Silver finish at road nationals gives CMU overall title
They put the pedal to their mettle, and now all that pedaling has brought Colorado Mesa University some precious metal.
CMU is the 2012-13 Division II collegiate cycling national champion.
Following a strong second-place performance at the USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships in Ogden, Utah, the Colorado Mesa cycling team was crowned as the overall Division II cycling national champion. The overall title includes points accumulated from all five disciplines — mountain, track, cyclocross, BMX and road racing for men and women.
CMU Director of Cycling Scott Mercier is thrilled with the accomplishment.
“I’m really proud of the team. It’s really something special for the college and the town of Grand Junction,” he said.
The Mavericks were given the overall national championship trophy during the awards ceremony in Ogden.
“It feels amazing. I’m very happy that we were able to pull something like this off,” CMU’s Morgan Ryan said via phone Sunday evening.
The Ventura, Calif., sophomore said the team knew it had a good lead, but they still had to ride well over the weekend.
“As long as we were consistent we knew we would wrap it up,” he said.
Riding well throughout the entire year was key to the Mavericks’ title.
“We are very, very consistent, and that’s what it takes to win,” Ryan said. “We have to be good at everything we do.”
Ryan, who finished third in Saturday’s criterium, rode in every discipline except BMX for CMU this year.
The CMU team has been strong from the first event in the fall right through this weekend’s road racing championships.
In the fall, CMU’s Alexis Skarda won a national women’s title in mountain biking, and the CMU men’s team won a silver medal at the national track championships. In March, the CMU BMX team won the Division II team title.
This is the second overall national title for CMU during rider and coach Patric Rostel’s time with the team. The Mavericks won the title in 2010.
The 26-year-old from Germany took over as coach in late March after the school was hit with a doping scandal. CMU elected to part ways with coach Rick Crawford in mid-December after he admitted to helping a couple of professional cyclists dope when he coached them.
The move left the CMU program at a crossroads.
“We took a step back,” Mercier said. “We had hired a high-profile coach, then we fired him.”
Mercier, whose antidoping stance has been well-documented over the years, said the decision to make Rostel the head coach proved to be an ideal fit.
“Ultimately we made the right decision — letting (Crawford) go and hiring Patric,” Mercier said.
Following Crawford’s dismissal, Mercier said there was some frustration and disharmony amongst team members.
But the team soon embraced the coaching change, and the road racing team started to jell.
Being a teammate, Rostel knew that he had to shift into his coaching role quickly.
“It could have went totally the wrong way,” he said. “I managed to pull the team together with Scott’s help. We pulled together, and I let them know that I’m here to help you.”
Rostel said the adversity came at a difficult time, but ultimately the team prevailed.
“During those hard times we were still successful,” he said.
Ryan said the team rallied after the coaching change.
“(Rostel) was one of us, and he can lead as well. He’s proven to us to have the ability to be a leader,” he said.
For Mercier, who was named team director in December, finding the right coach to take the team to an even higher level and finding cyclists to be successful on the bike and in the classroom was extremely important.
As rider and coach, Rostel said the last couple of months have been challenging. Now that his collegiate racing career is over, he’s looking forward to shifting his focus to coaching full-time.
Ryan said he hopes the students and faculty at CMU and the entire community understand how big of an accomplishment the Mavericks’ cycling team pulled off this year.
“I know we’re an up-and-coming program and people may not know all about us,” he said. “Maybe now, the word can get out, and we’ll gain more support.”
For CMU, the future is now and beyond.
For Ryan, who said he “was stoked” to make the criterium podium, next year is paved with excitement.
“I’m even more excited because we have the confidence,” he said. “And knowing we can do it again and again, we’ll work harder than we did this year.”
Two highly regarded recruits will add to the expectations for next year’s CMU team. Mercier said they have commitments from two cyclists — a mountain biker and a road racer — who were recruited by some of the top programs in the nation.
Rostel ends his CMU racing career as one of the most accomplished cyclists in school history. In 2010 and 2011, he was part of the time trial national championship teams. In 2012, he was won the national title in the criterium, and he’s now been part of two overall national championship teams. The 2013 title is a special accomplishment for Rostel.
“It definitely makes me proud that the team got back to where we were four years ago,” he said.
Mercier summed it up with three words: “It’s pretty special.”