Health & Fit: The St. Augustine’s University Cycling Team Just Released the Third Video in Its Barrier-Breaking Series

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In April 2020, St. Augustine’s University (SAU) took a pioneering step in sports and became the first Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in the U.S. to formally establish a cycling team.

And you can watch their groundbreaking journey unfold in a five-video series called Chasing History. The first video in that series was released on Monday, December 21, the second was released on Tuesday, January 26, and the third was released on Tuesday, April 13.

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The first video introduces the riders from the small private liberal arts college in Raleigh, North Carolina. The team will compete in USA Cycling’s Atlantic division, which includes more established and experienced club teams from Duke, NC State, and Wake Forest. The Falcons are tackling cyclocross and esports, such as Zwift, first and plan to move to BMX and road disciplines in the future.

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The co-ed squad of 12 riders knows it’s not going to be all tailwinds out there. A few racers on the team are champion track and field athletes, and one or two have their sights set on cycling at the Olympic level. But others haven’t ridden since childhood, and they face a steep learning curve as they try to master cornering, shifting, and racing tactics.

But unlike traditionally mostly white cycling teams, the Falcons’ goals extend far beyond podiums and race rankings.

“This team plays a strong role in the racial justice movement,” Lavar Stubbs, a Falcons cyclist from the Bahamas, said in the blog post on Canyon’s website.“We’re the first HBCU school with a cycling team… [Being] a trailblazer, that does not scare me. You can’t worry about falling. Stay headstrong. Have no fear.”

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a group of people riding a motorcycle down a dirt road: St. Augustine’s University’s club cycling team is aiming to make cycling more inclusive for all. © JOSHUA STEADMAN St. Augustine’s University’s club cycling team is aiming to make cycling more inclusive for all.

The second video details how Nelson Vails, the first African-American cyclist to win an Olympic medal—silver in the 1984 Games—serves as a major inspiration for this team. No other Black rider has come close to what Vails achieved, and Black riders are still few and far between at the highest levels of pro cycling.

The Falcons’ cycling team is hoping to change that.“Black kids, white kids, all kids grew up riding bikes,” Janas said in a blog post.“For some reason, the separation seems to happen somewhere around early adulthood where lots of white riders continue to ride bikes, where not as many African Americans [do].”

And the third video, titled ‘Pandemic Journals,’ shows how members of the team have been forced to adjust because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Five of the Falcons riders vlogged about their day-to-day lives, revealing how they juggle the demands of classes, work, family, and other responsibilities, on top of training as a student-athlete (“definitely a student before athlete,” Aaliyah Williams said).

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The concept for the club team started with Mark Janas, Ph.D., a professor in the SAU business school and now team co-leader who is an avid cyclist. The Falcons were inspired to break down racial barriers and make their own history, just as the legendary cycling world champion Major Taylor did 121 years ago.

“The benefit of competing in a sport that is traditionally white is that we’re bringing diversity, awareness and talent,” Umar Muhammad, a professor of sport management at SAU and the team’s other co-leader, said in a blog post on Canyon’s website.“SAU being out in cycling allows us to tell our story but also allows us to carry other stories home with us. And share with other HBCU campuses that we’re part of a bigger community, part of a bigger landscape of cycling in this world.”

The team is backed by a number of sponsors, including Canyon Bicycles, Zipp Wheels, Saris, Stages Cycling, Major Taylor Cycling Wear, and Fizik. The Chasing History video series has been sponsored by Canyon and Bicycling.

Be on the lookout for two more videos set to come out in the next few months.

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