Small club, big heart for cyclers and triathletes

Cycling & Triathlon Club members exercising

“The best feeling is to train together,” says Diego Vega. Photos: Joseph Horejs


Down in a humid basement in the Physical Education Building, you can find a group of people trying to reach new physical and mental heights.

For some time, UIC’s Cycling and Triathlon Cub has been small in number. There aren’t enough people to have separate triathlon and cycling teams, so it’s combined. But it works – cycling is one of the components of a triathlon.

With a little perseverance, one student is helping the team grow. Anjali Shah found a closed Facebook group for the team, and contacted the group’s past president, Michael Dutczack.

“I have done half-marathons in the past. I was curious to see what other kind of sports were out there,” said Shah, a sophomore in biology. “After a month or so of messaging on Facebook, I finally got ahold of the group leader, who said I was the only person who showed a viable interest for competing for UIC.”

Cycling & Triathlon Club

Ricardo Lopez spots Mike Walega during practice in the Physical Education Building.

Dutczack admired Shah’s dedication and passed the torch to her. She’s now president and liaison for the Mideast Collegiate Triathlon Conference.

This year, the team is more triathlon based, with just three cyclists among the 20 members.

To be a cyclist, “you have to be very dedicated during regiment workouts,” said Dutczack, a senior in electrical engineering.

The team goes to work at 5:30 p.m. each Wednesday in the Physical Education Building. They spend two hours practicing, with rock ‘n’ roll music blaring in the background and large fans humming to keep the room cool.

“Warm-ups include running counts, chest press and squats,” said Diego Vega, a freshman in computer science and vice president of the team. “Our teammates come from all different kinds of backgrounds. Some are ex-swimmers, who are new to this, and others have done triathlons in the past.”

The group’s faculty adviser, John Coumbe-Lilley, clinical assistant professor of kinesiology and nutrition and a USA Triathlon coach, helps the team members sharpen their technique, Shah said.

Each practice focuses on biking, running or swimming.

“Some days you do a brick —when you stack a couple different disciplines, like swim for 40 minutes, then bike for half an hour,” Shah said.

Sometimes teammates announce they are going for an extra run or swim. “You have to work out past the pain,” Vega said.

The cyclists also have a workout plan. “Warm-ups can be a half-hour easy ride to feel the bike out,” Dutczack said.

Indoor practices last about two hours. When the weather is warmer, teammates take their bikes outside and ride up to five hours at a time. “Indoor practices use stands, called a trainer. This keeps the bike stationary,” Dutczack said. “You can set up a movie or find a racing video on YouTube.”


Midwest competitions

Students in the Cycling and Triathlon Club work out in the Student Recreation Facility

Team members come from different sports backgrounds.

UIC’s Triathlon club is part of the Mideast Collegiate Triathlon Conference, which includes colleges in Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. The team competes in an indoor season, from November to March, and outdoor season from June to October.

“The events usually take place in open waters, biking on the streets and running on the streets,” Vega said. “During the winter it’s too cold to be outside. The lakes are frozen.”

Even though people compete individually, they are still one unit. Competitions follow a point system calculated based on distance and time. During the indoor season, the transition times — when competitors switch events — don’t hurt the competitor’s overall time but it does in the outdoor season.

Every second counts. It’s a race against the clock. Some people are so devoted to the sport they will wear a one-piece singlet. “You rehearse your transition time,” Shah said. “Some people don’t wear socks.”

The Cycling club also has its indoor and outdoor seasons. They compete in the Midwest Collegiate Cycling Conference, against programs from Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and Kentucky.

Cyclists compete in three types of races: time trials, which measure how far the rider goes in a specific amount of time, road races, which determine who can finish 25 miles the fastest, and the criterium.

“It is a very fast, aggressive racing style,” Dutczack said. “The biggest type of race for cycling. They are very easy to spectate.”

The criterium race site is 1 kilometer to 1.5 kilometers, with city blocks barricaded to form a rectangle. The objective is to finish as quickly as possible.

The UIC Cycling and Triathlon club gives its members a sense of community. “The best feeling is to train together,” Vega said. “To belong to something bigger than yourself.”

For more information about the team, email Shah at

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