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Cyclocross captivates CU student

By Mike Buonocore
On January 31, 2018

Andrew Borden races hard in the cyclocross national championships. Photo courtesy of Andrew Borden. 

Think about mixing road bike racing and a mountain bike race. Sounds fun right? Or crazy?

Well it’s a thing, and it’s called cyclocross.

And in order to really understand it, you’ll have to look it up on YouTube and watch a race. It’s basically an hour-long struggle fest that is never cancelled due to weather, and it breeds some of the toughest athletes out there.

One of those athletes is here at Castleton University.

But he doesn’t only race bikes, and he hasn’t even been racing for all that long. He also is a member of Castleton’s alpine ski team, has maintained a GPA that put him on Dean’s list his first two semesters, is the founder of the Castleton Cycling Club, and the list goes on.

“He’s always been a driven kid,” his parents said almost simultaneously inside their unique home in Pittsfield, Vermont.

Andrew Borden grew up in this small town, attended high school in Woodstock, and now studies health science here.

“He set a goal and for the last three years he has done everything in his power to achieve that goal,” said his father, Peter Borden.

That goal is to go to become the United States cyclocross champion then go to cyclocross world championships.

This may sound like a far stretch for the small-town Vermonter, but a quick glance into his daily life illustrates he very well could complete this task. From waking up at the crack of dawn to get food from Huden Dining Hall to kick-start his metabolism to going to bed at or around 8:15 p.m. every day, Borden is a meticulous machine of a human.

“He’s very specific about what he eats and what he puts in his body and it’s all scientific, things that sometimes we don’t understand,” said his mother, Verna Borden.

He was 16 years old at the beginning of his cycling career, and in the life-long sport of cycling, that isn’t long at all. When his life became engulfed by the love for spinning the cranks of his bike, his family’s collective life changed too.

“We used to have a lot of dairy in the house but because ‘dairy is sooo bad for you’ we have to drink almond milk,” his brother, Peter said, semi-jokingly but also in a semi-serious manner. “And he doesn’t like ice cream because it has dairy in it.”

Keep in mind, 10 minutes before his brother said this, Andrew was found in the kitchen with a mouth full of whipped cream straight from the container.

Cycling wasn’t always at the forefront of his agenda, though. In fact his love for the sport originated as a way to stay fit for ski racing. His parents posted on Facebook that Andrew was in need of a bike and a helpful hand at Killington Mountain School reached out and offered him a road bike.

Borden looks to pass a fellow competitor mid-race. Photo courtesy of Andrew Borden. 

Life has changed a bit for him after graduating high school and migrating to Castleton, and he’s had to learn how to balance racing bikes at a professional level and being a good student.

“One of the biggest challenges a cyclist comes across is finding free time,” Borden said.

“You’re either cleaning the bike, working on the bike, out on the bike or thinking about being on the bike, which involves lots of setting up training plans. But the thing I like most about the health science major and the classes that are involved with the major is that they really relate to cycling, especially with anatomy, it all kind of goes full circle and loops back to what I enjoy.”

As his parents said, he’s very driven and he’s not known to only give half of his effort to cycling. But he treats school the same.

“It can be difficult at times, living with Andrew,” said his roommate Devin Perry. “When I try to stay up late and do homework, Andrew puts the kibosh on that.”

But he isn’t always super serious about things.

“He talks in weird robot voices all of the time and it royally pisses me off,” Perry said.

Something else about living with a cyclist of Borden’s caliber is the amount of cycling gear in his room at all times. When you first open the door to his small dorm room, all you see are bikes – six of them.

Four are his and two are Perry’s.

“I’m more motivated to bike for sure after beginning to live with Andrew, and he also turned me in to an alpine skier,” said Perry, a member of the Nordic ski team. “He expanded my hobbies and interests.”

Living with Borden also made Perry consider the kind of food that he was putting in to his diet.

“I’ve always tried to eat healthy but when I became roommates with him, I started to pay more attention to my diet,” he said.

Life hasn’t always been perfect for this young professional, in fact there have been plenty of blips.

High school is when most people find out who they are, what kind of people they associate with, and ultimately who or what they want to be when they grow up. For Borden, honing in on becoming a professional bike racer was crucially important.

“I went to a new high school not knowing any previous people there and that’s kind of when I started my cycling career so I was spending more time on the bike and really just enjoying that. Because I really enjoyed biking and realized that I wanted to have some successes on it, I kind of spent more time with the bike rather than people in the school,” Borden said. “High school was kind of a time of me kind of riding solo and focusing on what I like to do rather than what others think is cool.”

He also suffers from asthma. Having a disease that affects the lungs in a sport like bike racing can be very limiting, but Borden has overcome that obstacle.

“His albuterol, which would treat it in the event of a bad asthma attack, is on the banned list so he can’t use it, so he’s built up his own lung capacity to deal with those issues,” said his father.

All of his colleagues and his family are extremely proud of the hard work Borden puts in to being a cyclist and a student, and many of them are confident in his abilities in both aspects. His goal of becoming the United States Cyclocross champion and heading the Cyclocross World Championships is an attainable goal given the drive and determination he has.

“He’s been burned, he’s made some mistakes, he’s had some real positive outcomes, but the lessons that he’s learned not just in cycling, while being in the saddle, but the lessons he’s learned about life have been phenomenal, which is really cool,” Peter said. “I think if there’s someone who can do it, just with the drive and focus, he’ll do it.”

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