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Northwestern University Students Launch Cycling Website
By Imelda March
Date: 2/17/2011
Northwestern University Students Launch Cycling Website
Northwestern University Students Launch Cycling Website
Collegiate Cycling News (CCN) - the newest entrant into the on-line world of cycling sports media that will act as a central hub for information and discussion about collegiate bike racing in the United States.

Combining a labor of love into a community

According to USA Cycling Collegiate, in 2010 there were 295 teams and 4,834 license holders, 904 of which were women collegiate racers. All these compete in 11 U.S. sanctioned collegiate bike racing conferences.

What do you do when you cannot find a news source for collegiate cycling?

You create your own! The students at the elite Medill School Northwestern University have created and launched—just since February 7 — a new website, Collegiate Cycling News (CCN), that is sure to wake up the cycling establishment.

One of a growing number of niche Internet sports sites, CCN appeals to fans disillusioned with the minimal coverage of their favorite sport. These days, collegiate cycling is seen largely as an untapped bicycle market that receives little attention within the cycling industry.

While rolling from bike race to bike race, including to national championships, the Medill students discovered that unity and communication were the missing ingredients within the collegiate cycling world. CCN’s founders hope to fill that void while they fulfill their love for both journalism and collegiate cycling. They envision CCN as a cycling journalism brand that will attract a community of followers from around the country--and even the world.

Creating a new brand and attracting followers is typically an uphill battle. However, these Medill students, who are also members of the Northwestern University Cycling Team, believe that their niche site will succeed and are counting on advertisers that are always on the hunt for sites that have specialized audiences.

Collegiate cycling is comprised mainly of small schools. “It’s not a mainstream ball sport, so you get a lot of schools that aren’t major players in basketball or football, and they have an opportunity to get their name out there,” said Jeffrey Hansen, USA Cycling’s Collegiate program manager.” And that’s how collegiate cycling schools see it, as a recruiting tool/advertising tool. Because how often have you heard of Mars Hill College or Lees-McRae College or Fort Lewis College outside of the world of cycling?

The Daily Peloton Cycling News first learned about plans for the site via the USA Cycling Newsletter and quickly became interested in helping CCN founders spread the word about their project. We spoke with current CCN staff members Scott Rosenfield and Alexandra “Axie” Navas.

Daily Peloton: Tell me about this project. Who’s idea was it and how long have you been planning it?

Collegiate Cycling News (CCN) is a website designed for collegiate cyclists by collegiate cyclists that provides a central hub for information and discussion about athletes participating in collegiate cycling in the United States.

DP: How many other people are involved with the CNN team?

To date, we have approximately 25 contributors based around the U.S--all students who race at the collegiate level. However, CCN is always looking for contributors. Although the largest firms in the U.S. utilize boards of directors and/or advisors, we want CCN to be completely a student-run project. Yes, we have told some of our professors about the project but what makes this project special is that it is collegiate-run.

We got lots of help from Jeffrey Hansen, USA Cycling’s collegiate program manager, who provides guidance as to who we should be reaching out to build the collegiate cycling community. We would be remiss if we did not mention Joseph Hooker who currently serves as our web developer.

DP: What is your background in publishing? Have you been involved with a project like this elsewhere?

We have not done anything like this in the past. However, Scott brings writing and reporting expertise from being a feature sport writer/contributor to Cyclocross (CX) Magazine.

Axie Navas wrote for the Vail Daily in her home state of Colorado; in addition to being a media representative for USA Cycling Collegiate.

DP: Are you on the collegiate racing team?

Yes absolutely! We race for the Northwestern University Cycling Team, a club team, which participates in the Midwestern Collegiate Cycling Conference (MWCCC) . The MWCCC is among the largest competitive conferences, with over 40 members who compete in road, track, mountain bike, and cyclo-cross disciplines.

Our team prides itself with attracting students who have never ridden a bike before and showing them the ropes and watching them develop their athleticism.

DP: Are you a scholarship cycling team or a club team?

We are a club team that exists due to support from Higher Gear, Blue Grass and Griffin Strategic Advisors.

The Northwestern University Cycling Team competes as part of the USA Cycling Collegiate recognized Midwest Collegiate Cycling Conference, one of 11 collegiate cycling conferences. A school’s division status is based on the number of full-time enrolled students; as a result, schools may compete in Divisions I or II.

DP: Do you have any succession plans in place? Who will take over when you graduate?

Yes, we have been giving that concept a thought and we realize the importance of looking into the future management of the CCN. We aim to look for and groom an editor yearly to step up to larger responsibilities by creating content and posting.

DP: What kind of content will you produce?

We will utilize a multi-pronged concept by creating content that relates to our target audience--collegiate cycling students. The most obvious content we aim to gather is nationwide bike race reports. In addition, one our goals for content development includes connecting other bloggers to our site.

DP: Are you going to profile all the men/women who went from collegiate cycling to pro cycling teams?

As we said, we want to create a collegiate cycling community while at the same time expand into the wider market later in the process.

DP: How will you measure success?

We feel that our success will be when we are able to continue the flow of information during the months of May to August into each new season. This is where other websites have failed in the past and we think that bridging mountain bike and cyclo-cross news at the collegiate level is an excellent medium for a continued collegiate cycling conversation. Then, when we get to the national championships, we are hopeful that there will be more of a sense of community because of our online discussions.

DP: Are you going to write about collegiate bike racing students whose goal is to make the Olympic team and represent the U.S.?

We don’t want to spread ourselves too thin but we will have some coverage on that level. Our goal is to cover the entire spectrum as well as capture human stories from all around the collegiate cycling community.

DP: What type of journalism job will be of interest to you after this project (sport writer or main stream news?)

Axie: I have a passion for both cycling and journalism and if it helps me down the road to get a job with the National Geographic that would be good.

Scott: I plan to earn a law degree and then explore politics.

DP: To your knowledge, are there any collegiate cycling historic rivalries? If so, who or what are they?

Since collegiate cycling is a new sport, the rivalry that exists in the MWCCC is between Marian University and the rest of us (the teams). We plan on keeping an eye on the issue and report back to our audience.

DP: What outreach programs are you using and how will you attract followers?

We will have a link on the USA Cycling website coupled with the use of Google Groups and social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. Hopefully, we will also connect with important people in the cycling community, gain an understanding of how today's media technology works, and continue to pour our time into our labor of love–Collegiate Cycling News.

DP: How many hours are you dedicating to the CCN website?

We are currently averaging 21 hours a week on the CCN website. This does not include our training and academic work.

Learn more about Collegiate Cycling News.

Follow discussions by visiting Daily Peloton Cycling News on Facebook


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About the author: Imelda March lives in Chicago and is a member of Team Kenda. She is a frequent contributor to The Daily Peloton Cycling News team, reporting on women’s cycling issues and general peloton ramblings. Imelda is an experienced racer who also holds an MBA and is a marketing strategy expert.

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