This past weekend DU acquired not just the first, but the first two national titles ever in cycling.  For having just three members of the cycling team present at mountain bike nationals in Angelfire, NM, this is not too shabby.

Both of our wins were in short track, a type of endurance race where racers proceed around a closed circuit for in this case, 30 minutes.  The course powered up a climb that included dirt berms from a pump track (similar to a bmx course), proceeded up a dirt road, and finally up a short steep rocky section to a sharp right turn in some snow and back around.  The start/finish was a mud bog that exceeded three inches in some spots.  Course conditions on the climb got progressively worse as the sun rose and melted the frozen dirt into mud.

Our youngest team member, a sophomore, gained an unexpected win in the short track by taking off with an early lead and managing to hold it throughout his race.  Two other racers attempted to challenge him, one early on and one towards the end but both failed.  I positioned myself on the course before the last steep pitch up the rocks knowing from my race that location was where Matt would need encouragement the most.  Each lap I yelled every sport psychology thing I could remember from classes to motivate Matt to keep pushing himself.  It seemed to work quite well but toward the last three laps another racer began to encroach on Matt’s lead.  With two laps to go I was descending the hill to get to the start/finish as Matt came through.  This lap the kid chasing him had closed to gap to close to six seconds and Matt was in danger of loosing his lead.  Coincidentally I was then standing across the track from a guy that was from the same school as the kid chasing and as they passed between us I told that guy cheering that Matt had fresh legs from not having raced the cross country course the day before due to a broken chain 15 minutes in.  I had not intended for the racer to not hear it.  Matt gapped him again on that climb and one lap later won the race.

I do feel a bit of guilt from this, messing with someone’s head seems along the lines of messing with someone’s bike.  During my race in the same location I was heckled every lap by some guys in maids dresses banging kitchen utensils and shouting that I was being caught by the girl behind me.  While I never actually looked at the guys while I was racing I sure wanted to punch them in the face for the seed of doubt they placed in my mind and the stress it caused me during the race.

Collegiate racing is a different animal and honestly I’m glad to go back to racing the big girls where placing tenth is a huge deal. Winning is stressful.   my hecklers are at :41