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Ride and Learn: Virginia Intermont College
 
By Imelda March
Date: 10/13/2011
Ride and Learn: Virginia Intermont College
 
We continue to explore the world of U.S. based collegiate cycling programs and have made our way to the East Coast to learn about the newly announced varsity cycling program at the small and private Virginia Intermont College located in Bristol, Virginia.

Virginia Intermont College, founded in 1884, is an undergraduate, coeducational institution. The college's atmosphere is one of intellectual stimulation and freedom where the open exchange of ideas is enthusiastically encouraged.

The student body at Virginia Intermont is cosmopolitan, drawing students with a wide range of interests and backgrounds. The population of 583 includes students from thirty states and four countries while enjoying a student-faculty ratio of 12:1.

Virginia Intermont College (VI) is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The name "Intermont," meaning "among the mountains," is descriptive of the setting of the College. The Holston Range, which merges into the famous Blue Ridge Mountains, can be seen from campus. The College is located in Bristol, Virginia, part of the Tri-Cities region, a 1999 "All-American City," which also includes Johnson City and Kingsport, Tennessee. The Tri-Cities serve an area population of approximately 500,000. The area contains a number of educational institutions; there are six colleges within a 25 mile radius of Bristol. The area economy is based on diversified industry with several large manufacturing and wholesale enterprises. Bristol is the shopping center for the rich Burley tobacco area to the east and west and for the coal mining areas to the north.

The college is easily accessible to Interstate 81, Greyhound bus lines and the Tri-Cities Regional Airport (TCRA). Air carriers operating in Tri-Cities include; Allegiant, American Eagle (regional affiliate of American Airlines), Delta Connection, and US Airways Express.

NEW VARSITY PROGRAM

On September 14, 2011 Virginia Intermont College announced that it would add cycling as a varsity sport for both men and women for the 2012-2013 school year.

CYCLING COLLEGIATE CONFERENCE

Virginia Intermont College Cycling Team will compete in the Southeastern Collegiate Conference (SECCC) a recognized conference within the USA Cycling Collegiate organization. The Southeastern Collegiate Conference (SECCC) is one of 11 collegiate conferences around the U.S.

With such exciting news we spoke with head cycling Coach Dwayne Letterman who will be leading the program.

Q&A WITH DWAYNE LETTERMAN

DP: What was the concept behind creating a cycling program?

Coach Letterman: The idea for creating a cycling team at VI was to provide a new non-traditional sport for the college and for existing students and athletes, as well as , bring new students to the area.

DP: Why did you want to create a cycling team?

Coach Letterman: Cycling has been an important part of my life for the past twenty years. I've been involved with all aspects of the sport and the challenge of building a new cycling program was extremely appealing to me. I've always been one to give back to the sport and a cycling team for me is one of the most significant ways to contribute to the sport and to help others become a part of the sport.

DP: How many riders will you have for the 2011-12 racing season?

Coach Letterman: Our current roster includes three men and 10 women. All of the team members have been recruited from campus, some of which, are already athletes in other sports, and many who are not currently athletes. Only one of the women has any experience in bicycle racing.

DP: Will your cycling program compete in all disciplines (cyclocross, mountain bike, road, track, and triathlon)?

Coach Letterman:We will compete on the road beginning in February 2012, in the Fall of the same year we hope to add cyclocross. As the program grows we eventually could add mountain bike.

DP: Due to your geographic location, will you seek to specialize in a specific discipline?

Coach Letterman: Our location, in the mountains of east Tennessee and southwest Virginia, lends itself to all three disciplines. We will eventually be competitive in all three disciplines.

DP: How will you differentiate your program from the already established programs? Why would a student elect to join your cycling team?

Coach Letterman: Our program will be one of 11 varsity programs in the U.S. As a varsity team, we will offer athletic scholarships for cycling. VI is a small Liberal Arts college, with small class sizes, and a varied curriculum. Our area already has a strong and well established cycling community that student riders can tap into. Our location also allows for nearly year round training, as well as, some of the most beautiful terrain around.

DP: What are the Virginia Intermont College cycling team goals?

Coach Letterman: Our short term goal is to field a team and compete in a complete season of road racing. Long term, we want to win a collegiate national championship, for me personally, I would like that to be a cyclocross national championship. We also want potential students to hear about VI and what a great opportunity we are offering for cyclists.

DP: Who is an ideal candidate for your academic and cycling program?

Coach Letterman: We currently have 13 riders, only one of which has any racing experience. We are glad to have them and are looking forward to seeing them develop over next season. We also want the pure cyclist. Those riders will add leadership and balance to the team, and will be an asset to for VI and the less experienced riders.

DP: Will the Virginia Intermont College cycling team offer any scholarships or work study opportunities?

Coach Letterman: Yes, in order to be a USA Cycling Collegiate varsity team we have to offer more than $10,000.00 and we will exceed that. Work study will also be available.

DP: Can you share with our audience the total sum for your budget for the 2011-12 seasons?

Coach Letterman: Our budget will be comparable to most colleges in our conference.

DP: Will the equipment be provided to the athletes or are they expected to contribute to the costs of purchasing their own equipment? (for example: bicycles, tires, tubes, rollers, uniforms, racing shoes, helmets, etc).

Coach Letterman: Cyclists for the Fall season will be required to have their own equipment. The team for road season of 2012 will ride on a combination of borrowed and student owned bicycles.

DP: What can riders expect your team to provide? (for example: paid entry fees, racing kits, training camps, racing licenses, etc)

Coach Letterman: We will be providing, entry fees, travel expenses and hotel accommodations. Helmets and racing jerseys will be provided through sponsorship.

DP: Where are you going to concentrate your recruiting efforts? Will you favor certain U.S. geographic regions? Will you recruit international students to join your team? (Canada, Mexico, Europe, etc)

Coach Letterman: Our initial concentration will be the U.S., but, we will also look outside the U.S. for student athletes.

DP: With many universities implementing sustainability (i.e. green) efforts, what will your team do to ensure that trails, training rooms/buildings and travel efforts utilize the ‘greenest’ possible methods as to not to disrupt the environmental footprint?

Coach Letterman: VI has one of the smallest carbon footprints of colleges measured by the Jesse Ball DuPont organization. In order to travel to races, the team will use our fuel-efficient vehicles (they use FLEX fuel). At events we will be collecting separating waste for recycling. VI as a whole is working to become more energy efficient.

DP: What philanthropic efforts will your team get involved with to give back to the cycling and/or athletic sector? (for example: camps for young athletes, visit to local schools, highway cleaning, etc)

Coach Letterman: We are currently considering a junior camp and omnium for the summer of 2012, and a possible clinic for high school students in the area.

SOCIAL MEDIA USAGE

DP:Will you set up a Facebook/You Tube, Twitter accounts to further market your team?

Coach Letterman: Yes

Note: VI currently uses both Twitter and Facebook as a social media tool to broadcast news about their programs.

DP: What are your links and Twitter handle for the Virginia Intermont College Cycling team?

Coach Letterman: We will send out messages through @vicobras.

MARKETING COMMUNICATION

DP: Will you have a PR Manager to ensure that your results and accomplishments are captured in the media? If not, how will these activities be handled?

Coach Letterman: The college has a Vice President of Media and Marketing. The Athletic Department has a Sports Information Director who will handle results and accomplishments.

For further information on this collegiate cycling program, please visit Virginia Intermont College Athletics - Cycling.


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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