While the majority of the cycling world turned its attention to Denmark this weekend for the beginning of the Giro d'Italia, prescient souls also diverted some of their attention 8,000 kilometers westward to Ogden, Utah. What was occurring there, you might ask? Well, the USA Collegiate Cycling Championships were taking place on some of the same roads as the UCI 2.1 Tour of Utah traverses! Attentive eyes glanced over the results sheets for promises of future greatness. If you need convincing, such riders as Tyler Hamilton were collegiate cycling champions before their professional careers.
Friday, May 4, was kicked off the weekend's races with a team time trial. Unlike professional races, teams were limited to four riders to allow smaller programs to be competitive against larger schools. This test of team cohesiveness and speed was held on Antelope Island, which is located in the southern portion of the Great Salt Lake. While the notable presence of numerous bison on the island and the peculiar... fragrence of the lake were notable, the defining feature of the course was the WIND. As my Notre Dame teammates averred, the wind allowed them to ride at over 50kph on the way out and left them battling the elements at a mere 25-30kph on the way back.
As expected, Marian University won the Division I women's title with time to spare. But in a surprise upset, Fort Lewis College and Stanford University both narrowly beat defending Division I Men's champion Marian. The loss of Rob Bush and Adam Liebovich to the "Baby Garmin" development team surely hurt them here. Duke University an MIT won the Men's and Women's Division II TTTs respectively.
The TTT was an out-and-back affair of approximately 30km. If you pay attention, you can see the grass blowing quite heartily in the wind.
The following day saw racers move to downtown Ogden for an 8-corner criterium. In the Men's Division I field, Josh Yeaton of UC-Boulder won in a bunch gallop. Below, the DI men head off for 75 minutes of "fun."
In the Midwest Collegiate Cycling Conference (MWCCC), we call this move "pulling a Marian." Why? Because the Marian women often occupy the first five slots of the Women's A field. Which is what you would expect with professionals Kaitlin Antonneau and Coryn Rivera (pictured in 1st and 2nd respectively) riding alongside other professional and elite riders. Antonneau is now a two-time defending Collegiate National Criterium Champion.
The Women's Division II races saw MIT embarass the other teams in attendance by taking 1-2 with Laura Ralston and Katie Quinn in a breakaway and Christina Birch winning the sprint for third. In the DII men, Colorado Mesa University repeated their 2010 victory, this time with Patric Rostel winning in a solo breakaway.
Sunday, May 6th: Road Race
The course for the road race was several laps around the Pineview Resevoir east of Ogden before a jaunt westward towards the major feature of the day - North Ogden Pass. This Category 1 climb has been featured numerous times in the Tour of Utah and has a final 5km that average an unrelenting 9.3%. The summit came less than 20km from the finish, so any group that made it over the top of the climb would likely retain its gap on the technical descent and short run into the finish in Huntsville.
Among the notable events of the day was a crash that split the Division II Men's field a mere 5km into the 125km race. Numerous riders were left chasing the main pack with nary a warmup in their legs. The carnage from this crash was such that "It still looked like a war zone with ambulances everywhere" on the second lap, according to Notre Dame rider Joe Magro.
In the Women's Division I road race, Heather Fischer of UC-Boulder beat out breakaway companion Kaitlin Antonneau. A group of four riders had congealed on the lower slopes of the climb, though it split near the top and reformed on the descent. Here, Jackie Kurth of Marian attempts to get some separation in the initial flat laps around the resevoir with another rider while teammate Coryn Rivera blocks the chase behind.
In the Division I Men's race, a breakaway of six riders stayed away until the decisive trip up North Ogden Pass. There, several riders launched out of the peleton to bridge up to the splintering lead group. However, David Novak and Josh Yeaton (remember that name from the criterium?) stayed away to finish 1-2 on the day. Novak (below) is better known as a strong rouler with a powerful sprint, so seeing him this far up the standings on a mountainous course is a surprise and harbinger of future success. And yes, he always has that expression when he goes hard. I've seen it in person countless times.
All the pretty pictures are located in the USAC Collegiate Nationals Collection.
Words by Douglas Ansel. Photos Copyright Chris See.