2013 Collegiate Road National Championships – Division I Preview

  
  


With the 2013 USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships just days away, it’s time to take a look at the list of riders to watch at this year’s event, as picked by those that know best: the directors of the 11 collegiate cycling conferences. The conference directors have made their picks and the cross-conference trash talking has begun: we previewed Division II yesterday; today we'll examine the Division I fields.

Individual Men:

 
The man who swept last year’s individual races, Josh Yeaton (University of Colorado Boulder) has graduated, leaving the opportunity for new champions this year. With much of the weekend’s racing taking place at moderate elevation, and peaking at over 6,000 feet on the Ogden Divide, some of the most likely candidates for wins, especially in the road race, will come from Yeaton’s stomping grounds, the Rocky Mountain Conference.
 
The RMCCC director, Topher Hurley, sees three strong candidates for the road race victory: “Howard Grotts (Fort Lewis College) [current D1M XC National Champion] pulled the field for three laps at the US Air Force road race and still took the sprint for third. Will Buick (University of Colorado Boulder) has been insanely strong all year in all races on all courses. Greg Krieger (Colorado State University) is a dark horse that showed some good form late in the season and could surprise some people in Ogden.” For the crit, Hurley has just one name: Bill Golembieski (University of Colorado Boulder), who is the RMCCC conference champion and took home the orange JAKROO leader’s jersey for the season.
 
Also claiming his conference’s JAKROO leader’s jersey, but this time in NWCCC red, is Austin Arguello (University of Oregon). Colin Ross of Portland State University (NWCCC race reporter extraordinaire) says, “This former Exergy and Yahoo rider proved to be a dominant force in his first season of collegiate racing. Supported by his fellow Ducks, Austin finished the season with six wins, ten podiums, and won the leader's jersey by over 200 points. Always a strong presence in criteriums and rolling road races, Austin overcame his self described limitation of being a ‘poor climber’ to solo for victory on the University of Montana's 1,200 foot finishing climb.”
 
Austin will meet a strong challenge, though, in the unstoppable John Tomlinson (University of Southern California), who grabbed the WCCC JAKROO yellow jersey on day one and never let it go throughout the eleven race weekend season, the longest season of any collegiate cycling conference. WCCC director Erikaceae Pearsons says, “Not only is he a consistent rider, he is fast, strong, talented, and very nice! He was untouchable during road season and is sure to give a good show at nationals.” For the road race, though, Pearsons thinks that other Western Conference riders have a strong shot, as well: “Paul Summers (Stanford) upgraded from Bs towards the end of the season and went on to win back to back road races. Keith Wong (Stanford) is a strong and consistent competitor, well known for his solo wins on some of the toughest courses in our conference.” In the crit, however, Pearsons gives the nod to the combined strength of the UC-Berkeley men’s team.
 
Flipping to the opposite coast, the Atlantic conference is sending several contenders that could decimate the hopes of the competition once the races get underway. Conference race reporter Will Massey of Virginia Tech thinks his conference mates from Appalachian State will use their home altitude to their advantage: “ASU will be hunting for some top spots this year with Zeb King as a major player in the crit.  As the road goes upward expect Brandon Freyer to make the selection, as well.” Meanwhile outgoing conference director Kevin Long has high hopes for US Naval Academy riders Nick Hutchinson and Andrew Flegge, as well as North Carolina State University’s Matt Bruner and Stephen Smith. Not to be left out, though, are top ACCC nationals qualifying team Virginia Tech.

Moving north to the ECCC, conference director Joe Kopena says, “It’s really all about a team: Pennsylvania State University.  The Nittany Lions have surged this year, bringing a big team to every race.  Their men's A roster in particular is large---almost half the ECCC's DI licenses---so they roll deep almost every race.  More importantly, this year they're functioning exactly like a true, experienced team, working together and applying real tactics to both win races and claim the season leader's jersey. Highlights to look for include Jeremy Shirock, the Hincapie yellow jersey winner for the season; Michael Garretson, the previous jersey holder; and Wyatt Stoup, a jersey winner in previous seasons who has emerged this season as the ultimate super-domestique: completely capable of winning races of his own right, but more than willing to bury himself to defend his teammates.”
 
Moving to the MWCCC, assistant director Matt Jones makes a rider from Lindenwood University his top pick, saying, “Matt Brandt is probably coming into nationals with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder after losing the green JAKROO leader’s jersey the week before regionals due to an untimely flat tire in the Michigan crit- that flat cost him the omnium.  Matt had the green JAKROO leader’s jersey almost all season, placing very well in all the road races this season and dominating at the Lindenwood race earlier in the season (probably the hardest road course of the MWCCC). I would expect to see the same thing in Ogden.” That being said, however, Jones wouldn’t be surprised by a strong performance by last year’s surprise road race runner up: “David Novak (Lindsey Wilson College) has a great sprint that not many can match, and his performance in the regionals crit this year shows that not even the overall winner Weston Luzadder (Marian University) can top David when he’s on form. I would expect to also see Weston Luzadder place rather high in the crit as he has found himself in nearly every winning break this season in the MWCCC.”
 
Continuing westward to the NCCCC, assistant conference director Megan Kelly expects a strong performance from Aaron Shaw (University of Minnesota). She says,“He races with his whole heart every time he rolls up to the line, and just lost the JAKROO leader’s jersey to Tim Savre. He'll be one to watch now and for at least a couple of years to come.”
 
Heading south, Matthew Reynolds, SCCCC director says that the JAKROO leader’s jersey winner in his conference is a major threat in the road race: “Tony Baca (Midwestern State University) has been on a good run of form lately and can compete for the national championship. Even if he is a Mexican citizen, he’s out for the stars and stripes. Also from Midwestern, watch out for former DII champion Cory Scott- he’s a proven winner. From Texas A&M, Cody Foster could upset not just his fellow SCCCCers, but riders from all over the country.” In the crit, Reynolds advises spectators and competitors alike to watch out for a pair of sprinters that could take the top prize. “Shane Haga from Texas A&M, and brother of fellow A&M alum and current NRC leader Chad Haga, was runner up last year, so will be looking to move a step higher in 2013. From Midwestern State, Sam Croft hails from Australia, so don’t call him a Kiwi (his teammates do anyways), and should place well. A dark horse from University of Texas at Austin, Mitchell Sides is worth keeping an eye on, as well.”
 
Just to the west, the University of Arizona is sending a contingent of men that could all do well, especially conference champion and winner of the turquoise JAKROO leader’s jersey, Joey Iuliano, who has also recently taken on the mantel of assistant conference director. He’ll see some strong competition from Arizona State’s Spencer Crites, however, who is a marked sprinter in the SWCCC.
 
From the Southwest to the Southeastern Conference, the depth of that conference’s fields inevitably breeds strong riders with good chances at nationals. The ever dominant Lees McRae College will be bringing several riders that could prove their strength on the roads of Ogden, including JAKROO leader’s jersey winner Spencer Oswald and his teammate Zach Felpel. But this year a number of strong riders from the University of Florida rode well all season to claim the overall conference title, which bodes well for their chances at nationals. UF is bringing a number of strong men that could easily surpass their former teammate Shawn Gravois’ seventh place finish in the individual omnium last year: Neal Shepherd lost the conference title by only 28 points, and will have the support of Eric Stubbs, Dustin White, and Victor Alber, the last of whom has done very well historically at collegiate mountain bike national championships. Don’t let their flat geography fool you: the Gators of Florida could be a force to be reckoned with.
 
Last but certainly not least, a small number of riders will have home court advantage this weekend from the IMCCC, including the most highly ranked man in the road race, Cortlan Brown (University of Utah). Brown dominated the Division II men’s road race last year on the Ogden Divide, a road he knows well, while he was a student at Salt Lake Community College. This year, with the support of a full team behind him, including conference champion Mitchell Peterson, Brown could match his result in Division I. He’s not currently registered for the criterium, so he very well might have his eyes on Sunday’s prize and with fresh legs, could be tough to beat. Brown is registered for the ITT, however, and the race predictor likes his odds- if the math holds true, Utah could see a hometown winner on Friday and Sunday.
 
 

 

Individual Women:

 
There’s one rider that everyone on and off course will be watching this weekend, simply because she has been so dominant in every discipline she’s tackled: Kaitlin Antonneau (Marian University) is the two time defending DI individual omnium and criterium champion, two time defending DI cyclo-cross national champion, and is perennially dominant at collegiate track national championships, as well. She’ll be looking to match her win in the criterium and improve on her second place in the road race from last year, and she’ll have a strong team to back her up on that quest. Coryn Rivera is fresh off an NCC win at Sunny King, and Jacqueline Kurth is the top ranked rider in the road race Sunday. Meanwhile, Allie Dragoo has been riding strong this season after competing in all four other collegiate national championships- track, mountain bike, cyclo-cross, BMX, and now completing the set with road. Talk about an all-around athlete!
 
The women of Marian will face stiff competition from their own conference in the road race, though, says MWCCC director Jones: “Ashley James (Lindenwood University) opened the season with a huge win at Lindsey Wilson College as well as at Lindenwood. These two wins would give her my nod as favorite in the road race as both courses were very hilly and challenging. Her constant battle is just trying to figure out how to out-dual the Marian trio of Antonneau, Rivera, and Ivy Audrain.”
 
But despite the strength of these riders, the altitude can undeniably play a role for lowlanders, at which point the advantage could turn to the team of last year’s road race victor, Heather Fischer: University of Colorado Boulder. Though Fischer has graduated, she has two teammates ready to succeed her in Ogden: Abby Mickey (conference champion) and Christa Ghent. The RMCCC’s Hurley says, “Abby has been in the front of a strong A field all season long and looks to be getting stronger coming into nationals.” He picks Mickey in the road race and Ghent, a strong sprinter that can more than hold her own in a road race, too, as the woman to watch in the crit. But Hurley advises riders and spectators to keep an eye on a rider from just up the road in Fort Collins, Kate Wold (Colorado State University). He says, “Kate has been knocking at the door of a big result all season and could surprise some people.”
 
Ready to give the women of the Rockies a run for their money, though, is Shelley Dunlop (Portland State University), the NWCCC champion. The NWCCC’s Ross says, “Shelley is another rider in her second season of racing and proves that it is possible to be both a serious student, and an incredible athlete. She was Portland State's rising star in 2012, moving from the C's to the A's despite starting the season with a broken wrist. This year has seen her build on that success, moving into the JAKROO leader's jersey at the end of week four and maintaining that lead for the remainder of the season. Seemingly peaking at the right time, Shelley swept the races at the Conference Championship and looks to continue that momentum in Ogden.”
 
Among riders trying to stop that momentum will be Danielle Haulman and the entire UC Davis team, which has dominated the WCCC all season- Dani has had an unbreakable grip on the conference JAKROO leader’s jersey since the beginning of the season, and she is expected to do well in both the crit and road race. Especially in the road race, though, she will face stiff competition from Joanna Dahl (UC Berkeley) and Sara Bird (Stanford). In the crit, look for Erica Greif (University of Nevada Reno) to continue her duel with Dani and try to use the team battles to her advantage as the solo rider from UNR.
 
From the SWCCC, look for the women of Arizona State and University of Arizona to continue their conference battle at nationals, with Reiley Pankratz (ASU) looking to be a major player in both the road race and the criterium.
 
Meanwhile, moving eastward to the SCCCC, director Reynolds thinks that one rider will leave all the rest in the dust: Jessica Prinner (Midwestern State University). “She can leave a field behind whenever she wants,” he says, and she will definitely have a strong team behind her, as Jessica and her teammates Claire Routledge and Ashley Weaver all traded the conference JAKROO leader’s jersey off until Ashley claimed it at conference championships. Jessica has the legs to perform well in every event she enters, and she will be racing all four races, something only seven other riders are doing event-wide.
 
From the SECCC, look for the women of Lees McRae College to try and outdo the University of Florida after losing the conference title to them just a few weeks ago. Lees McRae’s Cinthia Lehner will bring her sprinting legs and have the backing of teammates and cyclo-cross phenom twins Katherine and Emily Shields, while Erin Donahue will be expected to do well in the road race. Florida is not so easily outdone, however, as they will turn to Holly Beard and Chelsea Factor, both of whom are expected to factor prominently in the criterium and road race. From farther south, Rebecca Whitsitt, fresh from winning the conference title and taking home the yellow JAKROO leader’s jersey, will look to crush the ITT Friday.
 
Moving up the coast, the ACCC champion, Nina Laughlin (Appalachian State University) will be staying home after sustaining a concussion at the conference championships. This after breaking a rib mountain biking just a few weeks before- Laughlin is almost unstoppable, but a head injury is nothing to mess with. But the ACCC has plenty of cards up its sleeve, especially Caroline Moakley (North Carolina State University) who made it into a very elite group of ten riders last year that managed to stay in the same zip code as Heather Fischer on the Ogden Divide. Look for Moakley to do even better this year after winning six of the eight races she entered this season, including both races at conference championships. Laughlin’s teammate Kelly Perkins will be in Ogden, as well, to build on her second place conference finish.

From the ECCC, director Kopena picks Hayley Wickstrom from the University of Pittsburgh, saying, “Hayley is almost certainly peaking just in time for nationals.  After being visible but relatively quiet through March, she's had an explosive April with a number of commanding crit and road race victories.” Hailing from the NCCCC, conference champion Karin Friberg (University of Minnesota) is a relative newcomer, in just her second year, but according to director Kelly, “As a former international level ski jumper, she knows training and she can handle the pressure of major events.” Pressure is certainly a factor at an event of this magnitude, but so is the home court advantage, something that Joan Meiners (Utah State University) has in her favor. Being a local favorite from just up the road in Logan, Meiners could easily get a boost from fans and the comfort of competing at home in IMCCC territory.
 
 

 

Team Time Trials and Omnium

 
Last year’s men’s TTT saw an incredibly close race- only 28 seconds separated all five places on the podium, with four seconds between surprise winners Fort Lewis and runners up Stanford, just another five seconds ahead of previously defending champs Marian University. All this means that those that came so close last year will be out for blood in 2013, and Fort Lewis will have to work extra hard to defend. This is especially true with the increasing power of Lindenwood University, CU Boulder, and the men of California Polytechnic-San Luis Obispo, who WCCC director Pearsons calls, “four of the strongest men in our conference.” The men of Midwestern State University will be a tough train to stop, though, with enough watts in their arsenal to easily podium after a disappointing 11th place in 2012.
 
Among women’s TTT squads, Midwestern State has an equally strong shot, but the three time defending champs from Marian University will be tough to dethrone. CU Boulder will do its best to improve on second place from last year, though Pearsons says of UC Davis, “They will definitely show why they are the number one women’s team in our conference. Their organization and pure strength will surely give other teams a run for their money.” This statement is strengthened by the depth of WCCC’s women’s talent: UC Berkeley and Stanford are also on top form and have great shots at a podium, as well. Fort Lewis College will be vying for one of those spots, though, alongside Lees McRae and University of Florida. Dark horse Portland State could have a very strong showing, though, as well.
 
When it comes to overall titles, one tricky thing about nationals is that it’s easy to come into the event after dominating a conference season and expect a good deal of that momentum to carry through, when the new competition and unfamiliar faces is in many ways like starting from scratch on a level playing field. (Or in the case of the Ogden Divide, a playing field on a 9% grade.) But still there are a few standouts. RMCCC director Topher Hurley has been saying since early in the season that CU Boulder and Fort Lewis College are going to “win everything” at nationals, with many riders in the RMCCC saying that the racing they’ve seen this season is the fastest they’ve ever seen, much less experienced. But aside from CU and FLC and their “insanely strong” teams, Hurley warns, “Colorado State University is coming on strong - beating FLC for 2nd in the conference standings and boasting some solid dark horse contenders.”
 
At the end of the day, a balanced team of male and female riders is essential to nationals success- something that more teams than ever can boast this year. Of the 59 Division I teams present, 30 have both men and women, which will generally double their odds of making it on the podium. Of the standouts, there are perennial powerhouses Stanford and UC Davis from the WCCC along with UC Berkeley, Midwestern State of the SCCCC, Lees McRae from the SECCC, and of course MWCCC up and comers Lindenwood University giving their all to nab the title from defending champions Marian University, who is looking to make it a perfect four years in a row. (Fun fact: since 2009, the team that’s won the women’s TTT has also won the event overall.)
 
But there are also plenty of dark horses that have a strong shot at the podium: Cumberland University has been doing better in its first year in Division I than it even did in Division II; Portland State University dethroned University of Washington in the NWCCC for the first time in recent memory, and is bringing a strong team to the event;  University of Florida has done the same to Lees McRae in the SECCC, and has great momentum coming into the event; the University of Arizona team is bringing more riders to the event than it has in several years; and the same is true for Indiana University.
 
With record turnout this year (a 13% increase in riders over 2012) the fields are deeper and stronger than they’ve ever been. As a result, the winners are harder to pick, and several of this weekend’s strongest riders are likely to be upsets, coming out of the woodwork at just the right time and not mentioned in this preview. Lots of contenders are flying under the radar, just as happy not to be marked by the competition, ready to pounce when everyone is watching the riders we all know to keep an eye on.
 
So place your bets, and get ready for some great racing this weekend in Ogden!

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