Mavericks conquer Richmond’s roads

Sam Phillips leads teammate Cullen Easter on Sunday during the USAC road race in Richmond, Virginia.

The Colorado Mesa University cycling team’s No. 1 goal this season was to conquer Richmond, Virginia.

Mission accomplished. After finishing second last year, the Mavericks were determined to take the top spot on the podium at the USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships.

On Sunday, CMU claimed its first road cycling national championship. The 2014 Division II road omnium title was a combination of the men’s and women’s team results in Friday’s team time trial, Saturday’s criterium and Sunday’s road race.

It wasn’t even close.

CMU had 505 points, with Brevard College (North Carolina) second with 313 points and Massachusetts Institute of Technology third at 307. MIT beat the Mavs last season 428-328.

“It feels great, it’s something special to accomplish,” CMU coach Patric Rostel said. “That’s something we wanted to accomplish from Day One. It feels a lot better; second was a little disappointing.

“The road race was always the most important to win.”

Not only did the Mavs win the road omnium, they also claimed their second straight overall Division II cycling national title. The overall championship comes from results from the five cycling disciplines — road, mountain biking, cyclocross, track and BMX.

Although the thrill of winning those team titles was cause for excitement and celebration, Sunday was not a great day on the road for CMU.

After a season of dominating, it seemed as if the only thing that could stop Ariane Horbach was a flat tire. Actually, two flat tires.

The German native had the worse possible luck in the 48-mile women’s road race and finished in ninth place, more than four minutes behind the winner, Allison Arensman of Brevard.

After Horbach had a flat tire somewhat early in the race, she battled to get back to the lead group, then the unimaginable happened. She flatted again.

“She was furious,” Rostel said. “But it’s racing, there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Rostel said this was the first time Horbach has flatted this season.

There was no doubt that after her dominating season, and helping the CMU women’s team time trial to victory on Friday, then winning Saturday’s criterium, she would have been at the front contending for the road title if she had not had the two flat tires.

With Horbach’s tough luck, CMU’s Lexie Millard was CMU’s best shot at the podium, and she turned in stellar performance.

The Colorado Springs native rode with the lead group the entire race and finished seventh in 2:13.11, two seconds behind Arensman.

“It was pretty tough but I was a little motivated to stay at the front,” Millard said about Horbach having trouble. “Once we got a gap, the gap kept getting bigger and bigger.”

She said it was a bit of a surprise that she was in the final sprint for the podium.

“I was not expecting to do that well,” she said with a laugh. “I kept thinking about the end. I really wanted to make the podium or at least be in the top 10.”

The two flat tires also cost Horbach the a shot at the individual omnium, which goes to the rider with the most points from the weekend. Horbach finished second to Arensman, who finished fourth in the criterium.

For the men, Morgan Ryan was the best CMU finisher in 13th.

The gusty winds and difficult course, which will be home to the 2015 World Cycling Championships, took its toll om the CMU riders. They were also a marked team.

“When you’re the best Division II team, other teams want to beat you,” Rostel said.

“It’s just what happened today,” Ryan said. “It was a really tough race course, very technical, a lot of cobblestone sections, and very windy.”

More than half the field fell off the pace, and teams continued to attack CMU throughout, Ryan said.

It also hurt the Mavs’ strategy when Cullen Easter crashed on the first lap of the 68-mile race.

He worked with a small group of riders to get back to the lead group but he spent a lot of energy and he didn’t have the legs to contend in the final sprint.

“Getting back to the main group was pretty much the highlight of my day,” he said with a chuckle.

Sam Phillips finished 23rd with a time of 2:52:26, and Easter finished in 2:53:07 to place 31st.

Ryan’s time was 2:53:07, trailing winning time of 2:48.22 by Brian Dziewa of Saint Louis University.

With the final sprint being nearly 700 meters, Ryan said he knew he didn’t have enough in the tank to go for the win.

“It was such a challenging course. It was nice that most of the CMU riders stayed close,” Ryan said. “With about 3K to go, I knew I didn’t have much left.”

Ryan also finished fourth in the men’s Division II individual omnium.


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