With miles on its tires and a goal to win a national championship on its minds, the Western Washington University cycling team will be making the trip to Ogden, Utah this weekend for the 2013 USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships.
The team has been training for the national competition since March and will finally be putting its months of training to the test, sophomore David Kessler said. The cyclers expect both team and individual national championship titles during the three-day event May 3-5.
The University provides the team gas money in exchange for 10 hours of community service work per person. Many of the cyclists choose to repair mountain bike trails on Galbraith Mountain, senior Danita Dunlap said.
Aside from the competition, the team enjoys the support of the Bellingham cycling community, Kessler said. The team has felt a strong sense of camaraderie from riders in the Northwest as well as the entire country, he said.
Western’s team will represent 5 out of the 500 riders coming from all over the nation to compete. The cyclists will collectively compete in all of the races, including the time trial, criterium race (a short course race held on closed-off city streets) and the longer road race.
The men are undefeated in the team time trial against both Division I and II schools, and they plan to continue the winning streak at nationals, Kessler said.
“I hope to come out with a stars- and-stripes national championship jersey,” Kessler said.
Winning a junior national championship in 2009 motivated Kessler to want to win a collegiate championship, he said.
Throughout the course of the season the team has ridden anywhere from 13 to 25 hours per week consisting of both long rides and a regime as fast interval workouts, Kessler said.
The men have been doing weekly time trial practices consisting of 40-minute interval workouts to prepare for the 20-mile national time trial, senior Sam Waples said.
Some rides are a short and fast 20 miles. Other days the cyclists enjoy their bikes and take a long ride out to Birch Bay, Dunlap said.
“It’s all the miles that count,” she said.
Dunlap started cycling her sophomore year and has been in love with it ever since, she said. This weekend Dunlap will be racing in the individual time trial. With few setbacks this season, such as a rusted-out tire, Dunlap hopes to place in the top 10, she said.
Friendship and the motivation from teammates are Dunlap’s favorite parts about cycling, she said. As the only woman from Western competing at nationals this year, Dunlap said she hopes more women come out for the team in years to come.
For the last eight weekends the team has been traveling as far as Montana to race themselves into shape, Dunlap said.
To get themselves and their gear all around the country the team has taken to using a seven-person minivan and the bed of a friend’s truck, Dunlap said.
“We pack light,” Dunlap joked.
Two weekends ago the team competed in the conference championship against cyclists from Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.
Waples, the conference champion in the road race and criterium, said he has been steadily developing over the course of the season.
He has advanced from a category B rider to category A, which is the highest competing category in collegiate cycling. Waples will be part of the team time trial event at Nationals.
Watching riders develop and move through the ranks has been Waples’ favorite part of being on the team, he said.