How do you train potential Olympic women cyclists and get some good community-service work done cheaply at the same time?
You ask Phidias Cinaglia, coach of the Utah Premier Women's Cycling Team and a director for the Utah Premier Cycling Club. He knows what it takes to train cyclist for the Olympics and what community services could be adapted to their training regimen.Cinaglia contends that many community outreach services require expensive means of delivery. For example, he said, "Library books are delivered by very expensive bookmobiles. Food is delivered to the elderly by very expensive Meals-on-Wheels vans." Conversely, cyclists in training are healthy, willing people who "ride extremely low-cost-per-mile vehicles." They can and will do the delivery work at a fraction of the money many programs now cost.
His proposal would include delivery of library books to shut-ins, gathering of overdue books and returning them to libraries, and delivery of meals to the elderly. Cyclists, he said, could tow a mini-cart equipped with a small microwave unit. Non-prescription drugs could also be delivered by cyclists.
"It would have to be on a prearranged-charge basis with the pharmacist. I wouldn't want my cyclists to be responsible for handling cash or prescription drugs."
His idea has gone beyond the dream stage of finding a way for wom-en athletes to train for competition without their having to sacrifice families, jobs and hours of sleep, Cinaglia said. He has talked briefly with Salt Lake County Commissioner Mike Stewart and other officials, who believe the plan has merit. Now, Cinaglia hopes to meet formally with all of the commissioners as soon as possible.
Cinaglia said cycling as a sport has problems. It has neither the exposure in the media nor the financial support of other Olympic sports such as track or swimming. "The reality of American Olympic preparation is more like a nightmare than a dream.
"In order to make a national cycling team, you have to be strong and competitive. To be strong you have to ride nearly full time and enter as many competitions as possible. And in order to be seen by a national team, a cyclist has to have money. Most full-time jobs do not allow time to train adequately, or the flexibility to compete. It's like a dog chasing its tail. This breaks the chain," he said.
"This plan would allow the rider do something that allows her to get significantly greater by doing something useful." Cinaglia said that if he could generate, through private corporate sponsors, a stipend equal to what they might earn at a regular job, his riders could train full time and almost be guaranteed a spot on a national team.
Cinaglia said he needs to go through county channels for approval of his plan, even though private corporation sponsorship of stipends would be needed, because the county already has established routes, client lists and food supplies. He sees it as a privatization of government programs.
Cinaglia said the idea for bicycle deliveries came out of his own frustration in not having the opportunity to be supported enough to strengthen his own cycling skills for national competition.
"I feel personally burned by it," he said.
If given the chance, Cinaglia would be willing to take a significant cut in pay to become the director of such a community project.
"Why not do something you believe in so strongly?"
Cinaglia, a structural engineer, said he has designed bicycles for racing competition and could adapt the bikes the athletes would ride to meet delivery needs. He said the bicycles his women cyclists use for training do not have traction problems or problems being seen and can be ridden year around.
"We have bikes for all occasions. We have spiked wheels for ice, nobby wheels for slushy conditions and regular wheels for regular conditions."
He said their bikes are equipped with fenders and lights - lights that are so bright that when a cyclist comes down Parleys Canyon, truckers flash their brights at them. They also have flashing lights on the back that can be seen for more than one mile.
And they have riding suits and gloves that protect them from the bitter cold in the winter.
Having someone listen to his plan - like the county commissioners and those in aging programs - is like a dream come true, he said. "It's like a Cinderella experience. I keep wondering if it will turn midnight and everything will go poof."
Cinaglia said he was afraid that when he presented the idea to those in Stewart's office they might treat it lightly and say some quack wants to ride his bike in the middle of a snowstorm while trying to balance 15 food trays.
Cinaglia admits the idea may sound unusual, ". . . but then every new idea is. All I'm asking for is a chance."