Turlockers got the chance to meet their first cycling team during the Festival of Lights in downtown Turlock on Friday. Armed with water bottles, Christmas cookies, and posters, the members of Bell Real Estate Cycling helped spread the word about the newest edition to Turlock’s athletic scene.
After six months of planning, Robert Bell and 14 other cyclists from the area officially formed BRE Cycling in September, just in time for the 2012-13 road and cyclocross seasons. While its members have a history of training and competing in Northern California, an added focus on community outreach and promotion of the sport has created a new found goal for many of the team’s riders.
“All of us have lots of racing experience and have been racing for years but we wanted to something in a smaller niche,” The 42-year-old Bell said. “We wanted something smaller that was local to this community so we could represent Turlock.”
Bell, currently in his fourth cycling season, is accompanied by Sean Beck, Sergio Iniguez, George Crawford, Ernie Sayo, Stephen Blakemore, Craig Chaney, Brent Chipponeri, Scott Sommerfeld, James Rocco Hollaway, Mark Smallwood, Scott Osgood, James Mardakis, Gary Raley, and Aaron Tait. By leaving other teams and forming their own, smaller team in Turlock, Bell and co. believe they will be better suited to directly impact the community while continuing their training.
In addition to promoting their sport themselves, BRE Cycling has also partnered with Turlock Sunrise Rotary to help raise charitable donations. Plans are already in the works for future projects and events.
“We’re working with the Chamber right now to put on a Turlock bike day in spring,” Bell said. “The goal is to get people from Turlock and surrounding areas to come out with their bikes and enjoy the city through a predetermined route.”
“We want to build support in the community for cycling,” Bell added.
But BRE Cycling’s efforts extend beyond the sport of cycling and into a general promotion of healthy living and active lifestyles.
“From a health standpoint there is a huge issue in this country. We understand cycling is not for everybody, but we can help promote a healthy lifestyle and maybe motivate people to try something new,” Bell said.
Of course, Bell and his teammates are more than happy to explain the specifics of cycling, a sport not many know about, to interested individuals. Currently, about six BRE Cycling riders are competing in cyclocross competition before February’s transition to road racing. Cyclocross is held on a dirt track and is similar to the sport of NASCAR with riders zipping around short loops for a set length of time as opposed to the traditional road racing that sees riders follow a designated route over the course of 120 miles or so.
BRE Cycling riders aren’t just separated by competitive disciplines though; they can also be distinguished from each other by classes, categories, and rankings. Members range from beginners to semi-pros and the team even boasts a defending state cyclocross champion in Chaney.
Chaney, who is currently 6th in the state rankings with two events to go, has a shot at a repeat performance at the District Cyclocross Championships on Dec. 30, which would be a much desired boost to the young Turlock team.
“The more we can surround ourselves with people close to the same ability it makes our team stronger,” Bell said.
Though there are currently 11 sponsors helping BRE Cycling with equipment and supplies, there are no immediate plans to expand the roster. Instead, Bell says he and his comrades are focused on creating maximum impact with their small numbers. In a sport like cycling, where costs are high, the best way to help is to do well in competition and increase the ranking and profile of the team.
“Our goal in this first year is to do everything we can to help the guys who race cyclocross to improve and get those guys up to that A level. On the roadside, we have three guys that are semi-pro and three guys who are close so we’d like to get them some points to bolster them to that level,” Bell said. “We’d really like to go into next year with a strong category 3 team.”
Future events can be found on the team’s website, www.brecycling.com, as well as their Facebook page.