T he University of Colorado-Boulder cycling team took home a second place finish at the 2012 USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships in Angel Fire, N.M., over the weekend.
CU finished 76 points below rival Fort Lewis College of Durango, ending the weekend with 625 total team points and a second place title.
Senior Joey Schusler took home the omnium title with 364 points. Schusler, who has won the downhill title the past four years, decided to try his luck in the omnium division, which includes all four events — downhill, dual slalom, short track and cross country.
“I’ve definitely never pushed myself in racing that hard, ever,” he said. “I thought it would be cooler to win an omnium title than another downhill.”
Schusler competed in all four events using the same bike, an unconventional decision, but one he made to challenge himself as a rider, he said.
“I went for something different,” he said. “Everyone thought it was pretty crazy because for downhill it’s not enough bike, and it was definitely pretty sketchy in some of the more technical portions of that course. For the cross country it was this huge bike that has way too much suspension and is too heavy.”
The senior advertising major will graduate in December, and will continue racing as a pro and working for Yeti Cycles. He helps out with photography and video work, as well as social media, in addition to riding for the factory team.
Sophomore Ellie Atkins finished seventh in the omnium division, nine points behind teammate Brittany Engleking. Atkins competed in her first collegiate national competition last year with CU, which was a snowy, cold weekend.
“Last year we ended up racing in nine inches of snow all weekend,” she said. “We couldn’t have asked for anything better (this year). It was absolutely gorgeous weather. (It was) really, really mild.”
Atkins finished 11th in the dual slalom division, 15th in downhill, 25th in short track and 16th in cross-country.
The biggest change for CU was being able to fill all eight of the women’s spots at nationals. Last year, the team took only six women.
CU’s longstanding rivalry with Fort Lewis College — which offers riders scholarships — was heightened last year when Fort Lewis took the championship title by eight points, said head mountain bike coach Jason Hilimire, of FasCat Coaching.
“We were ready to do battle,” he said. “Unfortunately so were they.”
At CU, cycling is a club sport, which means no scholarships, and riders often pay for expenses out of pocket. The student riders are tasked with recruiting new members, without the allure of scholarships.
Fortunately, Colorado’s reputation as one of the top mountain biking clubs in the country precedes it.
“It’s all run by us, and we’re still one of the top teams in the nation year after year,” Schusler said. “We’re just a club team. It’s cool to see us all the way up there all on our own efforts and funding.”
–Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.