I’m yelling – very possibly screaming – gap times at Byron Lubenkov as he rounds the 180. He’s spent most of the race well in front of the collegiate C’s and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Behind him – the Gopher’s keep it together at the front, deliberately slow pedaling in an effort to give their guy a few more seconds. A Kansas rider takes the turn wide and stands up for just a little more speed and a Gopher is right on his wheel. Not an inch given.
This is how cycling should be.
After pre-riding the course and obtaining bagels and coffee, this is my third job of the day and the one I’m enjoying the most. Are corner marshals supposed to remain impartial? Another lap and more support for the man in front. He’s absolutely killing it and it’s amazing to see his teammates not only respond but enact some sort of cohesive plan. I’ve always been a fan of teamwork. This lap – two other Gopher’s make their move, Eric Brekke and Karl Schuchard. Working together they form the chase group and make an attempt to cover Byron’s bases. They end up mopping up the rest of the points and taking the other two steps on the podium. Byron stays away till the end and handily takes the victory – UMCT sweeps their home criterium in the C’s. Erica Larson and Alida Mau, both UMCT C ladies manage to get the top two spots for their own race taking place amongst the C Men. Domination in every sense of the word.
That morning the D’s also managed to make a sweep in their race; Daniel Craig taking top honors with teammates Cole Hendrickson, Aaron Avenido and Dan Nigon lining up behind. A sweep +1 – mission accomplished for the UMCT D’s.
Really – this is astounding. Such form displayed by a team that was mostly cooped on on trainers in the basement of their gym during the ‘base’ season. Kevin Lennon – new MCF President and their new coach has managed to do something special with this team. They’ve taken the NCCC (North Central Collegiate Conference) by storm in all categories except the A/B’s. Having lost such stalwarts as Brian Crosby and Brandon Krawczyk over the off season has allowed the University of Iowa to come in and dominate the top categories. Matias Perret, A.J. Turner and Kevin Tempel making up a core group of three who – resplendent in their black and yellow – have managed to take the top spots at most of the A/B races that have already taken place.
The C’s finished – the A/B’s line up. Henry Stroud, Alex Matson, Jake Boening, Mark Holland, Aidan Dick and Sean Vig right at the front showing UMCT’s strength. Attack after attack is the name of the game with every rider trying to make an attempt at getting away on the tricky course. Alex Matson takes the turn wide and gets a gap. Unfortunately its shut down by the next time he passes and he’s back in the group right beside Henry Stroud. UMCT has shown a lot of heart, but Matias Perret and A.J. Turner come out with the 1/2 in the end. This isn’t an ordinary race although, and just across the line the hand pats and congratulations aren’t limited to the man wearing the teams colors. Some of the first to congratulate Perret and Turner across the line are wearing the maroon/gold – I wonder how many football fans would be willing to so heartily congratulate their victorious rivals?
As the officials ready for the afternoon’s race schedule, my own race included, I see Megan Kelly and Nicole Waxmonsky running around getting everything ready. Along with the officials and volunteers (with more than a few parents who stepped up) they’ve made this a hell of a race. I’m beginning to think that the coffee and bagels purchased earlier were a paltry offering to their efforts – but bagels or no, they’ve done this for the love of the sport. No large sums of money up for grabs here, very few lucrative PRO contracts on the line. This was put on and raced out of love and school pride – in the best possible way.
Usually an overlooked collegiate sport – collegiate cycling exemplifies what college is supposed to be all about. It brings students together through traveling to race weekends and general good heartedness, an amazing sense of sportsmanship and the lessons learned while putting yourself through one of the toughest physical endeavors you’ll ever endure – all these things will help prepare these students as they get ready for the next step in life. Some will leave the sport, but in their faces I could see that most wouldn’t. They’re hooked and talk of the next race weekend is thick in the air. There may also be talk of where to grab a burrito considering Chipotle is closed for Easter and where the party is tonight.
As I toe the line for the Cat 4’s and 5’s, I’m almost certain I hear Miike Snow blaring over someone’s laptop speakers.
This is college, after all.