Collegiate cycling was a definite highlight of our cycling careers.
The race venues were top notch, as were our competitors. There's not one other collegiate sport I'm aware of that had current professional riders racing. In 2008, as a senior, Isaac Howe missed out after getting caught in a crash inside 1 to go, sitting 4th wheel. Luckily, in 2009 we struck gold.
It all started in January when Will Dugan won the D1 Cyclocross National Championship race. With the road season coming up we wanted to clean up, and dominate the collegiate scene. The University of Vermont had always been a strong team, and had had some luck at nationals in the past, but could never consistently compete against the big powerhouse schools like CU Boulder, Lees-McRae, and UC Davis, amongst others.
To make matters even harder, Nationals was scheduled to take place in Fort Collins, Colorado. But we showed up ready to rumble.
The Road Race
On Saturday we had the road race. A challenging circuit that ascended up Horsetooth Reservoir and completed some super windy laps on a rolling section before reversing and heading back to the stadium. Hitting it out from the gun Will Dugan, and Jamey Driscoll found themselves off the front alone. Eventually an elite group caught them and the race settled a bit before heading back over the climbs to the finish. On a climb about 10 miles out Jamey put in an attack that saw him go solo. With Will marking moves Jamey was able to hold onto a 30 second gap to roll in solo for the win. As the second group, at this point only comprising of 5 riders, Will jumped them early with 1k to go to finish 2nd.
With Jamey and Will leading the Men's omnium, we decided to go all in and lead me out for the win in the Criterium. If they could hold on to a high enough place they might be able to retain their position in the omnium, but the main goal was the win. I knew if I made it to the last corner the sprint was mine, so we opted to try and keep it together for a field sprint.
With 5 laps to go, a group of 5 very strong riders started to roll away. It was in this split second where I could have easily jumped across that I decided to stick to the plan and let Jamey and Will keep it covered. I had complete trust that they could bring it back, especially after schooling the field the day before.
Jamey set the pace from 5-3 laps to go, keeping the break just a handful of seconds up the road. With 2 to go, Will did a lap full gas at 30+ MPH bringing the break within 5 seconds. Jamey took it up once more and was able to catch the break with 3 turns to go, and then panic struck. With Will and Jamey blown at this point we caught the break, but didn't pull past them and were swarmed going into the last section of 3 quick turns before the finishing straight. I yelled at our last teammate Alex Cox to go as fast as he could as he dropped me off on the inside of the last turn. I ended up coming out of the last turn in 10-15th place and started my sprint immediately.
Within 1 pedal stroke I knew I had it. I came up the inside and broke the sound barrier as I passed 3rd, and 2nd place within 10 meters of the finish line. As I rolled across the line I pointed the the UVM logo on our skinsuits. We had just won 3 national titles in one year.