The Saint Augustine’s University Cycling Team is getting the recognition it deserves as the first established cycling team at an HBCU. Within that accomplishment will hopefully come more HBCU cycling teams, more collegiate support from the greatest in the industry, and an increase of Black representation in cycling as a sport. Get the story below of how SAU’s cycling is changing the sports scene in a recent story and video profile from Canyon Bicycles.
As the first historically Black college or university (HBCU) to establish a formal cycling team, the “Falcons” are forging new ground in athletics.
“I see my role as a trailblazer,” says Lavar Stubbs, an SAU cyclist originally from the Bahamas. “This team plays a strong role in the racial justice movement.”
Episode #2 of the Chasing History series “The Road Rarely Taken” highlights SAU following in the tire tracks of the first, and most recent, Black cyclists to win world cycling championships—Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor (1899) and Nelson “The Cheetah” Vails (1985), respectively.
Since Vails, no other Black cyclist has come close to replicating elite-level success. Currently, there is not a single African American rider in any of the seven U.S. Continental teams and none on any ProTeam, WorldTeam or Women’s WorldTeam.
“As a Black athlete, as a kid, you’re thinking: I want to play basketball. I want to play football. Or track,’” says Landon Bishop, an SAU cycling team member. “You didn’t hear a lot of people say: I want to do cycling. Until we had those pioneers start something.”
How professional cycling becomes the road not taken for Black athletes is a complicated issue—after all, all kids start out riding bikes.
“Cycling has always been a rite of passage for young people,” says Umar Muhammad, a professor at SAU and cycling team leader. “When you get your bike, it’s your first sense of freedom.”
“Black kids, white kids, all kids grew up riding bikes,” continues Mark Janas, SAU faculty member and cycling team leader. “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].”
They might see themselves as chasing history, but Vails has one last word of advice for them:
“The kids at St. Augustine’s, when I see them riding, it brings such a smile to my face,” Vails says. “I would tell them what I was told: ‘Always keep it fun.’” This series chronicles the SAU Cycling Team’s first year as a team—check out “Chasing History: Episode 1.”