This column intends to spotlight student athlete-artists from each of SCAD’s sports teams, no matter how well-established or accomplished. This week’s piece highlights the efforts of Clayton Stone, a member of the men’s cycling team who competed and placed in the Grand Junction, Colorado at the 2017 USA Cycling Collegiate & Para Road Nationals back in April.
Cycling was always that recreational past time my mom and I indulged in on Sunday afternoons back home. Occasionally we watched the Tour de France and last summer I also took to watching highlights of Olympic cycling. When I sat down with Clayton Stone, a first-year fashion design major and member of the SCAD men’s cycling team, I was curious to learn more about the competitiveness involved in racing professionally and even on a collegiate level.
“Have you ever watched the Tour de France? It’s similar to that. It’s pretty much the same thing,” Stone said when I asked him to describe his sport.
Stone, a native of Scottsdale, Arizona, has been cycling, or “road racing,” professionally for the past three years. He actually started racing BMX bikes when he was five-years-old, but he committed to road racing when he was 16.
“There’s three different races for cycling,” Stone explained. “There’s a CRIT, time trial and road race.”
Most recently, Stone finished second in the CRIT at the Grand Junction, Colorado at the 2017 USA Cycling Collegiate & Para Road Nationals April 27 through April 30. Stone completed the race less than two seconds behind the winner from Lindenwood University after over an hour and twenty minutes of racing. For the time trial portion of the event, Stone finished the 25K course with a third-place time of 36:47.
“I just did the collegiate series which has bases in Florida, Alabama, pretty much the schools around here,” Stone said. “There’s probably like ten people or so [on the SCAD cycling team], and there’s three different categories. There’s an A category, B category and C category, and most of the people are B’s and working up to A’s, because in nationals, it’s only A’s that compete.”
Stone’s introduction to cycling began when he was young and watched his father ride in the mornings. Eventually, Stone accompanied him during those rides.
“I started going out with him, and I liked it a lot and kept doing it and kind of got into the racing and everything,” Stone said.
Today, Stone does not normally venture out on a leisurely bike ride, but he still does a lot of freestyle riding for fun. For a category A collegiate road race, Stone said a course is roughly 60 miles long.
“The criterium is an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes, and the time trials range from six miles to twelve miles typically,” Stone said. In terms of his training schedule, “I mainly ride about two hours a day, and do intervals along the way, then three sets of three minute intervals or anywhere from two sets of twenty minute intervals depends on the effort and stuff.”
Stone always rides outdoors with the rare exception of indoor training when the weather does not cooperate, but for Stone, the best practice is out on the road. In the lowcountry, Stone said race courses are typically flat.
“We’ve been in Florida a lot, but Colorado is definitely hilly,” Stone said. “There’s not too many hills around this area, unfortunately. There’s the bridge and that’s about it.”
When it came to looking for schools, Stone said SCAD actually reached out to him.
“I actually never really looked for schools,” Stone said. “I got a message and I anticipated on pursuing fashion but I hadn’t really looked into it much. I got a Facebook message from the coach and it all went uphill from there. Now I’m here and it’s the best place ever.”
Upon first reading the message from head coach Ben Van Winkle, Stone said he was in such disbelief, he was not even sure the message was real.
“I messaged back and then he messaged back and we had phone calls,” Stone said. “Then I researched the school and was like, ‘Man I can’t believe I haven’t heard of this place. It’s awesome.’ It worked out and I was able to come here.”
Cycling is not usually considered a team sport, because the cyclists all ride individually. However, Stone said team strategies are heavily involved in road races.
“This year it was individual, because I didn’t have many teammates,” Stone said. “In time trials, it’s obviously individual because it’s just racing against the clock, but in road races there are definitely team tactics, but it can be both.”
To date, the longest race Stone has completed is not a collegiate race but the Tour of Gila, a five stage race located in and around Silver City, New Mexico.
“I want to say it was five days long,” Stone said. “One day was about a twelve mile time trial, another day was a 90 minute CRIT and the other three days were hundred mile road races.”
That’s a lot of time spent concentrating on the road ahead, but Stone said he’s not too intimidated by the distances.
“Honestly I didn’t really think about it,” Stone said. “I just have a good time with my teammates. I mean I trained a lot, and I was physically prepared. I just went with it. I just have a good time and go with the flow. Most of the time, like in mid race, I’m singing a song in my head or thinking about whatever is on my mind, just kind of chilling in the race, and then towards the end I get into race mode when it matters about moving up and how I’m going to finish the race and whatnot.”
Stone said his first-year SCAD experience has been nothing but positive. He is currently taking Intro to Fashion, and he’s also minoring in photography.
“I love this school so much,” Stone said. “It’s definitely like a new adventure for me, because my whole life I’ve been cycling. Even when I was in high school, I was online because I was traveling so much and I was racing with a national team. I never really even drew until I came here, and I was blown away by the whole art world. But I’ve loved it so much, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Stone’s interest in fashion stems from his love of clothes and watching fashion design-based shows. For Stone, the balance between school and his sport is not too difficult, because his training only takes up two hours of his day.
“I mainly focus on my end of school and then ride the two hours I have to everyday,” Stone said. “I hang out with some of the people on the team, like sometimes I do homework with them, but next year there’ll be some more A riders coming in who I’ll be racing with and that I can bond with more, so hopefully more of that next year.”
Stone plans to cycle with his team for the remainder of this collegiate career. Even though Stone will not be racing again until next year’s collegiate season, he said he might compete in a few pro-tour races in the U.S. during the summer. “But if I do, it’ll be last minute because I’m just focusing on college now,” Stone said.