Mavericks place second in cyclocross nationals
A strong, well-rounded performance by the Colorado Mesa University men’s cyclocross team helped propel the Mavericks to a second-place team finish in the USA Cycling Division II Collegiate Cyclocross National Championships in Boulder.
Jeff Sikes finished 11th and was the top CMU finisher in Sunday’s race. Zack Lavergne placed 17th, Stephen Cochran 18th and Cullen Easter 20th for the Mavericks.
For CMU coach Patric Rostel it was a both a satisfying and disappointing day. Lavergne and Easter are two of CMU’s top cyclocross riders, but both had bike problems in the race.
“Zack had a little bad luck in the first lap,” Rostel said. Lavergne had trouble with a tire and was forced to change bikes.
“He was in fourth place (when the trouble started) and he didn’t feel good on the second bike and changed back to his first bike,” Rostel said.
Easter had mechanical problems, which cost him a higher finish.
“But that’s cyclocross racing, anything can happen,” Rostel said.
Sikes was riding in the top 10 for much of the race and finished with a time of 53 minutes, .01 second. Lewis Gaffney, a rider from Angel Fire, N.M., riding for Brevard College (N.C.), won the Division II competition with a time of 49.37. Brevard College won both the men’s team title and the overall cyclocross national title with a point total of 282 to CMU’s 220.
Rostel said Brevard College was a favorite coming into the event and that’s why the Mavericks’ second-place finish was right where they hoped to finish.
Rostel said since cyclocross isn’t a discipline the Mavericks focus on, it was a very satisfying finish.
“I think cyclocross is one of our weaker disciplines,” he said. “We just don’t have the same training opportunities like we do with mountain biking and on the road.”
Cyclocross is a unique event that takes riders up and over obstacles, through mud pits and has a variety of challenges where riders have to dismount and run with their bikes.
The second-place overall finish keeps CMU on track for a possible second straight team Division II collegiate cycling national title.
The overall cycling national title is determined by points accumulated from five disciplines — track, mountain cyclocross, BMX and road — for men and women.
The second-place cyclocross finish is the Mavericks’ third top-three team finish of the 2013-14 season. CMU won the track national championship in September and placed third in the mountain bike nationals in October.
The BMX and road cycling competitions are set for this spring.
The Mavericks won national team titles in 2010 and 2013.
Rostel said one of the team’s main goals this season is to win the USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships, which are May 2-4 in Richmond, Va.
“That’s our big goal,” he said. “We want to win a road national championship; we’ve come close but someone always seems to beat us.”
Last year, the Mavericks finished second at the road cycling nationals.
On Saturday, Alexis Skarda capped her collegiate career with a fifth-place finish in the women’s cyclocross race. She won three straight mountain bike Division II national titles in her CMU career.