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A Steady Climb

When Robin Carpenter ’14’s name was called with the rest of the Bachelor of Arts recipients at Commencement 2014, he was on a bicycle 19 miles away in Philadelphia, preparing for the annual Philly International Cycling Race. He didn’t win the race, but he won the hearts of the crowd by wearing his graduation cap at the starting line.

Now an emerging American cycling star, Carpenter is living his dream as a professional cyclist with the world-class Hincapie Racing Team.

“It’s a great life,” says Carpenter, who has relocated to San Diego to train full time.

It’s been a steady rise in the world of cycling for Carpenter, who began riding with his father at age 10. He was amateur racing when he arrived at the College in 2011.

Steadily improving as an amateur, Carpenter earned a spot on the Cannondale-Garmin U-23 developmental team and signed his first professional contract at the end of his freshman year.    

Carpenter had harbored no intentions of becoming a pro cyclist.

 “When I was looking at colleges, I rode on a local club team for fun,” he says. “I just wanted to go to the best college that I could get in to. That was Swarthmore.” 

Balancing a rigorous training schedule with the demands of Swarthmore, Carpenter finished his coursework in three and a half years to focus on cycling, 

These days, Carpenter spends almost all of his time on his bike training in the California sun, typically covering 100 to 110 miles in a single day.

“It’s a pretty regular work day,” he says. 

Carpenter’s dedicated training has paid off. He is excelling on the domestic circuit. In August 2014, he battled treacherous weather conditions in the Rocky Mountains to win Stage 2 of the USA Pro Challenge—his career highlight so far.  In 2015, he won the sprint competition of Philly Cycling Classic, whose most famous feature—the Manayunk Wall climb—takes place just a few blocks from where he grew up.  

“Cycling is a fickle profession, but I plan to do it as long as I enjoy it and can make a living from it.”