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Collegiate Cycling: Sophy Lee talks about her new role
By Imelda March
Date: 10/10/2011
Collegiate Cycling: Sophy Lee talks about her new role
The Daily Peloton Cycling News reached out to newly elected USA Cycling Collegiate board member Sophy Lee to learn more about her new role as an elected committee cycling member.

DP: Tell me about yourself?

Sophy: I am Sophy Lee a senior at Harvard University majoring in economics and cycling club president. The Harvard University Cycling team competes in the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC). The ECCC is one of 11 collegiate conferences in the U.S. and I am a category A racer.

Other than being a student I work for DemiDec where I serve as a Vice President. In my role I hire, train, and lead a team of 70 writers and 250 beta testers during the summer. I personally edit and design about 4,500 pages of curriculum each year. During the academic year, I travel to state and national competitions to speak to teams, give talks on how to succeed in the competition, and in general spread the alpaca love (our mascot is the alpaca!) I also travel worldwide with Daniel, the founder, to spread World Scholar's Cup (WSC) news. WSC is a non-profit academic competition for students around the world. I helped the first Regional competition in China and also helped establish it in Australia.

In addition, this fall I will be launching Gold Jersey Tours, a Tour De France touring company.

Other than English I am also is well versed in French, Mandarin and Russian.

Before I began racing I was a couch potato! I was not an athlete. I fell into bicycle racing by accident. I brought my purple steel bike for the for team ride. My first ride with the team consisted of 25 miles on a cold November day around our campus in Boston, MA. After the ride, I felt like someone ran me over. Following the ride I took a 20 minute hot shower to thaw out. Despite the experience I was left feeling alive after all the effort.

The next spring I entered my first collegiate race at Rutgers University. I did a time trial (TT) of 2.8 miles and finished 24th of 29 participants. The next day, I entered both the women’s road race and criterium. I ended up finishing 11th of 27 in the road race and 17th of 33 in the criterium.

I vividly remembered that I did not know anything about my gearing because once the race started all the women disappeared and I was left behind. Finally one of the team leaders came up to me and said that I needed to be in the big gear.

Former Harvard University collegiate racer Anna McLoon was very influential for my racing success.

DP: What was your platform for running for the USA Cycling Collegiate Board post?

Sophy Lee Collegiate Committee — Club President

For the past three months this summer, I've traveled through Europe to study international sports federations. You've heard of the UCI. My research focuses on the "UCI" of everything I could get my hands on. I am researching international sports federations because I fundamentally believe in their ability to reach and affect amateur athletes.

Above all, I believe in the importance of USA Cycling and Collegiate Cycling. Few programs in any sport provide as good of an opportunity for an amateur athlete to train from nothing to the national contest. My vision touches on two areas--recruiting and coaching.

Both these areas relate to my own story with cycling. About two years ago, I accidentally stumbled on the book Bike Racing 101 by Kendra Wenzel. Up to that point I'd never been an athlete and the only bike-related thing I knew was how to sit down for long periods of time. A few days later, I showed up at a team ride with my steel commuter bike and tennis shoes. I really sucked and think I finished almost last in my first Intro Women's race. But JEEZ I loved it, rode a lot, and destroyed my ego. The following year, with the guidance of my teammate Anna McLoon, I qualified for USA Cycling Collegiate Road Championships.

From Nothing to Nationals! I couldn’t have done it without my team’s enthusiastic recruiting and the coaching I received from my teammate. Here are just a few thoughts:

Recruiting: The Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference has done an excellent job encouraging women's racing and growing the women's fields. I think we can figure out a way to replicate this success throughout the country. We could also reach out to a lot of athletic talent that goes to rowing, skiing, running, and swimming.

Coaching: Since cycling is a club sport in most universities, the level of coaching in teams varies drastically. Some teams have a volunteer coach. Others have no coach. A lucky few have paid coaches. While we can't provide every team with a coach, we could certainly compile an authoritative body of knowledge on training and racing that any team could consult. As of now, no well publicized database of such knowledge specifically targets collegiate cyclists — so many just go out and ride without a plan, and hope for the best.

Cycling changed me, which is why I want to give back to this sport. I want to bring to the table everything I've learned these last three months and help shape the future of cycling in the U.S.

Last, but not least, in case you were wondering... I did go watch the Tour de France in person. I got up at 5:00 a.m. ... rode to the Galibier... snuck to the finish line... and then watched Andy Schleck win. I took 8,000 photos. I'm not kidding and here is my favorite.

DP: What are you hoping to accomplish with your role as USA Cycling Collegiate Board head?

Sophy: As I mentioned above, I am hoping to bring more women into collegiate racing and creating a body of knowledge for new collegiate racers.

DP: What methods will you use to request input from the collegiate body?

Sophy: I have joined all the e-mails list/groups and introduced myself electronically to the conference leaders in the country. With this I hope to get ideas and suggestions from them electronically.

DP: What do colleges/universities need to do to attract more women racers?

Sophy: My conference, the ECCC does a great job recruiting women. We have committed women who do clinics prior to races in our conferences and educate women about the discipline prior to each race. In the ECCC conference we enjoy lost of encouragement and help is available when a rider needs it.

I also hope to learn more about the other conferences and issues surrounding them.

DP: Currently, what is missing from the collegiate racing seen?

Sophy: We need consistence in training and education for our riders.

They are no specific training plans with cycling; as a result, it could create problems with level of fitness with each rider on a team. Essentially many collegiate programs lack structure.

At Harvard University we do not have an official coach at our university. Our team is 100% student lead and we count on seasoned riders to educate the new crop of riders that we get each year.

Another issue is the lack of funding. Here at Harvard University we are given a $500 stipend for the entire racing season. We are then left to fund raise through our alumni or other methods to help with entry fees and expenses.

Since our trademark office has strict policies we are not allowed to have commercial logos on our racing team kits.

I will be traveling to Colorado Springs, CO on October 11 and 12 to attend my first official meeting since I was elected. While there I hope to learn more about the organization and where things are with the organization. This is a summit for all the new Sport Committees that were recently elected as part of the USA Cycling governance reforms.

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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