Mesa cycling team tasting success after moving up to Division I level
Patric Rostel loosely used a term that summed up the kind of advancement Colorado Mesa University’s cycling team has made in the two years since it moved up to Division I.
“It’s nice that after one year that after moving up to Division I, the fact that we’ve finally gotten to the top three steps of the podium is pretty cool,” Rostel said.
“Yeah, I know,” CMU’s head cycling coach said. “But I think a lot of it has to do with the expectation level we have for ourselves that we want to be up there competing with everybody, especially with the kind of success we had at Division II. Of course, we had a little bit of bad luck with some injuries to some key people last year, but everything seemed to come together this time around.”
It came together to the tune of a third-place team finish at the USA Cycling Collegiate Track Nationals in Rock Hill, South Carolina, in mid-September. The Mavericks also had a pair of individual second-place finishers in Mauro Rato and Ariane Horbach at the track nationals.
And with that, the program will still be riding an emotional high when it heads to Snowshoe Mountain, West Virginia, for the Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships from Oct. 21 to 23.
“I think we’re going to be optimistic and hope that some of the good luck (Patric’s) kids had over at track nationals translates over to us too,” mountain bike/gravity cycling coach Brian Flaherty said. “We have a lot of potential. We’re taking 14 kids, with one upperclassmen and 13 underclassmen. So we’ll have a team with a lot of talent and a lot of experience.”
Flaherty readily admits the racing experience by his younger riders haven’t come on the collegiate-national stage. That, however, didn’t keep Mesa from having success at track nationals in South Carolina, where a group less than half the size of the CMU cyclists going to mountain bike nationals was able to give Mesa it’s first national-tournament top-three finish since 2014, it’s last season at Division II.
Last season at each of the national events it competed in, the Mavericks never finished any better than sixth place as a team.
“We kind of took our lumps last year,” Flaherty said.
Mesa has won multiple national team championships, with its most recent coming in 2014 at the Division II level.
At this year’s track nationals, Rato from Gijon, Spain, and Horbach from Bucholz, Germany, had impressive performances with their second-place finishes.
Rato’s finish earned him plenty of media coverage in his home country, including feature articles in Spanish cycling publications Road & Mud and Ciclismo. He’s one of several international students on Mesa’s roster, which includes riders from Germany, Columbia, Mexico, Sweden and Norway along with each side of the continental Unites States.
That diverse contingent converged at Angel Fire, New Mexico, this weekend for an event hosted by Adams State University. That wound up being the Mavericks’ only warmup for the national meet in West Virginia after inclement weather in the area forced the cancellation of the event Mesa was going to host at Powderhorn on Oct. 1.
Even so, the talent on the roster still leads to plenty of optimism. The overall team national championship is based on the entire season in the five disciplines — track, mountain, cyclocross, gravity (BMX), road — with both men and women’s results determining the rankings.
According to USA Cycling, CMU freshman Andras Simon is the No. 1-ranked rider in the gravity events. His teammate, freshman Ben Bodycoat, is ranked No. 4. And despite the relative inexperience, senior Arianna Dittmer, the team’s only upperclassman of the 14 riders headed to nationals, has been with the team since it began winning national titles three years ago. Last year, she finished 12th in the individual omnium.
It’s a mix Flaherty feels more than confident with, but he’s also realistic about what needs to happen for Mesa to have the kind of success it’s looking for.
“I like our chances,” Flaherty said. “But it’s a different climate and a different terrain than we’re used to, and all kinds of things can happen if we run into some weather. We’ll see what happens.”