Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cyclocross National Champions!

On Sunday, the 14th of December, the Appalachian State Cycling Team lined up against the best colleges and universities in the nation, vying for individual and team national titles. Sending a full squad of eight men and seven women, the Mountaineers had numbers, strength, and speed, but in cyclocross, anything can happen, and these men and women were ready.

The Men's DII race started out with a bang. Noah Niwinksi, the ACCC conference champion, had a front row call up, and put it to good use. The course had dried out over several days of racing, and warm weather had everyone bare-kneed and racing in skinsuits in the first of what was absolutely the fastest day of racing over the four day event. Alex Hannah had a mechanical early on when he rolled a tubular, but was able to fight back tooth and nail and work his way back up. As lapped riders were pulled, the App men marked their targets: Army, MIT, and Western Washington posed the greatest threats, and each App rider did everything he could, digging deep into the pain cave, to move up just one spot in order to outscore and displace the competition. At the end of it all, Noah Niwinski managed an impressive 8th place with Alex Hannah, Michael Koballa, and Ryan Fawley all placing in the top 20 and, more importantly, all finishing ahead of every Army rider.

The women's race was no more civil an affair. While the Men's race was a balmy 58 degrees, the mercury dropped and was hovering in the teens by the end of the Women's race. Ariel Leath, out for blood after a mechanical ended her U23 hopes the day before, took her ACCC conference champion call up and managed to hold a good position the entire day. Veteran Allison Forkner also got off to a good start, working her way up every lap. The real story of the women's race were the new riders, Rachel VandenEnde, Rachel Warriner, Amanda Gilbert, and Aenon Moose. These women are all relatively new to cyclocross, but put in the time and effort this season, all finishing in the top 15, with Ariel Leath oh so close to the podium in sixth place.

After an exciting round of pro races, the App State Cycling Team headed out from the comfort of the warmed tents to the podium. The Appalachian racers took the podium, donning red, white, and blue jerseys and gold medals, with Army and MIT taking second and third, respectively. Congratulations to everyone that raced and a big thanks to Doug Owen, his son Matt, and everyone else who made the long drive to help support our championship team!

The Mountaineer cyclists are now reloading and gearing up for an exciting and full road season, where they will be aiming for an unheard of third national championship title in one academic year and the overall team omnium award for the 2008-2009 school year. Stay tuned for more excitement, more race reports, and a continuation of our winning tradition!