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11-14-2016

Cycling Circle Growing at Clarkson University

Whether it's for exercise or relaxation, competition or contemplation, bicycling is a passion that Clarkson University students, faculty and staff are sharing. And they're eager to spread the word about the joys of cycling.

Clarkson University's Lorraine Harper, administrative assistant in the Department of Communication & Media, and senior Nate Hurwitz share a common passion for road cycling.“Cycling is my favorite extracurricular activity at Clarkson. It's one of the reasons I chose to come here, aside from the good business program," says senior Nate Hurwitz.

A former mountain biker, the Massachusetts native bought one road bike since coming to Potsdam, then a second, and admits he “has fallen in love with road cycling.”

In fact, he started a Clarkson Road Cycling Club and team that now has about 10 riders who race against other students from large colleges and universities. True to his entrepreneurial spirit, Hurwitz had custom jerseys designed for the team members. More racers are welcome, and club members can participate in group rides without joining races.

“The main cycling social network is an app called Strava,” he says. “You can find any of us there.”

Another member of the Clarkson community is prominent on Strava. Lorraine Harper, administrative assistant in the Department of Communication & Media, has racked up almost 8,000 miles since January.

Her commitment and keen sense of friendly competition earned her quite a few “QOM’s” on segments on Strava. Segments are member-created edited portions of roads where cyclists can compete. If you’re number one on a leaderboard for a segment you’re the KOM or QOM -- king or queen of the mountain -- of that segment.

“If I beat someone’s time, I like to encourage that person to go out and beat me, telling them, I know they can do it," says Harper. "There’s no better motivation than having a goal that is within your reach and being encouraged by the person who has given you that goal.”

“At 51, I am very excited to be pretty high on the leaderboards, not too far behind some of the younger cyclists,” she says happily. “There are not many woman cyclists in the area who use Strava, so I compete against the men as well. My goal is to be in the top 10 on segment leaderboards. There are some segments where I am in the top two or three, and I’ve held the number-one position on a couple of segments. I know it won’t be for long, but again, it’s motivation for cyclists out there to give it a try."

Like most kids, Harper rode a bike, but her passion for biking ignited about 15 years ago, when a friend said Harper should join her in a triathlon. Harper’s mother helped her achieve her goals by buying her a racing bike, so she eventually ditched the running and swimming to concentrate on biking. Then she got an odometer and watched the miles spin by.

The miles really started to climb during one green winter. She encountered another cyclist. “I was bundled up like a Ninja on my bike when I saw him coming toward me. 'Who is this other crazy person riding?' I wondered, and realized we knew each other, so we made plans to ride together," she says. "Since the summer of 2015, we’ve done a wide variety of rides: slow long distances, short fast rides. As we got stronger, we mixed things up, including sprinting, climbing and faster long rides, always aiming to improve. A typical ride after work is 35-miles, with more time, 40 to 80 miles. This season, with my regular riding partner, we rode half a dozen 100-mile rides and even a 135-mile ride. We’ve also joined some group rides in the area. I'm pretty much addicted to cycling.”

Although riding is often about moving fast, the serene beauty of the area’s rural roads enchants Harper. On some less travelled roads, you don't see a car for miles. There are really beautiful spots -- sometimes you need to travel on dirt roads or gravel, she says.

Hurwitz shares those sentiments. He'll sometimes leave campus early, about 4:30 a.m., to take beautiful sunrise rides. The Potsdam area has it all when it comes to terrain, he notes. “It's flat to the north and hilly to the south, and I can ride into or out of the wind on different routes,” he says.

In the beginning, he used to map out routes but now he heads in a direction and may stray if he sees something interesting. Then he turns around after 30 or 40 miles.

As he pursues his studies, Hurwitz is making plans to bike from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Ore., this coming summer. He and a fellow Clarkson graduate will ride for 70 days, carrying all their gear and camping out most nights.

“It's about a 4,000-mile ride. We chose a northern route for cooler temperatures in summer, and because we have friends along the way who will let us sleep there for a night,” he says.

His best advice to other aspiring long-distance bikers is also a good metaphor for life: Don't look too far ahead. “We're not really planning for when we get to Iowa. We're looking at a few days at a time, and then figuring it out. It's the most fun that way,” he adds.

Harper has ridden with Hurwitz before and hopes to meet more student cyclists and compare interesting rides with them.

“I think it is important to show these young athletes they can be strong now, but can continue being strong cyclists even when they are older,” she says. "Sometimes, our busy lives can take over and we don't get on our bikes as often as we'd like. I want to spread the word that it's never too late to start riding or get back in the saddle and rack up the miles."

She adds, “It would be great to get more of us signed up in the cycling club. I plan to encourage students, faculty and staff to do so. In fact, someone recently told me I inspired him to start riding again. I think a little fun competition on campus will create a buzz and encourage the Clarkson community to get on a bicycle and ride. We have a vast area of beautiful roads. We need to take advantage of that.”

Clarkson University educates the leaders of the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as an owner, CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. With its main campus located in Potsdam, N.Y., and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Beacon, New York, Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university with signature areas of academic excellence and research directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through more than 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, education, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Clarkson University's Lorraine Harper, administrative assistant in the Department of Communication & Media, and senior Nate Hurwitz share a common passion for road cycling.

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/harper-hurwitz.jpg.]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or aharrison@clarkson.edu.]

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