Thanks for the encouragement, Tyler.
Collegiate racing was a big deal for me. If nothing else, I met darling wife, also a scholarship cyclist, there. I was a good collegiate rider. I won 5 conference championships during my tenure and I think we won the team title every year, but I always flailed at nats. I don’t know if I wore out all my go-go juice early or if our conference just wasn’t that good, but going into my (2nd) senior year, I had never been better than about 10th at nationals. I was determined to make the podium in my last appearance.
With that in mind, I trained really hard. Harder than I ever had at that point. Notice I did not say smarter! Patrick O’Donnell had a similar schedule to me with Tuesday and Thursday afternoons off and we pretty much killed it every time, in any weather. We started off doing 5-6 hours and increased as daylight allowed, eventually throwing the infamous CIBA ride (the Indianapolis weeknight hammer fest, for those not in the know) on top of the long day. Every time it was the same thing, we’d talk on the way to the group ride, “oh man, I’m so cracked, I am just going to sit in”, and everytime, we’d end up killing each other, cause you know, if he’s attacking, I better counter!
The event was held around Athens, Ohio, which was nice as it was less than a day’s drive. The road race was held on the famed “Hocking Hills” course, I don’t know what hocking means exactly, but it is a hard course with a couple steep climbs/lap. They used it for elite nats one year, and ummm, probably good I wasn’t there as 120 miles on that course would have killed me. Collegiate nats was only around 70 miles, much more manageable.
The big news was that Matt Decanio was racing. He was racing for the ill-fated Linda McCartney team at the time, but after not making the Giro d’ Italia team, he somehow qualified for Collegiate Nats. There is a story to his not making the Giro team too, but I won’t go down that road! Anyway, it was pretty weird watching the Giro on TV and seeing his teammates, and here we are at collegiate nationals riding with the guy. I already knew his strength from racing juniors back in VA with him all growing up, but everyone was geeking out about it, which really worked in my favor as everyone watched him the whole time.
About half way through, I attacked right after the big climb and got a gap straight away. I rode maybe half a lap without gaining much time before being joined by Peter Baker. We drilled it for the bulk of the remainder of the race still never gaining much time, and still never getting caught. On the final climb, he dropped me without really trying. As an added stinger, Rob Acciavatti (sp?) came blazing out of the field and rode right past me on the climb as well. Finally, I was also caught by Mike Ley just as I crested the hill. He and I rolled well together the last couple miles downhill to hold off the field. Baker won, Acciavatti was 2nd, and I managed to outsprint Ley for 3rd.
I was pretty stoked as the goal going in was the podium and, you know, mission accomplished. With time, I would regret not setting my sights a little higher as it was oh, so close, but ah, well, it’s all in the past now, right?
Well, not exactly as BMX races I lost at 8 years old still haunt me.
Anyway, Decanio was marked like a mark and wound up 6th. Remembering 5 out of the top 6 is not bad for something that happened 9 years ago!
Anyway, the crit was the next day, but I don’t have time for that story right now. It’s a good one though, so I”ll try to get to it soon.
EDIT: I was pretty sure that mountain bike superstar Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (sp?) was 5th, but not 100% positive. Found photographic evidence to support my memory. Also included the second shot, a the look of boredom on the announcer’s face is priceless. I am pretty sure I said something like “I’m moving to California to try and be a pro bike racer”.
EDIT AGAIN: Oh drat, now I’ve gone and done it. I should’ve looked more carefully and noticed that this is the picture from the omnium and not from the road race, which sort of ruins the follow-up story of the crit. Oh well. I guess my memory is failing me. I hear that happens with age.