Cycling Research Center, Academic Minor link MSU, Community

by Kathy Floyd
A new cycling performance research center at Midwestern State University will tap into the area's cycling community in an "interesting collaboration" to test and train cyclists. MSU Professor of Athletic Training and Exercise Physiology Frank Wyatt said that the Midwestern State University HHH Cycling Performance Center will be unique in terms of its link to the community and to academics. "It's a great combination of the academic side and the community side of MSU," Wyatt said.

In conjunction with the cycling performance center, MSU introduced an academic cycling performance minor ‑ the second in the nation ‑ that provides an academic outlet for the area's cycling community. Wyatt said that most students who choose the minor will be exercise physiology majors, but did not rule out the business major who wants to be involved in the cycling industry or someone who is an avid cyclist. "We know it might interest those outside of the exercise realm, those for whom cycling is a part of their lives," Wyatt said. Wyatt created the content and was able to work the new minor into the 2012 fall schedule. The minor will require 18 credit hours of cycling and science classes, including Biomechanics and Analysis of Human Movement, Exercise Leadership, Nutrition, Physiology of Sport and Fitness Lab, Sport and Exercise Pharmacology, Cycle Testing Protocols, and Cycle Training Protocols.

With its sophisticated testing equipment, the Performance Center will be an important part of the minor program. Team members and students will be able to test participants' oxygen consumption, heart rate, ventilation, height, weight, body fat, power output, and blood lactate. Studies and testing results will show how performance can be enhanced, how participants react to the rigors of cycling, measure reactions to stress, and make prediction equations and models on performance. Equipment will include CompuTrainer computerized ergometers and other special cycling equipment. "It will be impressive," Wyatt said. The center will cost approximately $30,000 to equip. Individuals have donated some equipment that will be refurbished. The Hotter 'N Hell Hundred (HHH) matched MSU with a $10,000 donation for upgrades in existing equipment. The center is located in D.L. Ligon Coliseum Room 222.

The HHH, the 30-year-old, 100-mile bike ride held the last full weekend of August each year, has long been a sponsor of the MSU Cycling Team and cycling scholarships. When approached to contribute to the research center, HHH officials were glad to help because MSU has been an important part of the ride. "We were excited about helping sponsor this in part because there's a real value to MSU and the city with the cycling minor," said HHH founder Roby Christie. "That a good reason why people will want to come here. Our sponsorship of the team and scholarships has helped some really talented young people to do well, and all that will wrap up into the minor and the research center."

Dr. Robert Clark, MSU Vice President of Administration and Institutional Effectiveness, sees the center and cycling minor as a valuable recruiting tool for MSU. Although Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, N.C., was the first to offer a cycling minor, Clark said that MSU's program is unique in that it focuses on the physiology and athletic side of cycling. "It's the only one like it in the U.S.," he said. When Wyatt approached him about the training center, Clark was supportive, especially with its ties to an academic outlet. Clark is optimistic about future expansion of the program. "We're going to open the door and see where it goes," he said.

Wyatt said that MSU will be looking for ways to draw community members to the research center. "Our vision is that everyone who uses the center is being supervised not only by faculty, but by students," Wyatt said. "They're getting real hands-on experience with testing, with training, with things associated with the science of cycling."