There's more pressure to win every year, said Joey Schusler, a pro mountain biker and University of Colorado junior who won his third downhill title at last weekend's collegiate national championships.
"When you're expected to win, it's hard to win. If you don't win, people are like, what happened?" he said.
No matter, since Schusler won. His first-place finish in the downhill event coupled with a slew of top-10 finishes by other students helped CU's team secure second place overall (Division I) at the collegiate mountain bike nationals in Truckee, Calif.
Fort Lewis College in Durango took first.
"The whole team had a really good race," said Matt Wiebe, president of CU's cycling team (who raced in the cross-country and short-track events over the weekend). For example, CU's Braden Kappis came in second in the men's short track, and Katie Sodergren and Deidre York snagged fourth and fifth in the women's cross country.
But the downhillers stood out. In addition to Schusler's top spot in the men's competition, CU's Michael Larsen placed fourth, Nick Caron 10th. And York -- who competed in all four events, the individual omnium -- finished third in the women's downhill.
"I think we have the strongest downhill team of any of the teams that were at collegiate nationals this year," Wiebe said.
York, a sophomore from Indio, Calif., is the only racer on the team competing in the omnium. She said it's tough because you can't just hone one discipline.
"It's kind of a bummer, because you can't just focus on doing well in one event, you have to do well in all four," she said.
But the variety is fun.
"It's definitely tiring, but it's fun to go from a two-hour cross-country race to a four-cross race where there's crashes and exciting stuff going on," York said.
She started racing downhill and omnium two years ago, when she came to CU. ("They kind of needed girls to do downhill and gravity events.")
Turns out she's good at downhill. And omnium -- she placed fourth overall.
Schusler said he and the rest of the team take the nationals seriously, but it's a little more relaxed for him than the world cup circuit.
"I race professionally all season, so collegiate's a chill atmosphere to race in," Schusler said.
Plus, he said, he likes racing for CU's team.
"There's tons of kids on the team, and it's a good dynamic. Definitely lots of fun."