Univ of Arizona 2021 Club of the Year

Meet 2021 Collegiate Club of the Year: University of Arizona

By: Jim Rutberg  March 17, 2022

The University of Arizona is a great place to be a cyclist, particularly through the winter months of the school year. An active club with more than 50 members, the UA Cycling Club earned 2021 USA Cycling Collegiate Club of the Year for their ability to keep members engaged through the pandemic, their work in the Tucson cycling community, and their efforts to organize collegiate and amateur USA Cycling races for cyclists in their region.

Collegiate cycling clubs create lifelong cyclists. Only about one third of the UA Cycling Club members were enthusiasts or competitive cyclists prior to college. The majority of the club’s members picked up the sport during college. While racing is an option that’s open to everyone, the club welcomes riders with varied interests and goals and provides rider education sessions as well as on-bike skills clinics. Members also have access to products from club sponsors and services through local bike shop partners.

Cycling Keeps People Moving

Lowering the barriers to participation in cycling is a major motivation for long-time team director, Joey Iuliano. Although he first got involved with collegiate cycling as an undergraduate student at Purdue University, he moved into a leadership role as a graduate student at the University of Arizona. After completing a masters degree in Health and Kinesiology, and a second in Urban Planning, Iuliano earned his Ph.D. in 2021, with focuses on urban planning, active transportation planning, and how the constructed environment influences people’s transportation choices. He is a bike racer with an expert’s eye for cycling infrastructure.

Keeping people moving has been the focus of Iuliano’s academic and professional life. When the pandemic shuttered most university campuses and cancelled group rides and races, it was important to find ways to keep the club engaged and its members active. The club hosted numerous Strava Challenges and tapped into the club’s sponsor relationships to provide prizes for participation and results.

As the pandemic restrictions eased and campus life slowly resumed, the club cautiously restarted small group rides, following campus and regional health guidelines. Because the club hadn’t spent budgeted funds for travel and race entries, they redirected funds to a recruitment drive, including coffee shop rides and meetups fueled by donuts. The efforts worked, and club membership grew to about 50 riders. By the fall of 2021, the club was back to hosting races in the Southwest, and the competition team sent three riders each to Collegiate Mountain Bike and Cyclocross Nationals.

Advocacy and Community Engagement

The University of Arizona Cycling Club actively works to make Tucson, Arizona more bike-friendly for all cyclists. With Iuliano’s expertise in urban planning and transportation infrastructure and the youthful enthusiasm of college students, the club writes elected officials and provides input on projects to the city and county bike advisory committee.

Iuliano sees an opportunity for collegiate cycling clubs to affect transportation policy around the country. He commented, “I think it’s important to be focused on advocacy projects, especially on campus and in the surrounding community, because those efforts help make cycling more appealing to the community at large. And for students in the civil engineering and other design programs, experience with bike advocacy is a great avenue to learn about the issues cyclists and pedestrians face. In the long run, those students will be the engineers and urban planners designing bike- and pedestrian-friendly projects in cities around the country.”

While one part of the club’s community work aims to affect transportation policy, a much more personal component of community engagement is the club’s volunteer work with the El Grupo youth cycling program in Tucson.

Supporting Racing in the Southwest

The University of Arizona Cycling Club goes above and beyond expectations when it comes to creating opportunities for competition. The Southwest Conference is relatively small, but both Tucson and Phoenix have robust cycling communities. UA Cycling organizes three road cycling events in the spring: a time trial, road race, and criterium. In the fall, the club organizes two cyclocross races. All the events are open to USA Cycling riders as well as collegiate riders in the Southwest Conference.

On January 22, 2022 more than 100 riders competed in the Race Against Time time trial. In February, more than 200 riders competed on each day of the 8th Annual Santa Catalina Weekend, which consisted of the Oracle Road Race (Feb 12) and La Clásica San Manuel Criterium (Feb 13). See results and photos from this year’s races.

If you are headed to Tucson, Arizona for a warm winter cycling weekend, the University of Arizona Cycling Club also provides a list of their favorite Tucson Cycling Routes.