The challenging weekend will feature a hilly road race on Friday, a technical criterium on Saturday and fast individual and team time trials on Sunday, all against steep competition that includes pro riders such as Marian University’s Zachary Carlson (Champion System/Stan’s No Tubes).
Noticeably missing from the women’s side is multi-time national champion, Marian’s Coryn Rivera (United Healthcare), who is taking the spring semester off to train for this fall’s UCI Road World Championships.
‘Anything can happen’
Conference director and University of Arizona’s cycling team president Joey Iuliano said he has high hopes for the weekend for riders from the southwest. For the road race and individual time trial on the women’s side, Amy Chandos (Northern Arizona University) is the name on everyone’s lips, he said.
“She finished second [in the ITT] last year, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her on the top step,” Iuliano said. “She is a true all-round rider.”
Chandos, a graduate student in fish ecology, said she is “extremely excited for collegiate nationals this year, as the courses look more fun and challenging than last year.”
In her final year of collegiate racing, Chandos said her goal is “to do better than last year and be on the top step of the podium.”
But Chandos admits: “as I said last year, anything can happen at nationals.”
Two southwest favorites for the men’s road race are University of New Mexico’s Niklas Podhraski and UA’s David Greif.
“Man can Nik climb,” Iuliano said. “The hilly nature of the road race will suit him well.”
Greif won half the conference’s road races this season, along with the omnium jersey, though training since his last race has taken a turn.
“The first day of nationals will be exactly one month after my sister Erica passed,” Greif said.
Erica Greif, a collegiate cyclist for the University of Nevada, Reno, died tragically in April in a car accident on her way to the Redlands Bicycle Classic in California.
“It’s been hard to get her out of my mind, and I’ve been working hard for weeks to channel that focus and depression to fuel my will and motivate me,” Greif said. “She’s been with me every pedal stroke of the way getting me to where I am today. Our love and bond we shared with cycling always motivated me to make my big sister proud, and I’ve always raced hard with her in my mind. I’ve got a long way to go before I can move past this pain. But I’m hoping, like always, I can still make her proud this weekend.”
Crit and TTT
In the crit, Iuliano looks toward Arizona State University’s riders Constantin Schreiber and Sarah Muench, as well as Chandos and UA’s Allison Alterman.
“Schreiber is tough to beat in a crit,” Iuliano said. “He can surf the field well and has a mean sprint.”
The team time trial will be a race to watch for the southwest conference’s fans.
Iuliano said he believes that the UA men will arrive in Asheville with something to prove as an emerging varsity team.
“These guys have been training like crazy for it and are in it to win it,” he said. “They took a commanding win in San Diego at the dual conference weekend.”
The conference’s rising team to watch will be UNM’s Lobos.
“For the first time in 14 years, the New Mexico Lobos are sending full men’s and women’s teams to road nationals,” UNM team mentor Chad Patterson said. “This being our first time at road nationals in recent memory, we just want to finish our races and to do the best team time trial we’ve ever done.”
Although the southwest conference is among the smallest in the nation, Asheville is certain to notice its presence, said Muench, who is also the conference’s assistant director.
“This year, our collegiate teams have really stepped it up with increased numbers and quality competition, and we’ve challenged ourselves to compete on a national level,” she said. “Now it’s time to take this show on the road.”
Photos by Ben Mangilit