Taking it to the next level

Nov 092005
Authors: Amanda Schank

Boys in bikinis, '80s rockers, a disco king, a geisha girl and Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo hardly seem like the members of a cycling team; but chuck the Halloween costumes and enter a few bikes into the scene, and a nationally-ranked cycling team reveals itself.

The Rams Cycling Team placed third overall at the Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships over Halloween weekend Oct. 28-30, in Seven Springs, Penn. It is the highest the team has ever placed at championships and a standing, which the competitors claim they owe to consistent racing and team support, evident both at the championships and at home throughout the season.

"Cycling seems like an individual sport, but a lot of accomplishments come from working together as a team," said Andy Clark, director of the cycling team. "There are two things to running a good program: developing good training techniques and getting the team to race together as a team. Team cohesiveness at nationals is one of the biggest reasons for our success."

The team sends a group of cyclists to the Mountain Bike Nationals and Road Bike Nationals every year. For the past two years, the team placed fifth at the championships behind Fort Lewis College, CU-Boulder, University of Vermont and Mesa State College, which placed first through fourth, respectively, both years.

CU-Boulder and Fort Lewis College took first and second, respectively, this year with Mesa State College placing fourth.

"We did awesome as a team," said Lucy Shoemaker, a senior graduate student of the veterinary college. "Everybody worked really hard and placed fairly well in their events. They didn't give up unless forced to because your bike broke down or something…we had good team support as well."

The championships are classified into two categories: endurance and gravity. In the endurance category, cyclists compete in cross-country and short track races, while in the gravity category, cyclists compete in downhill and dual slalom races.

Traditionally, each cyclist participates in only one category, racing its two corresponding events. This year, due to lack of numbers, the women were forced to compete in all four events.

Heather Butler, Collegian reporter Sarah Rawley and Shoemaker represented the females at Nationals. The men sent four endurance and three gravity competitors.

To their other team members, the extra exertion made by the women embodied the consistent effort characterizing the weekend.

"It was an awesome effort by the women this year…they really pulled through," said Kevin Sudderth, sophomore business major. "Some had never done gravity before and they not only did it for the first time, but had some decent results. That was huge and helped out the team."

Strong individual results included top ten finishes by Steve Ladd in the short track; Shoemaker in the downhill; and Aaron Anderson overall.

The team's third place ranking means more than a sense of personal accomplishment to its members; however, Sudderth said it brings the team a sense of "recognition and reputation."

"(The third place finish) gets our name out there," Ladd, a senior health and exercise science major, said. "Every year we've done well and had a podium spot, and I think upping it just shows we're getting better."

Technically a club sport, the cycling team currently has approximately 80 members. Mountain biking is raced in the fall and road cycling in the spring.

Shoemaker said the team has finally reached a stable point with more inner-team backing than in previous years.

"There is a great team dynamic in that everyone is super supportive of each other regardless of their ability or interest," he said. "It's definitely a team sport dynamic applied to something that's traditionally more an individual sport."

The team is part of the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cycling Conference. Final overall conference results placed Fort Lewis College first, CSU second and CU-Boulder third.

The team members encourage anyone with any interest in riding to join, regardless of skill level or fears of competing.

"It's just to promote fun riding and not all about racing – it's for whoever wants to get on a bike and ride," Sudderth said. "If you're even remotely interested in biking it's a great time, and everyone is extremely enthusiastic about riding bikes.

"Our team motto is we're taking collegiate cycling to the next level, and I think we're on the right track to doing so."

For more information, look online at www.ramscycling.com.

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