Mountain Sports Road Team traveled to Grand Junction, Colorado for the USA Cycling Road Nationals. This is the first time Western has been represented in Road Nationals, and the team was feeling confident.
The first day was the Individual Time Trial. The course was in an out and back format with a handful of rolls, steep climbs and descents. The team arrived at the venue around noon to a brisk wind and snow flurries. After warming up, Grant Gipson was the first to go for Western, followed by Ryan Trimble and then a half hour later Aspen Wallace. Trimble and Wallace laid down the fourth fastest times in their categories and Gipson finished only six seconds off the podium. “I am a bit disappointed I wasn’t able to stand on the podium for the one event I came for.” said Gipson. “We are definitely going to train hard for the ITT next year.”
On Saturday the team had the Road Race, also a cold windy day. Aspen Wallace was ready to race when she was called to the start line. The Women’s D2 Varsity race had 40 women line up and the pace was high when the gun went off. Wallace held on to the peloton in the first lap, “We were going so fast down the back stretch, I had to ride my brakes a lot so I wouldn’t float through and have to do work up front.” The pace up the climbs was high and on the last climb in the first lap Aspen and a few others popped off the back as the peloton continued. Aspen finished with three other girls all helping each other stay out of the wind.
The Men’s race followed and started 60 competitors. The first three laps of the race were pretty neutral. No one launched attacks or wanted to work up in the front. On the final lap is when the race was really going. Trimble bridged up the middle climb to a group of 5 other riders. They worked hard to stay away and put 15 seconds on the peloton. In the final climb (2k remaining) two riders launched an attack and broke away to finish 5 seconds before the rest of the breakaway group came through. Ryan launched his sprint with 300 meters to go and put in an admirable dig, he was caught at the last minute and finished in 4th position.
Sunday was the Criterium and the final day of racing. It was a bluebird day as Aspen took to the start line. She had a strong warmup and was feeling good. When the gun went off Aspen struggled to clip into her pedals. She got in her pedals at the first turn but found herself in the back of the peloton. The fast pace of the varsity women made it tough to stay in the race. Aspen was pulled out of the race and given a finishers place 15 minutes into the race.
Ryan Trimble was next up. It was an intense race with two schools attacking from the start. Ryan worked his way through the peloton several times and even was in a four-man break. He was in the lead with 20 minutes remaining in the 75-minute race. The lap after he was in the lead, there was a crash through the finish straight which 10 riders were in. Ryan escaped the accident and was playing catch-up in the back of the peloton with 10 minutes on the clock. “3 laps to go.” said the announcers and Trimble was in 3rd position. Two laps remained and he was in 7th place ready to slingshot up the field for the final lap. “Last lap” the announcers said. Trimble was not in the finish sprint. He and two others bumped in the last corner and all three hit the deck. Ryan got on his bike and pedaled himself through the finish. The medical tent did a great job of cleaning him up, and he is slowly feeling better. Ryan said “I am just bummed because I was having such a good day. I felt so strong.”
All things considered, Western’s first Collegiate Road Nationals was a success. Everyone had a blast and they can’t wait to come back stronger for next year. “It will be great to get more people to join the team for next season. We could definitely place on the podium next year with a bigger team” said Aspen.