The best on two wheels
Dedication leads CMU to another cycling title
Cycling is a tough sport that takes mental and physical toughness.
But only if you want to be a contender.
Lexie Millard and Cullen Easter decided it was time to take the sport a little more seriously.
The two veteran Colorado Mesa University riders played a major role in leading the Mavericks to the pinnacle of Division II collegiate cycling on Sunday.
After a powerful performance at the USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships in Richmond, Virginia, over the weekend, the Colorado Mesa cycling team won its second straight overall Division II cycling national championship.
The overall title includes points accumulated from all five disciplines — mountain, track, cyclocross, BMX and road racing for men and women.
The Mavs won the 2014 USA Cycling Collegiate Road Division II National Championships, also called the road omnium. This is the first team road omnium victory for CMU, which is a cumulative score of the top three men and women from each squad.
“It’s really exciting,” Millard said after stepping off the podium in Richmond. “It’s cool because our team really functions as a family and we all work together, and we all support each other.”
To win the overall season championship, it takes consistency in every discipline. CMU was consistently good in all five.
In late September, CMU claimed its first discipline national championship when it won the USA Cycling Collegiate Track National Championships in Colorado Springs.
The Mavericks followed that with a third-place team finish in the Division II mountain biking championships in October.
Alexis Skarda led the Mavs by finishing her collegiate career with her third straight national title riding on the Beech Mountain, North Carolina, course.
In January, Skarda helped lead the Mavs to a second-place team finish in the Division II Cyclocross National Championships in Boulder.
CMU also finished fifth overall in the BMX national championships in Texas in early April.
With all the success through the season, Rostel said the team’s No. 1 goal was to win the road onmium, after finishing second last year.
The road racing season was a tremendous success and two newcomers took the team to an even higher level.
Ariane Horbach came to CMU from Germany, and the 20-year-old dominated the Rocky Mountain Cycling Conference and won the Division II criterium national championship on Saturday. For the men, Spencer Oswald transferred to CMU and picked up several wins for the Mavericks this season.
The three riders on the women’s road cycling team also helped the Mavs to the national title in the track discipline. Horbach, Millard and Ariana Dittmer joined Skarda on that team.
Rostel said Horbach and Oswald brought an infusion of talent to the team, especially during the road season, but he pointed to Easter and Millard as the two riders who turned things around this year.
“Those two really stepped up this year, without that it wouldn’t have been possible (to win),” he said.
Both Easter and Millard admit they weren’t that serious about the sport before this year.
“For me this was the first season that I really buckled down and got serious with my training,” said Easter, who also rode with the cyclocross team. “It was awesome to see the change. I always felt like I was always on the border of being a good rider.”
Millard, who won a criterium race this year, the first win of her career, said they were challenged to take cycling more seriously.
“Both Cullen and I talked and we decided to take this seriously, and I started following Patric’s training and I started getting better,” she said.
Even with the overall title last year, Rostel said a big difference this year was a consistent training regimen for an entire season.
Rostel took over as coach in late March of last year after CMU elected to part ways with Rick Crawford in mid-December. For the remainder of the year, Rostel split time between competing and coaching. He’s now coaching fulltime.
Since 2010, the Mavericks have been once of the best Division II cycling programs in the nation. CMU now has three overall Division II championships — 2010, 2013 and 2014.