Collegiate Road Nationals Preview: Division I


With the 2012 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: yesterday we took a look at Division II, and today we turn to Division I.

Individual Men:

Riders will face an even more brutal climb than they did in Madison when they race on Sunday in Ogden.
Riders will face an even more brutal climb than they did in Madison when they race on Sunday in Ogden.
ACCC Director Kevin Long is betting Reid Beloni of Appalachian State can pull out a win at nationals this year. “Reid gave Matt [Rinehart, DII and Overall ACCC champion] a run for the money right up to the last race and does well in road races, but he may surprise everyone in the crit, too.” Meanwhile, from the SCCCC, Conference Director Matthew Reynolds has high hopes for Midwestern State senior Jason Short for the road race: “He's the 3 time defending conference champion, plus he has the most tricked out Volkswagen in the conference… In his swan song to collegiate cycling, he looks to go out a national champion. A very smart, talented rider Jason will be looking to repeat the success of his team in 2007 and win another gold medal for his university in the men’s road race.”

In the criterium, Reynolds favors Texas A&M, saying they “won't be at a disadvantage this time around with 4 studs ready to throw down on the field.” In particular, he says, “Shane Haga, the younger brother of Optum pro rider Chad Haga, looks to stir things up in the breakaways or even play super-lieutenant for team sprinter and all around good guy Cody Foster. With Ben Davis and Shawn Small chasing down attacks and covering the moves, you can expect big things from the Aggies.”

From the super-talented MWCCC, Assistant Director Matt Jones says that the road race would be a “tossup between Alex Wieseler (Marian University and MWCCC Champion) and Alex Meyer (University of Wisconsin-Madison),” but with the latter absent, it should be Wieseler’s show. In the crit, though, Jones is liking the chances of Wieseler and his teammate, Weston Luzadder, saying that “neither rider seemed to miss a breakaway this season and both seem to have a great sprint at the finish. Brandon Feehery (Lindenwood University) could be a surprise winner, though.”

From the NCCCC, Director Mark Guthart says the Division I men “are going to be wondering what the flash of cardinal and gold is as Iowa State's Kevin Severs flies by them to become this year's collegiate national champion. Equally talented at long, difficult road races and at crits, Kevin has proven he can win even with a small supporting staff.” From the RMCCC, Conference Director Topher Hurley says he would put his money on either Griffin Easter (Fort Lewis College) or Josh Yeaton (University of Colorado-Boulder). One can never discount Fort Lewis’ mountain bike phenoms on the road, though, including defending collegiate XC and STXC champions Howard Grotts and Rotem Ishay, respectively.

From the NWCCC, conference media represenative Evan Schmitt tells us, "Washington State's Jake MacArthur and Washington's Davis Shepherd will be the two male riders to look for in Utah. MacArthur won four races in a row during the season and the Cat 1 racer packs a massive sprint. Look for Shepherd on the front of the group when they hit the mountains as he is a course record-holder at Seattle's hardest hill climb, Zoo Hill."

On home turf, Mitchell Peterson of the University of Utah is the 2009 mountain bike omnium winner and according to IMCCC Director Kimberly Garvie, “While it is not possible for him to get any leaner, he has most definitely been getting stronger every weekend. And he is not alone - he will have some strong teammates to help him out - especially newcomers Scott Bauer and Connor Johnson.” From the WCCC, women’s camp director Erika Pearsons says that “Mackenzie Champlin (UCLA) and Sam Bassetti (UC-Davis) are two very strong riders to look out for representing the WCCC in this year’s collegiate road nationals. Champlin, a very consistent rider, is the overall omnium champion, with Bassetti coming in second,” though she says the latter might have the upper hand with a strong team of support, as well as ending the season on a high note by winning both the criterium and road race at conference championships.

Individual Women

Out of the ACCC, both Appalachian State’s Nina Laughlin and North Carolina State’s Caroline Moakley have legitimate chances at a podium after battling it out for week after week and trading wins throughout the season. Long says Laughlin is “one of our best and most consistent women (and ACCC champion); she finished second overall last year to her teammate Ashley James (who took the semester off to race for NOW/Novartis) and I expect top 10 overall for her at Nationals.” Meanwhile, Long thinks Moakley will “do well in both the RR and crit, and may have taken the championship from Nina if she had made all of the races.”

The women of UC-Davis will definitely factor into both the crit and the road race
The women of UC-Davis will definitely factor into both the crit and the road race
Not to let the ECCC be discounted, Sully says that “Lenore Pipes of Cornell has a nasty sprint, but no teammates.  Given the right situation, she will take advantage of it.  If she gets a clean shot of daylight during the finishing sprint of a crit, it is game over for the other contenders.” The SCCCC’s Reynolds is downright boastful, though, in Midwestern State’s capabilities: “In the crit, the pure sprinting of SCCCC champion Claire Routledge from Midwestern State will prove too much for the other schools. In fact, I overheard her at the conference championships calling the competition from outside the SCCCC ‘soft and lazy…’ I don't make things up, I just report what I hear.”

He’s equally confident in Routledge’s teammate in the road race, claiming, “MSU is more than likely going to win everything. Even with former national champions Jennifer Purcell and Natalie Klemko gone from Wichita Falls, the team is just as strong as ever. Jessica Prinner can ride anyone in the country off of her wheel; it's a proven fact, I've seen it in person. With super teammates Ashley Weaver, New Zealand's Claire Routledge and our own Swiss Miss Loren Eggenschwiler, it's a fact… Jessica is going to come home with the gold.”

That is, unless the defending criterium and omnium champion Kaitlin Antonneau and her Marian teammates have anything to say about it. Jones says, “The ladies of Marian will make it interesting between Coryn Rivera (defending collegiate track omnium national champion), Kaitlin Antonneau, Jackie Kurth, and 2009 collegiate criterium national champion Sinead Miller. Coryn Rivera is a threat in any road race but watch for any of the other Marian girls to finish near the top, too. Kaitlin  Antonneau should be the pick for the crit as defending champion but returning Sinead Miller will look to bring home a second Criterium title before graduating.”

From the NCCCC, Guthart says that “the DI women will be led by University of Minnesota-Twin Cities' dynamic duo of Nicole Mertz and Abby Ruess, who could easily flip a coin on which of them will take the crown in the Criterium and which will take the crown in the Road Race.” Coming from the familiar terrain of the Rocky Mountains, though, will be reigning RMCCC champion Heather Fischer (University of Colorado-Boulder), who Hurley says will be hard to stop in the road race, after proving nearly invincible this spring. In the crit, he puts the odds on Sarah Sturm, of Fort Lewis College, who is the reigning collegiate national champ in the criterium’s muddy cousin, short track.  

Out of the Northwest, Schmitt says that the University of Washington's Kelly Plese and University of Oregon's Aleah Davis will be the two riders to watch in Ogden. “Plese is only a freshmen but she is a major force on the velodrome, so she packs a powerful sprint. Davis will be the one to watch when the road turns upwards as she was one of the strongest riders on the hilliest of courses.” And from the opposite corner of the country, in the SECCC, riders should be on the lookout for conference champion Liz Gerrity (Florida State University) and the Lees-McRae train. LMC is certain to launch multiple-pronged attacks from Rachel Warner, Cinthia Lehner, Jennifer Greenberg, and twin sisters Katherine and Emily Shields.

Pearsons says that the safe money is on “Danielle Haulman and Sunshine Townsend from UC-Davis, hands down, both leading the omnium by an incredible 200 points. Every race was an impressive performance by the two team mates that seem to have their chemistry and communication just right.  Not only are they strong riders, but they are extremely nice and fun to watch race, especially in the crit.”

Finally, circling back to Utah and the home-state favorites, Garvie says, “If Katie Ronnse of the University of Utah could switch to skis, this former World Cup racer would take the win for sure. She has experience competing at nationals in Division II for the University of Denver back in 2007 and 2008. Lately she has been beating up on the men in our conference since she doesn't have enough women to challenge her.”

Team Time Trial:

The women of Marian will be tough to beat in the TTT, but several teams are more than up to the
The women of Marian will be tough to beat in the TTT, but several teams are more than up to the
In the opening day’s TTT, it may take a truly herculean effort to knock the women of Marian University off the top step, after winning the event for two years running, along with their male teammates. Jones says of their TTT squad, “No one has been able to top Marian in this discipline the past three years and I do not see anyone dethroning them just yet.” Expect CU-Boulder to give them a run for their money though, as American cycling legend Andy Hampsten reportedly went riding with the squad to give them pointers and was left speechless without any advice to give. Hurley agreed, saying that they definitely “seem to have it figured out this year.”

Not to be discounted, though, are the women of Midwestern State, who Reynolds says will “put up a heck of a fight, although they might not have the total firepower to win as they seem to be pushing for an individual omnium or race championship.” From the west coast, though, both Stanford and UC-Davis could be contenders for the win, according to Pearsons. “Both have a strong core foundation of female riders,” and each have historically performed well in this discipline.  

Among men’s TTT squads, Long advises spectators to keep an eye on Navy, saying, “These guys are awesome: strong, coordinated and FAST.” Although in the 2011 TTT, one Naval Academy rider famously missed the final corner and rode through a swamp to get back to the finish, the team still placed well. If they can make every turn this year they could be a real threat. From the SCCCC, Reynolds says that the men of Texas A&M “pretty much dominated the TTT at conference. I expect the same at nationals and yes… like some of those ECCC schools they too have a wind tunnel on campus. So take that…” Guthart once again gets boastful about the NCCCC’s chances, though, claiming that “four letters will dominate the Men's TTT: I-O-W-A. Assuming they make their start time, that is. Rumor has it their missed start time at last year's National Championships was actually an intentional error just so they could come back as an underdog and take the gold this year. Time will tell to see whether this strategy pays off, but Iowa definitely has the strength to pull it off.”

From the RMCCC, Hurley says that the men of Colorado State have been “killing it in the TTTs this spring. FLC and CU have been playing with their lineups though, so don't be surprised if any of these three teams take it.” At the same time, though, Garvie says that “Utah State University has a cohesive group that rides well together: Brad Buccambuso, David Clyde, Jedd Cox and Kodey Myers.” Pearsons gives the WCCC’s men’s chances to UC-Davis, however, saying, “They’re the largest team in the conference that resides on flat farm lands with high winds, where following closely behind one another is your only option if you do not want to be stranded out with the cows...”

Team Omnium:

The defending champions of Marian University, after winning two years in a row, could see the toughest competition in years. Still, Jones is confident: “I have to go with Marian again this year,” he says. “Not just because it’s my alma mater, but they are proving to be a tough team to beat on the road again this year with depth in the men’s and women’s fields and I can see them making it a three-peat on the road.” Some of their toughest competition may come from their own conference, though, in the form of Lindenwood University and Lindsey Wilson College, who know their opponents from Indianapolis better than anyone and may have an inside edge. But nationwide, their toughest challenger could be CU-Boulder, still riding a wave of momentum from their incredibly close second place finish to Fort Lewis College at Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships last fall in Angel Fire, NM. According to Hurley, “This one could be close between CU and FLC, but I think the CU team has shown greater depth in both their women's and men's squads this spring.”

Two teams in particular from the WCCC could also give these favorites a run for their money, according to Pearsons: UC-Davis and Stanford, winners in 2009 and 2007, respectively. She gives the edge to Davis, however: “With such a large team it is no wonder they seem to win every race weekend in the WCCC. Last year Stanford and UCD placed 4th and 6th, respectfully, in the overall Team Omnium at nationals and will most likely place high again this year.” The champions of 2008, Lees-McRae College, could weigh heavily on the team omnium math, though, with strong squads that carried them to the SECCC conference championship this spring.

As history has proven, though, absolutely anything can happen at this event, and we won't know until Sunday who will be the 2012 National Champions!

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This Article Updated May 2, 2012 @ 10:14 PM For more information contact: