Picture a Texas sheriff, and images that come to mind—some stereotypically—include patrol cars, cowboy hats, donuts, and radar guns. Now, try imagining those same officers doing charity rides while wearing a cycling kit. That’s an image Alvis Prince and the Travis County Sheriff’s Cycling Team are fleshing out, showing Austin they are fit and ready to serve.
Prince, in his late 30s, is nowhere near approaching that midlife coasting period. Nor is he reinforcing an inactive stereotype. Instead, he has a newfound love for cycling and triathlon and is using this activity to promote fitness and ability as a sheriff and public servant.
A background checker at the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, Prince has always been active. As a kid, he participated in wrestling, track, and cross country. After high school, he joined the military. But Prince didn’t give triathlons much thought until he raced a triathlon where paddling a canoe substituted for the traditional swim segment. He fell in love with cycling through participating in that event. “It’s funny because I know a lot of people who ride, and I used to make fun of them for the bike shorts and all that,” Prince said, “and I turned into that guy.”
That same year, the Travis County Sheriff’s Office hosted the Texas Police Games, a weeklong event full of a variety of active events, from dominoes to 5Ks and a biathlon. There had been some talk around the office about starting a cycling team, so Prince took it upon himself to get things going. Three years later, there are some 52 cyclists on the team’s roster, including 15 active members and ten members who race. Additionally, Prince said there are many people who support the team as a crew or want to cheer on the sheriff’s office.
When he first began to assemble the team, Prince encountered naysayers who thought it couldn’t be done. “There will always be a few negative people in the world, but we made it happen,” Prince said. He credits this success to people’s desire for a feeling of camaraderie.
Even so, participating on a team while being a sheriff isn’t always easy. The cycling team’s members have very different schedules. “A lot of folks will be working nights, or 11–7, or overtime out on a call,” Prince said. “So it’s tough sometimes getting us all together for group rides.” Typically, Prince reaches out to everybody on the roster via email to see what times and locations work. “We’ve done group rides at Buesher State Park in Bastrop, on the tollways, and Parmer Lane, as well as a little time on mountain bike trails,” he said. The rides are planned around who is going to show up and their fitness levels.
The last big group ride the team participated in was the BP MS 150 in April 2014. Five Travis Country Sheriff’s Office riders were on the roads, both as participants and voluntary bike patrol for the course. “Usually, our largest group event has been the Team Livestrong Challenge here in Austin,” Prince said. Fifteen team members completed the previous Livestrong ride in October 2013.
Prince says that the intent is not to race but to simply ride as a means to stay fit. “I just want to present the sheriff’s office to the public in a positive light and show that we’re ready to do what we have to do, to take care of ourselves and take care of the public. And to show that we care about fitness,” Prince said. To that end, the team finds it important to stay together as a group, and they cross the finish line at events as a unit.
Although the cycling team is making strides, Prince suggested that the sheriff’s office as a whole still needs to achieve an overall level of health. And that motivates Prince to promote health and fitness to the department and the public. He wants the Travis County Sheriff’s officers to be around for the long run.
“You have to be fit for yourself,” Prince said. “You want to retire and not die two days later, and [you want to] be there for your family. We really care about fitness here, and we’ve done well, and we still have work to do.”