nick camacho

The Human Powered Vehicle West Coast Competition, hosted this year by Cal Poly, ran its course Sunday.

Cal Poly placed first in design and third in the sprints. California State University, Chico won first place in the endurance race, sprint races and overall.

At 8 a.m. the rest of the campus was still slumbering, in the light but constant mist, a crowd of about 100 people gathered around a man with a megaphone.

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) sponsored the annual event, which consists of presentations, safety tests and racing over a period of three days.

Some 30 universities from across the West Coast registered for the event. Washington State University Vancouver’s human powered vehicle (HPV) was an elongated, red low-rider bicycle with purple flames. A group of students in camouflage shorts circled their United States Air Force Academy vehicle, which resembled a grey and navy ship on wheels.

“It’s mainly competitive so there’s not a lot of sharing (between universities),” said Andrew Tranovich, mechanical engineering junior and chair of the ASME Cal Poly Student Section.

Clustered together, participants cheered riders by as they completed each of the 40 laps of the endurance race.

HPVs began to fall as riders attempted to make the “hairpin,” a 360-degree turn. Karin Hanzi, a mechanical engineering senior and the Cal Poly team’s first rider, was one of the unfortunate initial wipeouts.

“I crashed the bike, ruined it,” Hanzi said after finishing her four laps.

“This year the bike was a little different,” Hanzi said. The HPV this year, unlike last, had reverse steering. She also won the women’s sprints last year when Cal Poly placed first overall.

Hanzi said HPVs are a lot like cars and she feels more like a racecar driver than a bicycle racer. The HPVs are safer and more stable at the high speeds of more than 40 miles per hour reached in the sprint races.

“A lot of them are practical. You can carry groceries in them,” Tranovich said. The utility race tested the vehicles’ ability to carry packages over bumps, potholes and other obstacles.

“ASME sponsors the Human Powered Vehicle Competition in hopes of finding a design that can be used for everyday activities ranging from commuting to and from work to going to the grocery store,” according to the Web site.

“I think anything that doesn’t require gas is going to be good,” Cal Poly rider John Hygelund said.

He was recruited for the team based on his experience racing regular bikes.

By 11 a.m., the sun had made its appearance. Tranovich and his volunteers had been there since 2:30 a.m. preparing for the course at the corner of California Boulevard and Highland Drive.

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