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Competitive Cycling: Pleasure, Not Punishment for Professor David Kelley

January 11, 2005

Some might call him a glutton for punishment. But some would say that about any committed, competitive athlete. Professor David Kelley has taken his punishment on a bike as a competitive racing cyclist for the last 15 years. He prefers the grueling race called the time trial, where riders start at one-minute intervals and ride a 25-mile out-and-back course.

A time trial is challenging because you ride all alone - no other riders to draft behind, Kelley says. I once read a description of this type of a race that said, You feel like you have blowtorches on your quads, sandpaper in your throat and a jackhammer in your chest… and you're just now getting to the turnaround!

Yet Kelley says these are the races where he obtains the best results. And in the Merced area, where he moved in the summer of 2003 to join the founding faculty in Natural Sciences at UC Merced, he's found lots of good time trials and other road races - not to mention good competitors to spur him on. He also enjoys training rides in the nearby countryside, rolling out of his office for an hour-long ride around noon every day.

Riding in the foothills east of Merced is delightful, he says. My favorite rides are through the Hornitos, Bear Valley and Coulterville area. The presence of such areas is probably part of why riding and racing are so big here.

Naturally, the California climate is also a factor. I guess I've had too many rides in Colorado where my water bottles froze solid, Kelley laughs. When it comes to cold, I'm just pathetic. Riding here though, he describes as close to perfect.

Other cyclists seem to agree; they're a common sight on the streets and trails of Merced as well as on the country roads around the area. And the University Community planned for the area south of the new UC Merced campus is designed as a bicycle-friendly village. Plan on seeing David Kelley - and his bike - there as a permanent fixture in the future.