Collegiate Road National Championships – Division II 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’ll start with Division II.

Individual Men:

With much of the 2012 Division II men’s podiums not returning this year (graduation, moving to DI schools, etc), the field is fairly open for new names on the podiums. One champion from last year that is making his way back, though, is Patric Röstel (Colorado Mesa University), freshly hired as the full-time head coach of his Colorado Mesa University team. Balancing his work as coach with being a full-time student while also training and racing has been challenging for him, but despite his insistence that he “hasn’t been training” he still managed to hold off a charging field at the RMCCC conference championships to win on his home crit course.
Giving Patric a run for his money will be Michael Simecek (Western Washington University)­-- Michael began racing last year with a sweep of the category D races at the season opener and this season won his first A race from a solo breakaway. Known for his good fashion sense and strong sprint he looks to set himself up to match his bunch sprint win in the Conference Championship crit with one at Nationals. Not to be discounted, though, are the men of Duke: ACCC champion Michael Mulvihill will have a strong team behind him, including conference runner up Matthew Rinehart and fourth place Matt Howe. But don’t discount Duke’s fellow ACCCer Payne Griffin (American University), who has been racing solo all season and nonetheless has been racking up points left and right.
ECCC director Joe Kopena is putting his money on two “strong riders supported by two excellently functioning teams.” He says, “Ben Grass from Dartmouth College has a lot of racing experience behind him, and has fought voraciously with the aid of his teammates to hold onto the green sprint leader's jersey this season.  Zach Ulissi from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology heads into the ECCC final weekend as the DII leader [at Easterns Zach’s lead in DII was nabbed by Daniel Holmdahl of Dartmouth and MIT teammate Cameron Cogburn] and has shown near limitless ability to attack, breakaway solo, recover, and repeat as necessary.  Supported by a large and strong MIT squad, he has the endurance to come up big in any breakaway.”
The Midwest Conference assistant director, Matt Jones, expects good things from Notre Dame strong men John Pratt and Joe Magro: “John has proven to have a great sprint in the crits and Joe has been able to find his way to the front at the road races. These two will also be the key to the University of Notre Dame TTT.”
Yet when the MWCCC faced the North Central Conference in a snow-shortened dual conference event this spring, it was two men from Minnesota that beat both Notre Dame riders (but all fell short against fellow MWCCC DII rider Joshua Leibowitz of Washington University in St Louis). Says NCCCC assistant director Megan Kelly, “Tim Savre, from University of St Thomas, showed up in Radioshack shorts and wobbled through his first race just last year. After a stellar summer, he moved quickly through the ranks and started this season as an A. His strong and consistent racing gave him the conference title. However, he'll face a strong threat from Tony Olson, from MSU-Mankato, who will be looking to improve on last year's 4th place podium performance in the road race, and step on to the podium in the crit.”
From down south, don’t forget about SCCCC DII champion Alan Tausend (Texas Christian University), who should do well. Matthew Reynolds, SCCCC director, says, “Alan rode with the winning break at the conference criterium championships and can put a great ride out of a smaller field.” How that will translate to the nearly 100 DII men expected to take to the roads of Ogden remains to be seen.
Other riders to watch include favorites from the oxygen-challenged RMCCC, Michael Burleigh (University of Denver) and Zeb Hanley (US Air Force Academy), as well as SECCC DII champion Zachary Nave of Milligan College, who has also been hired as the coach of the team in another display of an incredible balancing act. His fellow SECCCers Cahad Capobianco (Mars Hill College) and Nick Jowsey (Brevard College) are also important riders to keep an eye on in Ogden.

Individual Women:

Among Division II women, Danita Dunlap (Western Washington University) stands to perform well on behalf of the NWCCC. According to Colin Ross of Portland State University, “Danita is in her third season of racing, and can be easy to underestimate due to her friendly, unassuming demeanor.  Overlooking her in any race would be a mistake, as this former speed skater has repeatedly shown that she has the legs to win races: a fact her competitors discovered when she displayed her powerful sprint to win her home criterium this past season. This will be her second trip to Ogden and Danita seems poised to improve on last year’s 15th and 16th in the criterium and road race respectively.”
Meanwhile, from about as far as one could get from WWU, Solymar Rivera-Torres stands a good chance of representing University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras for the first time on a national championship podium. Her fellow SECCC riders from Mars Hill College, such as Allison Arensman, or Brevard’s Erica Zaveta (current DII cyclo-cross national champion) could also do very well in Ogden. From just north of the North Carolina schools, though, Adelaide Tillinghast (American University) showed impressive strength in the closing weekends of the ACCC season, making her a big threat for both the criterium and the road race. From the MWCCC, assistant director Jones expects Anne Gerard (Butler University) to place well.
Given its extremely high concentration of DII schools and perennially strong women’s fields, though, it’s no wonder that ECCC will supply the brunt of the nationals field. Director Kopena says, “Among the Division II women, any of a number of riders could win one or both mass start events.  Appropriately enough, statistically the favor has to go to MIT.  Previous ECCC and multi-time national champions Katie Quinn and Laura Ralston are both returning, but the Beavers' depth has only increased with Shaena Berlin developing rapidly in the second half of the season and becoming a power in her own right. Leslie Lupien from Dartmouth College is similarly supported by extensive experience and often seems to have won every single prime this season.  However, several other newer riders have also developed this season and come through with substantial upsets that could translate into nationals results, including Rugile Kaladyte from Rochester Institute of Technology and Jasmine Hansen from the US Military Academy.  Rose Long from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is also a serious dark horse threat, with both DI nationals experience in her background, and the tenacious, cutthroat, force-of-nature riding from her years as an undergraduate at the University of Vermont.”
But just because the ECCC brings the numbers (and MIT) doesn’t mean there aren’t super strong contenders elsewhere. From the SCCCC, for example, director Reynolds says, “former Baylor  track and field star and current cycling star Danielle Bradley has had a meteoric rise through the cycling ranks, going from cat 4 to cat 2 in a matter of months. She’s gunning for a top 3 omnium place and I’m thinking she’s very likely to get it.”
Meanwhile, Topher Hurley, director for the RMCCC, says that Jocelyn Irwin (University of Denver) has the best chance of doing well, while Colorado Mesa University is bringing a squad of three riders, and those numbers could play an important role in the race.

Team Time Trials and Omnium:

Duke is hoping to retain its title in the men’s TTT, and has been on great form all season, but will face stiff competition from Western Washington University, which claimed second place in the race in both 2010 and 2011. Winners those years were the men of Colorado Mesa University, and they’ll certainly be looking to reclaim the top step of the podium. MIT, with its on campus wind tunnel that the competition hates to hear about, is always a contender, and will be hoping to improve on second place last year. Mars Hill College can’t be discounted, either, however.
Among women’s TTT teams, the odds-on favorites are the women of MIT, who haven’t lost the event since 2010, and have been on fire this year, but lost by only eight seconds at the conference championships to UVM. Though the latter is a DI school, it shows that MIT can be beaten. The last time that happened at nationals, however, in 2010, it was Whitman College that took the title home, and this year the Whitman women will be looking to repeat. Coming on strong in time for the event, though, are Yale, Mars Hill, King College, and Colorado Mesa.
This year’s Division II team title is the most unpredictable it’s been in years. Mars Hill and MIT appear on paper to be the biggest contenders, but the US Military Academy could improve on their third place from 2012. With Cumberland now competing in Division I, there’s an opening for King College, University of Denver, or Duke University to make the podium. Not to be forgotten, though, Colorado Mesa University and Whitman College will each be sending riders into all events, which is key to a successful run at the title. This is truly anyone’s event and it’ll be thrilling to see how it all unfolds!
Tune in tomorrow for our Division I race preview, and follow the racing action live this weekend on Twitter via #collnats.

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This Article Updated May 2, 2013 @ 03:41 AM For more information contact: