.

In recognition of the cycling team's impact on both the College and the area as a whole, Lees-McRae is excited to add a one-of-a-kind academic program to its curriculum, introducing an innovative minor course of study in Bicycling Studies this semester.

The program, fueled by the vision of new College president Dr. Barry M. Buxton, will offer a wealth of opportunities for graduates to enter the professional cycling world after college, whether it's on or off the bike. The new addition to the curriculum positions Lees-McRae College as the only institution of higher education in the United States to offer a unique academic-based program in Bicycling Studies.

Lees-McRae College, a four-year, co-educational liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, USA, is located in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains of northwestern North Carolina. Being a year-round tourist destination, the area provides the best of a vibrant college community coupled with natural beauty and a rich history. Please see www.lmc.edu for more information.

- LMC-