Midd Cycling Finishes Strong at Nationals

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The College's cycling team sent five riders to compete in Collegiate Nationals last week (Courtesy).

By Emma McDonald

Last weekend, five members of the Middlebury Cycling Team traveled to Richmond, Virginia to the Cycling National Championships. Without a coach, Zack Isaacs ’15.5, Jake Barker ’16, Matt Gilbert ’16.5, Kai Wiggins ’16.5, and Sam O’Keefe ’16.5 reeled impressive results, including  six top-twenty finishes and a top-ten finish in the team time trial.

The team competed in four events at the National Collegiate Championships: a Team Time Trial, Individual Time Trial, Criterium, and the Road Race. As the team explained, “In the [Team Time Trial], four cyclists race together against the clock, sharing the draft and working with each other to finish the course as fast as possible. The [Individual Time Trial], known as the “Race of Truth,” is held at the same course as the [Team Time Trial]. It is a test of raw fitness, as athletes race alone in pursuit of the fastest time. The Criterium is the most exciting spectator event, as a field of 100 cyclists races around a closed circuit for 75 minutes in the heart of the city. The road race is the main event. Racers complete 7 laps of a ten mile course that features technical descents, steep climbs, and cobblestone roads.”

In the past, the team has sent individuals to nationals, such as Ted King ’05.5, Lea Davison ’05, Macky Franklin ’11, and Alex Abarbanel-Grossman ’12.5 – these athletes have continued on to race on national and international levels. Sam O’Keefe ’16.5 traveled this winter to the cyclocross Collegiate National Championships and came away with a second place finish in the Division II field. This spring, an entire team traveled to Richmond to compete in Nationals; compared to the fact that the team sent no athletes to Nationals last year, the team felt that sending a full team was in itself a success. They made the trip to Richmond in two personal cars without any coach or adult accompaniment.

As is the case for many athletes, the hectic post-season makes the end of semester academic rush all the more difficult. The team is appreciative of the support and understanding they have received from faculty and staff in helping them balance school and cycling.

“Though the race only lasts three hours, the psychological and physical demands of that race extend through the entire day,” the team explained. “Beyond that, our bikes require lots of maintenance and attention, we have to eat more food than humanly possible, and we also handle all of the logistical issues that come with traveling and racing. Our professors were very understanding with all of this, and because of that, we’ll be able to finish off the year in a good place.”

The team valued the experience of going to Nationals, especially as a team.

“We raced around the most beautiful historical and cultural areas that Richmond has to offer. What makes it even more special is that these are the same courses that will be featured in the 2015 World Championships for Road Cycling. To be there, racing with our best friends, surrounded by family — this experience was truly an honor, and something we’ll never forget.”

Championships aside, it’s the love of cycling that has brought the team together the most. Despite their varied backgrounds, they share the same passion.

“It is the level of camaraderie on this team that has made Middlebury Cycling so special. You can’t find a better friend than the one who rides alongside you as you do the thing you truly love.”

After a successful trip to Nationals this year, the team hopes to continue the tradition of success, and more importantly, continue to enjoy the sport.

“With some new racers coming in and an even stronger team for next season, we are hoping to podium in every event. However 2015 works out, though, we really just want to have as much fun as we did this year.”