Skarda fifth at cyclocross nationals

Colorado Mesa University’s Alexis Skarda wrapped up her stellar collegiate career Saturday with a fifth-place finish at the USA Cycling Division II Collegiate Cyclocross National Championships in Boulder.

Three other CMU riders had strong performances, with Ariane Horbach placing ninth, Lexie Millard 11th and Ariana Dittmer 15th. The grueling cyclocross course took riders through muddy sections, up and over obstacles and even stairs.

Skarda rode up front within reach of the leaders for most of the race but finished 1 minute, 51 seconds behind Christina Birch from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who had a time of 40:02.

Skarda was only 10 seconds out of fourth and 25 seconds behind the third-place rider.

CMU coach Patric Rostel said Skarda did “really well,” especially given “it was her second real cyclocross race she ever did.”

On the final lap, she still was competing for third place before falling off the pace, and Rostel said, “a little more experience, and she would have got it.”

He said Horbach’s ninth-place finish was fantastic because it was her first cyclocross race.

“We gave her a bike probably like two weeks ago,” Rostel said. “We decided she wasn’t going to race (at nationals), but she wanted to.”

Millard moved up two places from a year ago, when she placed 13th at cyclocross nationals, and Rostel said she did it against better competition this year.

The Mavericks are third in the team omnium standings after the women’s race, trailing first-place Brevard College (N.C.) and Ripon College (Wis.), and Rostel said he believes the men can elevate the Mavericks to second place when they race today.

Rostel said he believes two of the CMU men can finish in the top five.

Rostel called Saturday’s weather in Boulder “windy and weird,” and said today could be worse, with the potential to affect the riders’ places dramatically.

The cyclocross event is Skarda’s final collegiate appearance “unless she comes back for another semester,” Rostel said.

Skarda won her third straight Division II national title in cross-country mountain biking in October.


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