Yet another new discipline for the UCSD Cycling team. Two members of the team decided to tackle the only collegiate cyclocross race of the season in the WCCC. For those unfamiliar with cyclocross (CX), it is the bicycle equivalent of a steeplechase/cross country race using a road bike; although at amateur levels, mountain bikes are allowed. The standard CX bike frames are slightly modified versions of road frames to allow wider tires, cantilever or disc brakes, and a more upright position than typically seen on road bikes. CXLA is the only UCI-level CX race in California, and one of 3 UCI-level races west of Colorado. Because the collegiate field was added only 3 days before the race date, few of the WCCC schools were able to add this race to their race schedule, but it still included a handful of WCCC cyclists and a couple more visiting from Fort Lewis College in Colorado. FLC had recently won the 2015 MTB national championships, so UCSD would have their hands full competing against these visitors.
CXLA had traditionally taken place in Griffith Park in Los Angeles, but was forced to move to El Dorado Park in Long Beach for this year’s races. The men’s collegiate race on Saturday was expected to be a showdown between SDSU and UCSD, but SDSU left San Diego late and got stuck in traffic, so the battle royale took place between UCSD, CSU-Long Beach, and the visiting pro MTBer from Fort Lewis College. From the starting whistle, FLC gapped the field, and Justin (from UCSD) decided to just focus on beating the competitors from the WCCC. Through the straight sections, one of the CSU-LB cyclists was able to stay on Justinís wheel, but Justin created a gap in the technical sections that followed and never saw his competitors again. The race lasted for 4 laps, and became mostly a TT effort for UCSD’s only racer this day. Although the collegiate men’s field was pretty small for the day, UCSD took the top place in the WCCC, and finished just 2 minutes behind the visiting cyclist from FLC. The women’s collegiate field on Saturday was even smaller with just one cyclist from CSU-Channel Islands.
Sunday was expected to draw even tougher competition for Justin, as visiting UCI cyclists from both FLC and Marian University were expected to race. Although FLC is known for winning national championships in MTB, Marian University tends to win every other national championship in collegiate cycling that isn’t won by FLC. Unfortunately this contest never materialized, as both UCI cyclists had gotten so worn out from racing Saturday, that they decided to skip the Sunday collegiate race to focus on the UCI race in the afternoon. So Justin was able to take a leisurely pace around the course as the only competitor. For the Sunday womenís collegiate race, UCSD was able to put up a strong showing with Kerri racing in only her 2nd day of cyclocross. Kerri had to face off against a tough competitor from Fort Lewis College. Although Kerri is fairly new to CX, she was able to learn from the course through each lap, and had negative splits. Kerri also competed in back-to-back races, as she compete in the open women’s Cat C race with only ~ 10 minutes of rest between the races. Although FLC proved too tough to beat, Kerri managed to stay within a couple of minutes behind her strong competitor for 2nd place.
Although beneficiaries of small fields, UCSD apparently won the WCCC this year in CX. With CX growing around the country, and NorCal teams having interest in the discipline, more WCCC collegiate races and larger fields are expected for the 2016-2017 season. SDSU has several younger CX racers, so UCSD will be facing some of their toughest CX competition in their backyard over the next few years. But with a mixture of experienced and new CX racers on the UCSD team, we plan to hold our own in the conference as the sport grows.