Title puts CMU, Junction on the collegiate cycling map
Patric Rostel was exhausted, with a mix of satisfaction and disappointment mingling with his emotions.
It had been a strenuous three days in Utah.
The Colorado Mesa University cycling team had just come up short of a gold medal at the USA Collegiate Road Cycling Championships. The men and women of Massachusetts Institute of Technology eased ahead and engineered themselves the Division II crown.
Rostel and the rest of the CMU cycling team were disappointed they returned home with silver instead of gold. But along with that silver-medal accomplishment there was a huge silver lining — the Mavericks were crowned overall national cycling champs in Division II.
A Herculean accomplishment.
In the realm of sports, people can easily identify with the traditional sports: football, basketball, baseball and others. Even though cycling is a secondary sport in the collegiate ranks, what the Mavericks achieved over the weekend and over the year should not be overlooked, understated or shrugged off.
The best Division II cycling team in the U.S. right here in Grand Junction, Colo. That is impressive.
CMU and Grand Junction are now firmly embedded onto the cycling map. The national title will bode well for CMU, and the cycling program will continue to grow.
After a bumpy couple of months because of a doping scandal involving the previous coach, the Mavericks hit some smooth asphalt. Rostel was hired as the team’s coach in late March.
Now that his collegiate cycling career is over, he can focus on coaching full-time.
To succeed in this grueling sport, it takes commitment, dedication and passion. Success is achieved only through relentless training.
The CMU cycling program is overflowing with passion.
When Scott Mercier was hired as the director of cycling in December, CMU got a man who lives and breathes cycling. His passion and commitment to the sport and dope-free cycling makes him an ambassador to the sport and the school.
His latest quest is to bring the road racing national championships to Grand Junction. Richmond, Va., has secured the championships for the next two years, but in 2016 or 2017, the best collegiate cyclists in the country could come to Grand Junction. With more than 500 competitors and support staff, securing the races would also create a nice little economic bump to the community.
When Mercier talks about the CMU program, his passion and pride bubble over.
“We’re going to do things the right way, and we have the support of the college,” Mercier said.
As a former professional road racer who said no to drugs when Lance Armstrong demanded he say yes, Mercier believes in success on the bike and in the classroom. The CMU program is about both.
Mercier recently met with a possible recruit and his family, and Mercier made it clear what the expectations of coming to CMU are about.
“It’s not a right for you to race here,” Mercier said he told the recruit. “It’s a privilege. You have to study, ride well and represent the school.”
The recruit, one of the top teen cyclists in the nation, will be coming to CMU next year, Mercier added.
In Rostel, the Mavericks found a coach who has achieved greatness on the pedals and in the saddle. But it was his passion about the sport and about CMU that set him apart during the search for a new coach.
“The first goal was we wanted someone to do it the right way and not take shortcuts. Secondly, he’s a Maverick, and he’s going to be here for a long time,” Mercier said. “Four years ago, he came here for two reasons: to get an education and to ride his bike.”
The CMU program is also about diversity with riders from Germany, South Africa, California, Denver, Grand Junction and other locales around the state and nation.
Even though CMU cyclists get a little scholarship money, when it comes to the equipment, including their high-dollar light-alloy bicycles, the student-athlete is responsible for those costs.
Rostel, a native of Berlin, Germany, will graduate later this month, and his accomplishments on the bike place him firmly in CMU cycling lore. He’s been part of two time-trial national title teams, two overall national championship teams and one individual criterium national title.
He came to CMU for two reasons and succeeded at both.
“It was hard switching from being a rider, then being a coach,” he said. “Now, I don’t have to race, and I can concentrate on coaching.”
To compete in collegiate sports, all athletes must make huge sacrifices, and the tank of passion must be fueled through hard work and success.
The demands of cycling can be ruthless. Hours upon hours and endless weeks of training are required. Lonely training, one pedal stroke at a time grinding up the Monument climb. Interval training on the backwoods of Fruita and tormenting training rides with an unmerciful headwind pounding their faces, sprinting for home as rain splatters the roads — it takes an unrelenting commitment to succeed. Then they hang the bike up and hit the books.
The CMU Mavericks accomplished something special this weekend. Their passion, commitment, training and determination paid off. Like life, they had adversity through the season, but ultimately they prevailed.
Colorado Mesa University — Division II cycling national champions.