2015 USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championship Report
Midwestern State University is not traditionally a mountain biking school. Until three years ago, we had never had a single competitor at any national championship event that involved dirt. BMX—what’s that? Cyclocross–in the cold, with the mud? Fahgettaboutit. And MTB—where exactly do you think we’ll be practicing our dirt road climbing in Wichita Falls, TX?
Three years ago, that all changed. Three years ago, a great local business decided to step in and support the MSU Cycling Team with a large donation, enough to fly a handful of competitors to the Appalachians, put them in a cabin for a week, and allow them to compete against the more mountain-and dirt-inclined schools of North Carolina, West Virginia, Colorado, and the like. This company financed our first-ever BMX team that took 6th in the 2013 national championship. And it provided the funds necessary to compete at last year’s Cyclocross National championship. That wonderful company was First Bank.
First Bank’s slogan is “Invested in our Community.” That could not be more true. Through First Bank, this writer has managed his family’s banking and secured his first home loan to accommodate its growth. They have offered the personal attention I’d never find at a national bank. Plus I can promise you they had nothing to do with the whole “bringing the world’s economy to its knees” thing that some larger banks not to be named did. Even through the Great Recession, First Bank remained well capitalized and secure.
And so last Wednesday, our small but talented group consisting of Junior nursing student (and team captain) Cameron Lowery, Sophomore Pre-Law (and 4.0 student) Luke Allen, and Freshman business major (and worldwide leader in the Mike’s Bikes Business simulation competition) Bill Ash flew to Washington DC, then made the 5-hour, dark twisty drive with Coach Zamastil to Snowshoe Mountain, an area so remote, you lose cell reception 2-hours before you arrive.
Thursday we previewed the course, and it was generally agreed a full-suspension would be nice for the rooty, rocky XC course, but the Short Track XC suited Bill, our best climber, quite well. Cameron and Luke, more gifted technically but better suited to technical courses and descending, would have to fight through it even as the altitude made it difficult to breathe.
Friday morning they were off by 8:00 a.m., and the pace was blistering from the get-go. Bill had a bad hole shot, and quickly realized his tire pressure was too high for the dew-moistened conditions he didn’t experience before. But even as his tire frequently lost its grip, he still managed the climb admirably, and he became the first MSU MTBer ever to make it all the way to the end of the Short Track race without being pulled. In the end, he came in 12th, just two spots behind the defending national champion Sepp Kuss of the University of Colorado Boulder.
Cameron & Luke, starting from further back, picked their way through the crowds, particularly impressively on the descents, blasting by less gifted bike handlers left & right. In the end, Cameron worked his way up to 41st, in the top half of the field, finishing @6 laps to the leaders. Luke, who got our last team call-up, finished in 55th, just ahead of the closest intra-conference competition, so MSU had the 3 best finishers of the South Central Collegiate Cycling Conference.
After the short track race, we headed back for some food and homework. A quick ride of the next day’s XC course interrupted the study session that went on into the evening. We broke briefly for a couple games of Settlers of Cataan, thereby cementing our status as either the coolest kids you know or utter nerds, depending on your perception. We’re confident you dear reader are wise enough to conclude the former. After dinner, we hit the books for several more hours before retiring.
Sunday morning we were not so fortunate, as an early crash at the front of the pack forced Luke & Cameron off-course. This enabled a group of 12 riders to come through with an impressively sizable lead after just 2 minutes of racing, but at least Bill, starting in the second row, had made the split. Sadly, after about 30 minutes of racing, Bill came walking his bike back to the start area. While riding in the front group after the main challenges of the course—the opening 2 climbs and descents—Bill was still with the front group which had been reduced to 10, riding in third position when his rear tire began to lose air. With no neutral support this year, Bill’s race was over. Cameron and Luke were a couple minutes behind, fighting forward but out of contention for the win. After the opening XC lap, they came through separated by a handful of seconds, and that gap would remain; the pair finished with just two riders between them, less than a minute apart, in 51st for Luke and 54th for Cameron.
Immediately after the race, it was time to pack up and drive the 5h back to a host home in DC, where we could stay for the 10 hours until our flight back to DFW took off. The 2:45 a.m. wake-up call was brutal, but we made it home in one piece, and we’re looking forward to returning to Snowshoe next year with a fuller squad.
Thanks again to all those who made it possible! Be sure to check out the photo albums on Facebook from the event, and follow us on Twitter to keep up with the latest.