Written by  in Club sportsFront PageSports on Sep 21, 2011 5:16 / comments

The CU cycling team is more than just a bunch of kids riding bikes.

This collegiate sports club, founded in 1986, is part of the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cycling Conference. While it is known as one team, it includes mountain bikers, road racers, and cyclocross racers—which is a mix of mountain and road biking.

Within the mountain biking discipline, athletes race cross-country, downhill, 4-cross, and short track. On the road, they compete in both long races and criteriums—a short, fast course on which cyclists complete several laps.

While the club does not hold regularly scheduled practices for any discipline, the teammates communicate through an email list. Athletes organize times to meet and train, and group rides generally occur two or three times a week.

Even though the club is comprised of many different types of cyclists, the team atmosphere is still strong said Abby Mickey, a junior majoring in history.

“Cycling as a team makes everyone stronger,” Mickey said. “It’s great for people who are just starting out because faster people are willing to help out.”

Mickey started on the team as a mountain biker and says she was not very competitive in collegiate races. However Mickey found her true talent when she tried road racing to stay in shape for the mountain bike season. After training on the road for just a few months, she competed in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge Queen Stage, a three-day August event that she completed alongside female cycling’s top professionals.

However, Mickey is returning the the trails as the fall mountain bike season begins. During the Sept. 10 and 11 weekend, she competed with the CU team in Steamboat Springs in a competition hosted by the University of Wyoming. There, she earned 4th place in the women’s cross-country race and 2nd in the Women’s A division of short track. Other female standouts included Katie Sodergren in cross-country and short track, Deidre York in 4-cross and short track, and Becca Gallery in downhill.

On the men’s side, the Buffs had standout cross-country performances from Chris Braddick, Sam Morrison, and Brad Berger.

Joey Schusler, a senior and world-class downhill racer, took 2nd in the Men’s A division of 4-cross and won the downhill race.

The following weekend, the Buffs headed to Red Feather Lakes, Colo. for the CSU Mountain Bike Festival. There, CU earned wins from Brad Berger, Abby Mickey, and Katie Sodergren in cross-country and Justin Horstmann and Becca Gallery in downhill.

Joey Schusler, who has three national collegiate titles under his belt in downhill racing, took a fall on a 10-foot drop during the downhill race at Red Feather Lakes and finished 8th.

Schusler said being a senior and one of CU’s top downhill racers gives him a leadership role, especially for the team’s new athletes.

“Kids are stoked to come out and ride with us,” Schusler said. “A lot of [them] are saying they want to get out and do some runs and have a good time.”

The mountain bike season will continue nearly every weekend until Collegiate Nationals in late October. The team’s next mountain competition is the Oredigger Mountain Bike Challenge hosted by the Colorado School of Mines this weekend, Sept. 24-25.

Some athletes have just finished out their road racing season. At the Collegiate Track National Championships in Indianapolis, Ind. on Sept. 10-11, the CU team took sixth place overall. There, Charles “Mac” Cassin took first in the individual pursuit and Jesse Goodrich took second in the men’s points race.

While the team doesn’t lack for serious talent, senior secretary Andrew Murphy said because it is a club sport, all ability levels are encouraged to join.

“There are people that just like to ride trails a couple times and people who want to race … every weekend,” Murphy said. “So we try to make it an inclusive thing.”

Murphy said that even riders who are not racing for an individual victory can still compete to help teammates win. Team members often ride close to their fastest athlete and shield him from the wind and other racers, saving him energy and keeping him in a good position until it’s time for him to make a move to the front of the pack.

“In regard to racing, there’s a lot of teamwork that happens,” Murphy said. “We try to work for each other in races … you can’t really win a bike race without the help of the team.”

Whether they’re on mountain bikes flying over terrain that would make a billy goat nervous or speeding around a track faster than a car, the CU cycling team is one hardcore group of Buffs on wheels.

Photo credit: CU Independent/Jacob Fojtik

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Caryn Maconi at Caryn.maconi@colorado.edu.